Friday, September 16, 2011
NIU's Wedige excelling loud and clear
By Scott Powers
Scott Wedige was a two-time first team All-MAC conference selection at center for Northern Illinois.
DeKALB, Ill. -- Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish couldn't remember the first time Huskies center Scott Wedige yelled at him, but he could recall his reaction.
"It's like, ‘Hey, I'm the quarterback,'" Harnish said. "‘You can't yell at me.'"
Harnish soon learned the reason Wedige yelled at him was the same reason Harnish occasionally took his frustration out on Wedige. They both wanted to win so badly.
"He's the quarterback of the offensive line," Harnish said. "He's that middle guy that's going to make a lot of calls and get those guys in the right spots and set the right protections. Once I realized that, I'm like, ‘Okay. I respect what he's doing.'"
Come Saturday when Northern Illinois faces No. 7 Wisconsin at Soldier Field, if the Huskies' offense isn't functioning properly and taking it to the Badgers, you can expect Harnish and Wedige to have a few more words. While most relationship counselors wouldn't recommend it, it's their way of fixing problems.
Often, it works.
"You talk back," Wedige said. "It happens. It's a part of football. He respects it. I respect him when he yells at me. Last year at Minnesota, we jawed back and forth because we want to strive for perfection. We want it to be perfect.
"I think we're extremely big competitors. When things don't go right, there's going to be a little bickering because you want that perfection and you want that excellence."
Wedige is considered one of college football's top centers and a potential NFL player in part because of his desire to be great. Northern Illinois offensive line coach Rod Carey has met few players who put in as much time as Wedige does to his craft.
What you need to know: In his third game as a head coach, Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren faces his former team Wisconsin. Doeren was the Badgers' defensive coordinator before joining Northern Illinois after last season. Doeren's knowledge of Wisconsin should benefit Northern Illinois, but the Badgers are still very good at what they do. Wisconsin out-scored UNLV and Oregon 86-17 in its first two games. Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish and his offense should be able to score on the Badgers. It will be up to the defense if the Huskies have any shot of an upset. Northern Illinois gave up 45 points in last week's loss to Kansas.
Scott Powers' prediction: Wisconsin 41, NIU 31
"Scott is an elite center because of his work ethic," Carey said. "Not to take anything away from his talent, he's very, very talented. He's a 305-pound kid who can run, plays with good leverage, has good flexion.
"But he almost watches as much as film I do, if not more on a given week. His worth ethic is what does it. He knows what he's going to get in a game before he even gets into a game. I think it's consistent in the great ones. He is one."
Wedige credits that approach to having learned from former Northern Illinois center Eddie Adamski. Adamski's ability kept Wedige off the field the first two years at center, but Wedige can see now how that benefitted him.
"He was a great guy to learn from," Wedige said. "He taught me how to watch film, taught me a lot of footwork and a lot of little technique things and a lot of little things that just help you out. It worked out for the best. I got to learn from the best, and now last year, I got to step in and had a pretty good year being all-MAC as well."
Wedige earned all-conference honors last year as being part of an offensive line that ranked 14th in the country in sacks, allowing just 13 sacks in 329 passing attempts last season. Now, he's starting to attract some NFL attention for his play.
Saturday will give scouts another opportunity to evaluate Wedige against highly skilled defensive linemen. For Wedige, it's also a chance for a little payback. Wisconsin had recruited Wedige, but never offered him.
Wedige grew up in Elkhorn, Wisc. and appeared on the Badgers' radar as an all-conference offensive tackle in high school. Wisconsin showed plenty of interest in him, but decided to go another direction in the end.
"They recruited me," Wedige said. "I went to their camp. I was talking to them the whole way. They offered another guy in front of me.
"I know a lot of the guys on the team. We were being recruited and going to camps and stuff. It just gives me a little extra chip to go out there and play those guys and put a beating on some of them."
Wedige will have plenty of people at Soldier Field supporting him to do that. There's a bus leaving from his hometown Saturday morning to go to the game. Plus, he has other people coming from elsewhere. All together, he thought there would be 83 people there just for him.
"This is a great opportunity for our program to be a BCS buster and go out and play a top-5 team," Wedige said. "Not many teams can say that. I look at this a great opportunity for us. We want to go out and do our job and come out on top."