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Behind Enemy Lines: Talking NIU Football With Dave Drury Of Hustlebelt

NCAA Football: Northern Illinois at Ohio State Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Every week we go in depth with an opposing team’s writer. Today we talk to Dave Drury of Hustle Belt, SB Nation’s leading MAC blog. Check them out and thank you of course Dave for your help.

BCI: It's been almost two full seasons since NIU and BC squared off. Tell us a little about the overall state of the program right now, and are fans happy with where they are in 2017?

Hustle Belt: Well, NIU has come off a few injury plagued seasons (especially at QB) but I think most fans are becoming restless right now. Sure, we got a little spoiled during the Chandler Harnish and Jordan Lynch eras. But fans see that the Huskies still have a lot of depth and talent on the roster, enough so that they should win most games, but the play-calling and coaching have become stagnant and predictable. And that’s where you see the divide.

I wouldn’t say fans are necessarily happy with where things are (there’s a lot that needs to be fixed moving forward) but they’re not angry-mob upset yet…well, some might be. Fans want to see more from this team than they have in the past few years and this game against BC is an early indicator of where this team can go.

BCI: Both BC Head Coach Steve Addazio and NIU Head Coach Rod Carey have been non-committal about the starting quarterback heading into Week 1. Who do you think will get the nod?

Hustle Belt: I have a feeling that Ryan Graham will step out as the starter on the first drive over Daniel Santacaterina.

Graham does have more experience, having started games the past two seasons for us due to injuries. And, in those situations, he has done alright stat wise but not record wise. Coach Carey has said that he’s gotten better at eliminating the bad plays in the offseason but I’m still not sold on his arm strength and accuracy.

I would like to see Santacaterina starting, as he’s got more mobility and looked pretty good in the few spots we got to see him last year…but I’m not in charge of that call. The good thing about Coach Carey though is that he’s not afraid to changes QBs mid-game if they’re struggling.

BCI: Jordan Huff seems to be the most dangerous offensive player on the Huskies. What makes him such a threat and are there other offensive weapons BC fans should be on the look out for.

Hustle Belt: Well Huff is a great combination of speed and size. He’s not lightning quick but he fast and his big 224-pound frame makes him like a freight train coming down on you…and that makes him hard to tackle. With him probably getting the bulk of NIU’s carries this year, he should easily get over the 1000 yard mark.

As for other players to watch, senior wide outs Christian Blake and Chad Beebe will be NIU’s go-to receivers this year. At 6-1 Blake has got some solid height and good speed, plus last year he proved he can make some big plays. Chad Beebe is a little smaller but he can do it all and make you miss! He’s a threat on kick returns, passing plays, and has even been known to run the ball.

Finally, a guy that doesn’t get the credit he deserves is Shane Wimann, our tight end/full back. This guy was a beast in the redzone for us last year. He was fourth in receptions and yards last year but had the second most touchdowns. So look for him to make an impact near the goal line.

BCI: BC defensive lineman Harold Landry is an animal and will be a problem for any line he faces. How is NIU's offensive line looking this year?

Hustle Belt: The Huskies have always had a very solid offensive line and this year is no different. We used to have smaller, speedier blockers but now we have some real solid muscle. Our O-line averages out to be 6-4 and 307 pounds.

And their  led by junior Max Scharping. Last year, as a sophomore he was selected as an All-MAC player…so as a junior he should be even better. He also started every game the past two seasons (the only player to do so) and is a tough player to push around…I can’t wait to see the battle between him and Landry unfold.

BCI: Alright prediction time, what have you got?

Hustle Belt: Anytime NIU plays a P5 team Huskie fans have what I call "cautious optimism". We’ve beaten a lot of B1G teams and other P5 teams over the past ten years…and hell, we’re still undefeated against Alabama! So do I think NIU can win? Absolutely.

BC has a great defense and we saw that two years ago…but that was still a pretty close game. This time NIU is at home. I still think it will be close. But if our offense can make a few more plays than last time we can steal this one from you guys.