Northern Illinois had its work cut out rebuilding its offensive line after losing four starters to graduation.
And then the only returning starter, Logan Pegram, broke his leg in the preseason.
“Obviously, any time you lose a returning player it hurts,” Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren said. “The players we have coming back, we’re excited to see play.”
When Northern Illinois opens against Iowa at 2:32 p.m. Saturday at Soldier Field in Chicago, the Huskies will feature an offensive line with five players making their first start.
Junior Matt Krempel (6-5, 307) and sophomore Tyler Loos (6-5, 282) are expected to start at tackles. Loos missed last season because of injury.
Three redshirt freshmen — Aidan Conlon (6-3, 287), Matthew Killian (6-5, 303) and Andrew Ness (6-3, 286) — are working in the guard and center spots.
“They would have all been playing anyway,” Doeren said. “I think the big thing Logan’s injury does, it hurts our depth inside.”
Doeren is positive his five new lineman can do the job.
“We’re a young unit up front, but a talented group,” Doeren said. “With what we do offensively, it does dummy down what defense will do to you because of all of our option stuff. That’ll help.”
The Huskies have an offense that shifts formations and relies on a quarterback to make plays with his arm and feet.
Last season that was Chandler Harnish, who ran for 1,379 yards and passed for 3,216.
This season Jordan Lynch takes over. The 6-foot, 216-pound junior ran for 246 yards and passed for 166 in relief of Harnish last fall.
“Quite honestly, I’m excited to see Jordan play,” Doeren said. “He’s one of the toughest kids I’ve been around to play that position.
“He plays quarterback with a linebacker mentality.”
Harnish was a four-year starter and set virtually every record in the book for the Huskies.
“Obviously everyone is talking about the shoes Jordan has to fill,” Doeren said. “Jordan is a very good runner, maybe better runner than Chandler was a year ago.
“Now he’s just go to do it. We just need to get him into some games now and let him know what to work on when the bullets are flying.”
Like Iowa, Northern Illinois has a new offensive coordinator. Mike Dunbar has been coaching for 35 years, most recently at New Mexico State.
Hawkeye fans should remember him. Dunbar coached at Northern Iowa from 1997 to 2000. He also was the offensive coordinator at Minnesota in 2007 and 2008 and the offensive coordinator at Northwestern from 2002 to 2005.
He replaces Matt Canada, who was hired by Wisconsin.
Doeren said the Huskies won’t change a lot from Canada to Dunbar.
“More of the changes we have are due to the other losses we incurred,” Doeren said. “He has a few ideas that the old one didn’t, and we want to make sure he can run his offense his way.”
Northern Illinois is coming off its first MAC Championship in 28 years and won the GoDaddy.com Bowl.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football