Meet the Huskies of Northern Illinois

Chandler Harnish (Photo by NIU Athletics)

Jerry Kill is in his first season at Northern Illinois replacing Joe Novak, who spent 12 seasons in DeKalb. Coach Kill spent the last 7 years developing Southern Illinois into a FCS powerhouse.

Location: DeKalb, IL
Colors: Black and Red
Former Huskies: Ryan Diem - Offensive Tackle - Indianapolis Colts (2001-present), Sam Hurd - Wide Receiver - Dallas Cowboys (2006-present), Doug Free - Offensive Tackle - Dallas Cowboys (2007-present), Justin McCareins - Wide Receiver - Tennessee Titans (2001-2003); New York Jets (2004-2007); Tennessee Titans (2008-present), Garrett Wolfe - Running Back - Chicago Bears (2007-present), Hollis Thomas - Defensive Tackle - Philadelphia Eagles (1996–2005); New Orleans Saints (2006–present), Michael Turner - Running Back - San Diego Chargers (2004-2007); Atlanta Falcons (2008-present)
Fast Facts: The Huskies and the third MAC (Mid-American Conference) team the Midshipmen have played this season.  Ball State and Temple are the others.  If the ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) does not have 9 bowl eligible teams, Navy may play a fourth game against a MAC opponent in the Eagle Bank Bowl.

Coaching
Jerry Kill is in his first season at Northern Illinois replacing Joe Novak, who spent 12 seasons in DeKalb. Coach Kill spent the last 7 years developing Southern Illinois into a FCS powerhouse.  The Salukis made five straight FCS playoff appearances after going 1-10 and 4-8 during Kill's first two seasons.  Thus far Kill has made a smooth transition to the FBS.  The Huskies are 6-5 with 4 of their losses by 4 points or less.  Kill's squad has held up to the big boys as well.  The Huskies opened the season with a heartbreaking 31-27 loss at Minnesota, with the Gophers needing a touchdown with 22 seconds left in the game to prevail.  More recently, NIU went to Neyland Stadium and lost a hard fought defensive battle with the Volunteers 13-9.

Kill brought the majority of his staff north with him, but there are two key holdovers from the Novak regime.  P.J. Fleck is in his second season as Wide Receivers Coach/Recruiting Coordinator.  Fleck spent two seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, making one appearance, after concluding a record setting career in DeKalb.  He still holds the school record for career punt returns.  Defensive Line coach Jeff Phelps is in his third year with the Huskies.

Offense
NIU has used three different starting quarterbacks this season.  Chandler Harnish (#12) started the first two games of the season before missing time due to a foot injury.  Harnish (6-2, 210lb, R-Fr.) opened his college career with a bang.  His first start at Minnesota he finished 17 of 29 passing for 326 yards and 2 touchdowns.  For the season, Harnish is 84 of 147 for 1,226 yards with 7 touchdowns and 5 interceptions.  He is also the Huskies second leading rushed with 414 yards on 92 carries with 4 touchdowns.  Harnish has started the last 5 games after returning from injury.  While he was out, Dan Nicholson (#19) got 3 starts.  Nicholson (6-3, 190lb, Sr.) started 9 games in 2007 and has 17 starts in his career.  This season he is 42 of 69 passing for 447 yards with 3 touchdowns and 3 interceptions.  After the 2007 season he underwent surgery on his throwing shoulder and did not participate in spring practice.  The other start this season went to DeMarcus Grady (#3).  Grady (6-1, 200lb, R-Fr.) is considered more of a running threat then Nicholson.  In limited time he has 37 carries for 187 yards and 3 touchdowns.

A duo of youngsters lead the Huskies from the tailback position.  Me'co Brown (#8) leads the team with 503 yards on 107 carries.  Brown (5-7, 180lb, Fr.) also has 2 touchdowns, though Brown has appeared to hit the freshman wall.  Against Bowing Green, he had 20 carries for 95 yards, but in the next 3 games he has only 13 carries 27 yards.  Chad Spann (#28) is third on the team with 339 yards on 70 attempts.  Spann (5-9, 195lb, So.) leads the team with 8 touchdowns.  He started his career at Northern Illinois as a walk on, but has since earned a scholarship.  Connor Flahive (#47) has earned the start at fullback the prior two games.  Flahive (6-0, 240lb, So.) has yet to carry the ball but has 7 catches for 60 yards.

Marcus Perez (#5) is the Huskies leading receiver from his X position.  Perez (6-0, 180lb, R-Sr.) has 28 catches for 400 yards and 2 touchdowns.  He played in all 12 games his freshman and sophomore seasons, but had his junior season cut short due to injury.  Landon Cox (#80) is the starter at the Z spot.  Cox (6-3, 215lb, So.) played in 10 games as a true freshman, mostly on special teams.  This season he has 14 catches for 111 yards and a touchdown.  Greg Turner (#17) has started 5 games at the V position in 2007.  Turner (6-0, 195lb, Sr.) has 8 catches for 86 yards and a touchdown on the season.  Though he only has two starts on the year, Matt Simon (#85) is second on the team in receiving.  Simon (6-2, 210lb, Sr.) has 17 catches for 329 yards and 2 touchdowns. Tight end Reed Cunningham (#83) is finally making the most of his considerable talent.  Cunningham (6-5, 245lb, R-Jr.) was hampered by various ankle and knee injuries in 2007.  Finally healthy, Cunningham leads the team with 3 touchdown receptions.  For the year he has 17 catches for 196 yards.

The Huskies' offensive line is lead by right tackle Jon Brost (#60).  Brost (6-6, 300lb, R-Sr.) has 46 career starts with 42 coming at right tackle.  The anchor in the middle is 3 year starting center Eddie Adamski (#50).  Adamski (6-3, 280lb, R-Jr.) has started all 35 of his college career.  Dan Keller (#78) gets the vote for most versatile NIU lineman.  In 2007, Keller (6-6, 295lb, R-Sr.) played on both the offensive and defensive lines.  He even started at defensive tackle at Wisconsin.  This season, Keller has started all 11 games at right guard.  Trevor Olson (#62) gets the nod at left tackle.  Olson (6-6, 290lb, R-Fr.) has started the first 11 games of his career.  Left guard Jason Onyebuagu (#65) is the biggest of the Northern Illinois starting offensive line.  Onyebuagu (6-2, 305lb, Jr.) has started the last 8 games at left guard, after starting all 12 games last season and 4 games his freshman season on the right side.  He even started a game at center during his true freshman campaign.

Defense
Defensive end Larry English (#51) leads an experienced and talented Husky defensive line.  English (6-3, 255lb, R-Sr.) has a team high 8 sacks, 14 tackles for loss and 3 forced fumbles.  He also leads the defensive line with 33 tackles.  English has started 45 games in his career.  Fellow end Craig Rusch (#99) has returned strong after suffering a season ending knee injury early last season.  Rusch (6-4, 265lb, R-Sr.) has moved from tackle to end and has 20 tackles, 6 tackles for loss and 2 sacks.  Alex Krutsch (#69) takes over for Rucsh at tackle.  Krutsch (6-3, 265lb, R-Sr.) had a breakout season in Rusch's absence in 2007, finishing with 44 tackles and 6.5 tackles for loss.  This season he has 16 tackles and 2 tackles for loss.  Mike Krause (#58) mans the nose guard position.  Krause (6-4, 270lb, R-So.) has started all 11 games this season and has 17 tackles and 2 tackles for loss.

NIU has a trio of linebackers that all contribute to the devastating Husky defense.  Josh Allen (#9) leads the group in tackles, tackles for loss and pass breakups with 50, 7 and 3 respectively.  Allen (6-0, 215lb Sr.) has started 23 consecutive games at strong side backer.  He has 28 career starts in all.  In the middle, Tim McCarthy (#53) returns for a knee injury that kept him out of the final 10 games in 2007.  McCarthy (6-1, 230lb, R-Sr.) has 44 tackles, with 6 tackles for loss and an interception this season.  Alex Kube (#37) moves from safety to weak side linebacker in 2008.  Kube (6-0, 220lb, R-So.) led the team in tackles last season with 111.  He was the first freshman to lead NIU in tackles in 31 years.  This season, Kube 49 tackles with 6 tackles for loss.

Free safety David Bryant (#4) leads the Huskies in tackles with 64.  This is one season after Bryant (5-11, 205lb, R-Jr.) played 7 games at running back, rushing for 273 yards on 62 carries with 2 touchdowns.  He spent his first season at linebacker, playing mainly on special teams.  Strong safety Mike Sobol (#38) has started all 10 games in which he has played this season.  Sobol (6-0, 195lb, R-So.) injured his knee last spring and sat out the entire 2007 season.  This year he is second on the team with 52 tackles.  In contrast to the safety positions, the cornerback spots are filled with two very experienced players.  Chase Carter (#36) started all 12 games in 2007 and set a single season NIU record with 120 interception return yards.  Carter (6-0, 175lb, Sr.) has 36 tackles in 2008.  At the other corner spot, Melvin Rice (#2) started 7 games in 2006, 8 in 2007 and has 6 starts in 2008.  Rice (5-11, 195lb, Sr.) leads the team with 4 pass breakups.  Corner Bradley Pruitt (#24) has battled injuries all season.  Pruitt (6-1, 200lb, Sr.) leads the team with 2 interceptions and may be used as the nickel back on Tuesday night.

Special teams
Mike Salerno (#16) handles the place kicking duties for Northern Illinois.  Salerno (5-11, 165lb, R-Jr.) transferred from Winona State prior to the 2007 season.  This season Salerno is 17 of 23 on field goal attempts, with a long of 52 yards.  He also handles the kickoffs for the Huskies.  On 61 kicks, he has a 65.2 yard average with 16 touchbacks.

Andy Dittbenner (#18) returns as the Huskies punter. Dittbenner (6-2, 205lb, Sr.) set a NIU record in 2007 with a 43.5 yard punting average.  This season, Dittbenner has not matched that success.  He has 39.1 yard average, though 10 of his 36 punts have ended inside to opponents' 20 yard line.  Dittbenner also serves as NIU's holder.

Starting running back Me'co Brown handles the bulk of the return duties for the Huskies.  Brown has 23 kickoff returns with a 21.4 yard average and 8 punt returns with a 9.4 yards average.   Wide receiver Greg Turner and reserve running back Ricky Crider (#22) assist Brown with the return responsibilities.   Turner has 2 punt returns with an 8 yard average, while Crider (5-9, 190lb, R-So.) has 6 kickoff returns with a 33.5 yard average.

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