The Huskies continue to find their identity under third year coach Jerry Kill. The Huskies have gone to consecutive bowl games and have a signature moment beating Purdue in 2009. Yet under Kill, the Huskies remain 0-11 against teams with winning records including two straight bowl losses. The program is still trying to fully capitalize on a new end zone building built in 2007 to attract upper-tier recruits. This past February NIU lost three key recruits to BCS schools at the last minute. Also, entering the spring defensive end Jake Coffman, who led the team with 8.5 sacks, elected not to return for his senior year. Tailback Me'co Brown, a solid RB and key player on special teams decided to leave the program. Despite a few question marks there is still hope due to over twenty returning lettermen on each side of the ball.
Chandler Harnish has battled injuries during his career returns for his junior season after throwing for over 1,600 yards and eleven TDs. When healthy NIU’s offense is much more potent. DeMarcus Grady is a quality athlete who will play this season too. The Huskies are loaded at tailback and the offense features the running game, Northern ranked 19 th nationally in rush offense a year ago. Chad Spann rushed for over 1,000 yards and scored a whopping 19 TDs. JUCO phenom Jasmin Hopkins will be called upon this season to carry part of the load as will Iowa State transfer Cameron Bell (6-2 245). The offensive line will not be as experienced as last year but there is still some budding talent along the trenches. The receiving corps enters the season as an area of concern, London Cox and Perez Ashford are solid building blocks at wide out. Defensively nine starters return from a unit that ranked 30 th nationally in both total and scoring defense. While undersized along the defensive front, Brian Lawson, DJ Pirkle and Sean Progar are very active. Alex Cube has become a stalwart at linebacker. The defensive backfield returns intact and will do better than last season when they produced just 4 INTs and let opposing teams complete just over 60% of their passes. NIU is very good within the special-teams area.
The Huskies have a tremendous opportunity to accomplish many things fall. First, they play three beatable BCS teams including intra-state rival Illinois. How sweet would that be for NIU fans as they have never beaten the Fighting Illini. Second, the MAC west is theirs for the taking so winning the MAC for the first time since 1983 is very possible. Finally, given a challenging yet not over-powering non-conference schedule, Northern has a real shot at a national ranking by season’s end if they can win the MAC and a bowl game. This team is talented enough to accomplish all three.