September 3rd, 2005, The Big House
Northern Illinois Huskies
2004 Record: 9-3 (7-1 MAC, tie-1st MAC West)
Head Coach: Joe Novak (10th year)
Returning Starters: Offense: 6, Defense: 5
Quarterback Josh Haldi graduated, but Phil Horvath returns and has experience. Horvath threw for 954 yards in 2004 but needs to cut down on his interceptions. He should be helped by the classic Husky ground game that returns star Garrett Wolfe. Wolfe rushed for 1,656 yards and 18 touchdowns last season without losing one fumble. AJ Harris also ran for 822 yards last year, and adds a second punch to the lineup. The loss of receiver Dan Shelton and all conference tight end Brad Cieslak will hurt, but seniors Sam Hurd and Shatone Powers return and should be solid. The Huskies have one of the MAC's best lines to pave way for their trademark ground game as well. Center Brian Van Acker and tackle Doug Free earned all conference honors last year and both return along with guard Ben Lueck. Jake Ebenhoch and Matt Rogers will take over on the right side of the line.
End Ken West leads a talented defensive line that returns tackle Adam Schroeder as well. West is the team's top pass rusher, garnering eight sacks last season. Senior Quince Holman provides depth at tackle and end while freshman Larry English could surprise at the other end position. Three-time All MAC linebacker Brian Atkinson is gone but another All MAC LB performer returns in Javan Lee. Jason Hutton is expected to take over at middle linebacker, while Shedrick Mossman will get the nod at strong side linebacker. The secondary could be a problem. Two brothers, Alvah and Adriel Hansbro will start at the corners but only Adriel has seen significant playing time. Ray Smith is the lone star of the unit, racking up 114 tackles and 10 breakups last year.
Kicker Chris Nendick showed promise as a freshman, hitting 16 of 21 field goals including a game winner against Central Florida. Sophomore transfer Jason Baez is the favorite for the vacant punter job. The return game is looking for a new playmaker after the loss of Dan Shelton, who broke several school return records.
Prediction: For a tune-up, this one should be a good test -- for the new U-M Offensive Line particularly. Michigan 31, Northern Illinois 13
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