2010 Record: (11-3, 8-0 in MAC)
Head Coach: Dave Doeren (1st Yr Head Coach)
Last Bowl Game: 2010 Humanitarian Bowl: beat Fresno St 40-17
9/10: at Kansas
9/17: Wisconsin (2009 result: lost 28-20)
9/24: Cal Poly
10/1: at Central Michigan (2009 result: won 33-7)
10/8: Kent State
10/15: Western Michigan (2010 result: won 28-21)
10/22: at Buffalo (2009 result: won 45-14)
11/1: at Toledo (2010 result: won 65-30)
11/8: at Bowling Green
11/15: Ball St (2010 result: won 59-21)
11/25: at Eastern Michigan (2010 result: won 71-3)
2010 Offensive Statistics:
Scoring: 38.0 ppg (1st in MAC, 12th in Nation)
Rushing Yds/Game: 260.36 yds/game (1st in MAC, 7th in Nation)
Passing Yds/Game: 189.6 yds/game (7th in MAC, 85th in Nation)
Total Yds/Game: 450.0 yds/game (1st in MAC, 19th in Nation)
2010 Defensive Statistics:
Scoring: 18.9 ppg (1st in MAC, 14th in Nation)
Rushing Yds/Game: 126.5 yds/game (3rd in MAC, 24th in Nation)
Passing Yds/Game: 208.2 yds/game (4th in MAC, 44th in Nation)
Total Yds/Game: 334.7 yds/game (3rd in MAC, 26th in Nation)
2010 Misc Stats:
Turnover Margin: +0.79 per game (2nd in MAC, 17th in Nation)
Penalties: 41.9 yds/game (1st in MAC, 22nd in Nation)
Top Returning Statistical Leaders:
Passing: QB Chandler Harnish, Sr (189 of 292 for 2530 yds, 21 TD, 5 INT)
Rushing: QB Chandler Harnish, Sr (137 carries for 836 yds, 6.1 ypc, 7 TD)
Receiving: WR Willie Clark, Sr (42 rec for 602 yds, 7 TD)
Tackles: S Tommy Davis, Jr (73)
Sacks: DE Sean Progar, Jr (4)
Interceptions: CB Rashaan Melvin, Jr (2)
Jerry Kill was at Northern Illinois for three years and saved his best work for his last year as the Huskies went 10-3 in 2010 and played for the MAC Championship after going 8-0 in regular season MAC action. The year started off a little rough for the Huskies as they dropped two of their first three games but then they beat Minnesota by 11 and reeled off 8 straight MAC victories. It took a last minute TD pass for NIU to fall to underdog Miami of Ohio in the MAC Championship Game. The winning QB for Miami even said "sometimes it's better to be lucky than good" as the TD was a result of a tipped ball. Sometimes the pigskin just doesn't bounce your way. Jerry Kill has moved on to Minnesota and Dave Doeren was hired from Wisconsin, where he was the Defensive Coordinator since 2006, to take his place. Doeren returns a lot of talent on the offensive side of the football but the defense has been hit with a lot of depatures. NIU is one of the favorites in the MAC West which should be pretty competitive this year with Toledo and Western Michigan looking like they will field pretty good teams. We caught up with Ryan Wood of the Daily-Chronicle and Huskie Wire to get a local perspective of the 2011 NIU Huskies.
NIU had a solid year last year but got edged out in the MAC Championship Game by Miami (OH). What are the biggest things the Huskies have worked on this off-season to continue their trek to the top of the MAC?
As is the case for any team with a new coach, NIU's biggest transition during spring ball was getting acclimated to former Wisconsin defensive coordinator and first-time head coach Dave Doeren. His style is similar to what the Huskies played under former coach Jerry Kill, who left in December to become head coach at Minnesota. But everything was under new terminology. In the 15 spring practices, NIU put in about 75 percent of the offense it will use this fall. That makes for an important fall camp in August.
NIU led the MAC last year in rushing by averaging 260 yds per game. Who will step up to replace Chad Spann's 1300 yards that will be gone this year?
It's going to be production by committee, at least to start the season. Jasmin Hopkins, Akeem Daniels and Jamal Womble will get the majority of the carries. Each brings something different to the table, and each has plenty of talent. But the reason NIU will indeed be able to replace Spann's void in the running game isn't because of who will be running, but who will be blocking. The Huskies' run offense is built around its run blocking, and they're returning all five starters from last season's offensive line.
For those that don't follow the MAC, who are some under-the-radar guys that might make some noise for the Huskies this year?
That's a hard question to answer, because NIU's noise makers don't seem to be "under-the-radar." I would say somebody from the offense – quarterback Chandler Harnish, receivers Willie Clark, Nathan Palmer and Martel Moore – but that unit is pretty well known. Looking at a guy who hasn't been talked about at all, defensive lineman Anthony Wells has the ability to either be a beast or bust.
Wells is a natural defensive end, so he brought plenty of athleticism and explosion when he was moved to tackle this spring. The experiment received mixed results. He looked dominant at times, lost at others. I don't know how he'll pan out. Right now, I don't think anyone else does either. But for an interior defensive line searching for playmakers, Wells could be a star waiting to happen.
Looking at the schedule, what are the most important games for Northern Illinois this year?
In all likelihood, the most important game is going to be when NIU travels to Toledo on Nov. 1. The game, which will be televised on ESPN2, features the best two MAC West teams from last season. Both returned most of their talent. Last year's game, a 65-30 drubbing that gave Toledo its only conference loss, decided who punched a ticket to Detroit for the MAC Championship Game. I expect this year's game to have the same stakes.
What is the one game on the schedule that the fanbase wants to win the most this year?
Just one glance at the schedule, and Week 3 immediately stands out. NIU will play Wisconsin at Soldier Field, and the game will offer the type of national platform MAC programs rarely get. It's also a homecoming of sorts for Doeren. NIU will be a long shot to win, but it should be relatively competitive. And if the Huskies are able to pull off the major upset, it will be one of their biggest accomplishments of the season.
What is your gut feeling on the final record for the 2011 season and what makes the season successful in your eyes?
It's MAC championship or bust. There really is no other way to look at it. With its offensive experience and defensive athleticism, NIU should be the most talented team in the conference. Its record should reflect that. I'm going to say a 10-2 regular season record and a win in the MAC title game, finishing business from a year ago.
Next Preview: Hawaii
Coming in August: CFBZ Top 25 Countdown
2011 Team Previews