Players to Watch: NIU vs Minnesota

Defensive end Anthony Jacobs got his first start of the season last week and Minnesota will need for him to step up tonight as he gets another start.


-- WR Bryant Allen #81 -- With the loss starting kick returner and wide receiver Troy Stoudermire to indefinite suspension, the 6-foot-0 sophomore will most likely step into the vacated role of kick return and slot receiver for the Gophers on Saturday. Allen saw his first action of the season last week when he recorded one catch for five yards against the Trojans. During his freshman season Allen returned six punts for an average of 12.2 yards per return and three kickoffs with a 15-yard average, so he has some experience as a returner.

-- DE Anthony Jacobs #97 -- The massive 6-foot-2, 300-pound defensive end made his first start of the season last week against USC at strong-side defensive end. He recorded three tackles with one for those stops coming behind the line of scrimmage. Jacobs will play a key role in sealing the edge on the left side of the line, in effort to keep Huskies dual-threat quarterback Chandler Harnish from scrambling out of the pocket for big gains.

-- LB Gary Tinsley #51 -- Coming off a game in which he recorded a career high 10 tackles, linebacker Gary Tinsley will need another productive game in the middle if Minnesota wants to slow down the Northern Illinois rushing attack. Tinsley may be used as a "spy" on quarterback Chandler Harnish, to diminish his chances of generating yards on broken plays.


-- QB Chandler Harnish #12 -- The athletic quarterback has passed for 354 yards and one touchdown and he leads Northern Illinois in rushing yards with 295 yards and two touchdowns. Minnesota has struggled to contain mobile, athletic quarterbacks this season so the Huskies need Harnish to fill the stat sheet against the Gophers. Expect Minnesota to try and take away Harnish's ability to extend plays by escaping the pocket while forcing him to win the game with his arm.

-- RB Chad Spann #28 -- If the Gophers key on stopping Harnish, Spann will need to have an effective game running the ball. The 5-foot-9, 198-pound senior is coming off two impressive games with 140 yards and one touchdown against North Dakota and 94 yards of offense last week against Illinois. Spann is defiantly a threat to catch the ball from his running back spot, so Gophers will need to be alert when he slips out of the backfield on passing plays.

-- SS Tracy Wilson #25 -- The 6-foot-2, 203-pound redshirt junior led the Huskies in tackles last season with 93 and again leads the team with 26 stops this season. Wilson recorded a game-high 13 tackles against North Dakota. Northern Illinois knows Minnesota is going to run the ball early and often, so Wilson will need to tackle effectively and attack the Gopher running backs from his strong safety position.

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