Northern Illinois Huskies Preview 2022: Previewing, predicting, and looking ahead to the Northern Illinois season with what you need to know and keys to the season.
Northern Illinois Huskies Preview
Thomas Hammock 4th year at Northern Illinois, 14-18
2021 Preview: Overall: 9-5, Conference: 6-2
Keys To The Season
Season Prediction, What Will Happen
Northern Illinois Top 10 Players | NIU Schedule
Northern Illinois Huskies Preview 2022
Never underestimate the MAC going MAC.
No other conference has a history of going from zero to hero on a regular basis more. It was Northern Illinois’ turn.
The 2018 MAC champion program had two straight dud seasons, bottoming out with an 0-6 run in 2020 with nothing happening on defense.
Head coach Thomas Hammock used that as a true rebuild season.
The 2022 version shocked Georgia Tech to start the season, pushed through a slew of tight battles to get to the MAC Championship, won it, and lost a thriller of a Cure Bowl to Coastal Carolina.
Now it’s up to the Huskies to start making things easier on themselves.
It takes a great team to win the tight ones, but seven of the nine wins were by a touchdown or less. Give NIU credit for closing, but there’s a fine line between all the big things last year’s team did, and being an also-ran in the MAC.
With nine starters expected back on offense, seven likely back on defense, and a decent kicking game all in place, Northern Illinois isn’t likely to go back.
Northern Illinois Huskies Preview 2022: Offense
Running game, running game, running game. Of course the team with Thomas Hammock as the head coach would be able to run, and Northern Illinois did just that finished fourth in the nation averaging 241 yards per game behind a great line that was great for the ground game and dominant in pass protection. But …
Leading rusher Jay Ducker is off to Memphis. He accounted for close to 1,200 yards and three scores, and also got is FB Clint Ratkovich pounded for 13 scores.
Harrison Waylee was second on the team with 574 yards and four scores, and Antario Brown hammered away for close to seven yards per carry and five scores on his 538 yards.
They’ll all work behind a loaded offensive line led by all-star guard Logan Zschernitz and tackle Nolan Potter on the right side. The ground game will also get help from …
Rocky Lombardi is back at quarterback. The former Michigan State Spartan is okay throwing it, but he’s a tough baller who ran for over five yards per carry with 472 yards and nine scores. On the way to help is Temple transfer Justin Lynch in a backup role.
The receiving corps is strong with three of the top four targets back. Second Team All-MAC deep threat Trayvon Rudolph is the biggest playmaker, Cole Tucker is a great veteran who grew into the job last year, and coming in is Shemar Thornton from FIU. TE Miles Joiner is a proven midrange target.
Northern Illinois Huskies Preview 2022: Defense
The defense was awful in the winless 2020, and it wasn’t any better last year. The Huskies finished 115th in the nation in total defense. was miserable against the run, couldn’t come up with takeaways, and allowed 34 points per game.
In a the-food-was-bad-but-the-portions-were-huge sort of way, but to be fair, this was a YOUNG group. 15 of the top 20 tacklers were freshmen and two others were sophomores.
The pass rush was lacking, but there are options. It’s a big front four with 273-pound Devonte O’Malley – he plays inside or out – leading the way with four sacks and sophomore James Ester a second-team All-MAC performer at one tackle.
The linebacking corps gets back All-MAC-caliber Kyle Pugh – for his eighth year with the program after missing all of last year hurt. He’ll work on the outside with third-leading tackler Nick Rattin settling into the middle spot. Also coming in is Izayah Green-May from Wisconsin for the rotation.
The secondary went WAY young, and now it has some potential ballers. Safety CJ Brown led the team with 108 stops, Jordan Hansen came up with 58, and corner Jordan Gandy is a hitter on the outside. Coming up with more than three picks as a group would be nice.