Scouting the MAC: Northern Illinois

The Northern Illinois Husky football program has progressively improved the previous three seasons. Yet a last minute heartbreaking loss to Toledo late in '02 kept them from the conference championship game. This roster has plenty of pro-potential.

NIU placed several quality receivers into the NFL the past three years, most residing on the Tennessee Titans roster. They have yet another pair of solid wide out prospects in P.J. Fleck and Dan Sheldon. Fleck, more of a slot receiver, is a smallish pass catcher that plays bigger than his size. Sheldon, only a junior, consistently comes up with the big reception down the field or over the middle. Sheldon, also slightly built, could perfectly fit in as a teams fourth receiver at the next level. Running back Michael Turner is possibly the most underrated pro-prospect at his position. Turner is built like a bowling bowl and his low, compact frame makes it tough for defenders to find. Yet Turner is effective running on the inside, weaving through the traffic then finding the running lanes. Still, he also displays the skills and speed necessary to turn the corner. He is a productive ball carrier that can handle a lot of hand-offs and should be a first day pick next April. Center Todd Ghilani is explosive on the inside and plays the center position with both brains and intensity. Ghilani has neither the bulk nor strength on the pivot to warrant an early pick but we feel he's a good enough prospect to eventually start in the NFL.

Most of the NIU defenders are late round picks. We've liked Nick Duffy for a while as he's an instinctive middle linebacker who immediately reads or diagnoses the action and gets to the spot in run defense. Duffy is limited against the pass and a two down defender that may never be a starter at the next level. His brains and intensity are worth having on a roster. Jason Frank is an undersized pass rusher with decent growth potential while Randee Drew could be a solid dime/zone cornerback at the next level.

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