NCF Nation: Tyrone Clark

Northern Illinois season preview

August, 16, 2013
8/16/13
10:30
AM ET
Today we're looking at Northern Illinois, which is coming off a dream season that ended in the Discover Orange Bowl.

Northern Illinois Huskies

Coach: Rod Carey (0-1 overall)

2012 record: 12-2 (8-0 MAC)

Key losses: WR Martel Moore, WR Perez Ashford, DE Alan Baxter, DE Sean Progar, LB Tyrone Clark, LB Victor Jacques, CB Rashaan Melvin, CB Demetrius Stone

[+] EnlargeNorthern Illinois' Jordan Lynch
Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY SportsQuarterback Jordan Lynch and the Huskies enter the 2013 season aiming to defend their MAC title and earn another BCS bowl bid.
Key returnees: QB Jordan Lynch, RB Akeem Daniels, LT Tyler Loos, C Andrew Ness, RG Jared Volk, DT Ken Bishop, LB Jamaal Bass, SS Jimmie Ward

Newcomer to watch: WR Malik Mitchell. Mitchell was an ESPN three-star prospect from Milton (Ga.) High, where he hauled in 40 receptions last season for 500 yards and four touchdowns. Mitchell chose the Huskies over fellow MAC schools Toledo and Western Michigan. NIU loses two of its starting wide receivers from last season, and though it still brings back plenty of capable bodies from last year's unit, the 6-foot-4, 181-pound Mitchell is capable of potentially earning his way onto the field, where he will clearly be playing with a strong quarterback.

Biggest games in 2013: Aug. 31 at Iowa, Sept. 28 at Purdue, Oct. 5 at Kent State, Oct. 19 at Central Michigan, Nov. 13 vs. Ball State, Nov. 20 at Toledo

Biggest question mark heading into 2013: The biggest question mark facing NIU in 2013 is, simply, the Huskies' defense. NIU loses seven starters from last year's underrated unit, which was overshadowed by Lynch and the often-electrifying offense while allowing just 19.9 points per game -- good for second in the MAC and 21st nationally. The Huskies need to replace three starters up front, three of their linebackers and two starters from their secondary, including three of their top four sack leaders from 2012.

Forecast: NIU did things last year that few believed were possible for a MAC team. The Huskies finished 12-2 and proved to be one of the final BCS-busters of the BCS era, but their 31-10 loss to Florida State in the Discover Orange Bowl sent them into the offseason hungry for more.

Oh, and that defeat also left Carey with a less-than-ideal 0-1 career coaching mark, something he has joked about publicly this offseason.

Still, Carey brings back enough talent to field a team that enters 2013 as the preseason MAC favorite, as NIU is 23-5 over the past two seasons.

Perhaps most importantly, the team brings back Jordan Lynch, who finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting last year before a less-than-stellar showing against the Seminoles (15-41 passing, 220 total yards) ended his season on a down note. The 6-foot, 216-pound Lynch enters his redshirt senior season as a player the Huskies have promoted for this year's Heisman, and after he rushed for 1,815 yards and passed for 3,138 last season -- while tallying 44 total touchdowns -- why shouldn't they?

What's more, the same men return who helped protect him up front last season, along with a deep receiving corps that features five players who caught at least 11 passes last season. The conference's top offense from 2012 should not miss a beat in 2013.

The challenges will come on defense, where the Huskies return just four starters from last year's unit. Still, Carey has said he is confident in a lot of the first-team newcomers, several of whom have seen extensive playing time despite not starting.

Can NIU mount a repeat of last year's run and crash the BCS once again, in the system's final season? Due to outside factors, that might be asking a lot for a second straight season. (Welcome back off the bowl ban list, Ohio State. ... Good to see you again, Big 12 heavyweights.)

Still, the Huskies boast all of the necessary parts to help Carey build up that record and end his first full year with another conference title for the program.

Non-AQ spring previews

February, 16, 2012
2/16/12
9:00
AM ET
Let's take a look at some spring storylines for selected non-AQ teams.

ARKANSAS STATE

Spring practice start date: March 12

Spring game: April 14

End date: April 16

What to watch:
  • Gus Malzahn era begins. Hugh Freeze took Arkansas State to the Sun Belt title in his only year on the job. Now the Gus Malzahn era begins, with promises to continue the high-flying attack that dominated the league last year. Malzahn obviously has made his name as one of the top offensive minds in the game, so it will be interesting to see how he interacts with reigning Sun Belt Player of the Year Ryan Aplin.
  • Michael Dyer's eligibility? The former Auburn running back has transferred to Arkansas State, but his eligibility for 2012 is unclear. The school has considered filing a hardship waiver to the NCAA because of an ailing family member. If approved, he would be eligible immediately.
  • Big defensive losses. The Red Wolves are losing some of their best players on defense -- Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year Brandon Joiner as well as first-team selections Demario Davis, Darryl Feemster and Kelcie McCray. In fact, only 10 starters return to the team, so there will be plenty of position battles this spring.
BOISE STATE

Spring practice start date: March 12

Spring game: April 14

What to watch:
  • Replacing Kellen Moore. This is not just a local story. It is a national story. Trying to replace the winningest quarterback in NCAA history is going to overshadow anything Boise State does during practice in the spring or fall. There are several contenders: junior Joe Southwick, sophomore Grant Hedrick, redshirt freshman Jimmy Laughrea and true freshman Nick Patti, already enrolled. Southwick has served as the backup to Moore the past two seasons, while Patti is a highly heralded recruit out of Florida with similarities to Moore. You can bet this will not be settled in the spring.
  • Youth. Moore is not the only starter who has to be replaced. This will be a relatively inexperienced team when it comes to starts. Several big-time contributors are gone, including running back Doug Martin, left tackle Nate Potter and defensive linemen Shea McClellin, Billy Winn, Tyrone Crawford, Chase Baker, linebacker Byron Hout and safety George Iloka. By some counts, Boise State has only six returning starters for 2012.
  • Big East early? This has nothing to do with on-the-field matters, but there remains the possibility that Boise State could jump to the Big East a year early to fill the hole left by West Virginia.
BYU

Spring practice start date: March 5

Spring end date: March 30 (spring game TBA)

What to watch:
  • QB depth. Riley Nelson goes into the season as the unquestioned starter after replacing Jake Heaps nearly midway through last season. Nelson's energy and enthusiasm helped the Cougars end with a 10-win season in Year 1 as an independent. This team is now officially his from the start of the season. Now, can he stay healthy? He has gotten injured in 2010 and 2011, and there is not much experience behind him with Heaps having gone to Kansas. Depth must be developed.
  • Replacing Matt Reynolds. Reynolds was a rock for the Cougars at left tackle the past several seasons, so his shoes are big ones to fill on the offensive line. It helps that three starters are returning on the line, but Reynolds tied a school record with 52 starts in his BYU career. High school All-American Ryker Mathews would seem to be the favorite to win this spot. He missed last season with a foot injury.
  • Eason gone. Perhaps one of the most underrated players on the defense was Corby Eason, who was tied for the team lead with 14 pass breakups. He is gone, and Jordan Johnson will get his chance at cornerback.
HOUSTON

Spring practice start date: March 21

Spring game: April 13

What to watch:
  • Bye-bye, Case. Just like Boise State, the Cougars must replace record-setting quarterback Case Keenum, who got a sixth year of eligibility and proceeded to smash a number of NCAA passing marks. Unlike Boise, the Cougars have a quarterback with starting experience. That would be David Piland, who took over in 2010 when Keenum and backup Cotton Turner got hurt. Piland got the luxury of redshirting last season, and he goes into spring as the heir apparent. How much has he improved?
  • Tony Levine takes over. Kevin Sumlin is gone, and Levine was promoted to head coach. That should certainly ease the transition, but Levine is going to want to put his own stamp on the program. What changes will we see with the way he runs practice and schemes? This will be a perfect time for Levine to learn with trial and error before spring practice begins.
  • Sammy Brown gone. Brown was just as important to the defense as Keenum was to the offense, and his departure is a major hole. The entire linebacker corps has questions, with Marcus McGraw and Phillip Steward also gone. Those three players ranked among the top four in tackles for the season.
NAVY

Spring practice start date: March 19

Spring game: April 14

What to watch:
  • Miller time. Trey Miller goes into the spring as the starter at quarterback. He did play in several games last season and was pretty inconsistent. But now that he has some playing time under his belt and the full-time starting quarterback job, he can start to take some ownership of this team.
  • Get tougher. Coach Ken Niumatalolo wants his players to get tougher, both physically and mentally. Last season was not what anybody at Navy anticipated, and the heartbreaking losses are simply tough to accept. But Niumatalolo is not going with scheme changes in the spring to get his team back to a bowl game. It is all about making sure his players are tough-minded and fighting for one another.
  • Discipline. That means playing with much more discipline, and paying attention to detail. When you lose five games by three points or fewer, you start to understand you have to do everything right, even the little things.
NORTHERN ILLINOIS

Spring practice start date: March 28

Spring game: April 21

What to watch:
  • Lynch time. All-everything quarterback Chandler Harnish is gone, leaving the job to his backup for the past two seasons, Jordan Lynch. He is a former safety and, according to the folks who know, plays like one. He also is apparently a better runner than Harnish. Lynch has seen his share of playing time, but how will he fare now that he is in command of the entire offense?
  • Offensive line. How do the Huskies replace four seniors with a combined 151 career starts? With Trevor Olson, Joe Pawlak, Scott Wedige and Keith Otis gone, Logan Pegram is the lone returner. The line had much to do with the success of Harnish and the offense last season. They gave up just 12 sacks and ranked No. 12 in the country in rushing offense and No. 11 in total offense.
  • Defensive strength. Northern Illinois returns eight starters on defense but also should get a boost from two more players -- 2010 starters Devon Butler at middle linebacker and Tyrone Clark at weakside linebacker. Butler sat out after he was injured in a shooting last April; Clark sat out for undisclosed personal reasons but practiced with the team throughout the year. Butler dressed out for bowl practices, although he didn't do any contact.
SOUTHERN MISS

Spring practice start date: March 5

Spring game: April 14

What to watch:
  • No Austin Davis. Terrific dual-threat quarterback Austin Davis is gone, leaving a big question mark at the position. Backup Arsenio Favor is expected to get the first-string reps during spring practice, but there definitely will be those watching for incoming freshman Anthony Alford come the fall. New coach Ellis Johnson tried to recruit Alford to South Carolina. Alford also was a baseball player, like Davis.
  • Ellis Johnson takes over. Southern Miss has built a winning tradition, and Johnson is taking over the surprise Conference USA champs. But he faces some rebuilding questions both on offense and defense. How does he handle these in his first head-coaching opportunity? Johnson has been a lifelong assistant, and worked under many good head coaches. How he adapts now that he is in charge is definitely something to watch.
  • Defense rebuilding. Six key players from the front seven are gone, including Cordarro Law and Ronnie Thornton. There also is a new coaching staff in place for these players to get used to. Remember, some are going on their third defensive coordinator in three years.

Non-AQ Players of the Week

October, 25, 2010
10/25/10
3:00
PM ET
Here are your non-AQ players of the week, as selected by each league.

Conference USA

Offense: Tulane WR Casey Robottom. Had a career-high 10 receptions for a career-best 151 receiving yards and two touchdowns in a 34-24 win over UTEP. His 43-yard touchdown catch gave the Green Wave the lead for good with 5:30 remaining in the game.

Defense: Houston LB Sammy Brown and UCF DE Darius Nall. Brown led the Cougars with eight tackles, two sacks and a forced a fumble in a 45-20 win over SMU. In the past two games, Brown has recorded nine tackles for loss and four sacks. Nall had 2.5 sacks, forced a fumble, had a pass pressure and tied for the team lead with six total tackles as UCF defeated Rice 41-14.

Special Teams: Houston KR Tyron Carrier. Scored on a 91-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in a win over SMU. It was the sixth of his career. Clemson's C.J. Spiller holds the NCAA career record with seven kickoff returns for touchdowns.

Mid-American

East Division

Offense: Kent State WR Tyshon Goode. Had a career-high 12 catches for a season-high 158 yards and two touchdowns in a 30-6 win at Bowling Green. He also extended his consecutive games with a catch streak to 15.

Defense: Temple DT Muhammad Wilkerson. Led the Owls with six tackles and a career-high 2.5 sacks in a 42-0 win at Buffalo. Temple had its first shutout since 1992 and first shutout of a BCS opponent since 1984.

Special teams: Kent State K Freddy Cortez. Scored 12 points in a 30-6 victory at Bowling Green. Cortez tied his career-high with three field goals (29, 32, 30), while making all three extra points. He missed a 51-yarder.

West Division

Offense: Western Michigan WR Juan Nunez. Had six receptions for a career-high 192 yards and three touchdowns in a 56-10 win over Akron.

Defense: Northern Illinois LB Tyrone Clark. Had two interceptions in a 33-7 win over Central Michigan. Both came in the second quarter to stop Chippewa drives and ensure that the Huskies would have a halftime lead.

Special Teams: Toledo KR Isaiah Ballard. Returned three kickoffs for 103 yards, including a 56-yard return, in a 31-24 win over Ball State.

Mountain West

Offense: TCU RB Ed Wesley and Utah QB Jordan Wynn. Wesley had a career-high 209 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 28 carries to help the Horned Frogs beat Air Force 38-7. Wynn completed 23 of 29 passes for 321 yards and three touchdowns in three quarters of action in a 59-6 win over Colorado State.

Defense: BYU LB Brandon Ogletree. Had career highs of five solo tackles and three tackles for loss in a 25-20 win over Wyoming. Four of the tackles came on Wyoming’s final drive of the game, and two were for a loss.

Special Teams: BYU KR Cody Hoffman. Had 104 kick return yards in the victory over Wyoming. In all, Hoffman averaged 26.0 yards on four kick returns.

Sun Belt

Offense: Western Kentucky QB Kawaun Jakes. Went 18-of-22 for a season-high 262 yards and one touchdown in a 54-21 win over Louisiana, snapping a 26-game losing streak. He also picked up 28 rushing yards and scored two rushing touchdowns. He led the Hilltoppers to scores on nine straight offense possessions.

Defense: Arkansas State DB Adrian Hills. Recorded a career-high two interceptions, including one returned 37 yards for a touchdown, over the final 10 minutes of a 37-16 fourth-quarter comeback victory against Florida Atlantic.

Special Teams: Western Kentucky K Casey Tinius. Score 12 points in the Hilltoppers’ victory over Louisiana. His 47-yard kick as time expired in the first half tied a career long.

WAC

Offense: Hawaii running back Alex Green. Ran for a career-high 172 yards and four touchdowns on 14 carries in a 45-7 win at Utah State. He had a career-long rush of 60 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Defense: Hawaii linebacker Corey Paredes. Had a game-high 10 tackles and two interceptions at Utah State. Paredes helped anchor a defense that held its opponent to 181 yards of total offense, the fewest in a game for the Warriors since 2005.

Special Teams: Fresno State K Kevin Goessling. Made all four of his field goal attempts in a 33-18 win at San Jose State. Goessling was also 3-for-3 on extra point attempts to run his consecutive streak to 116 -- 12 shy of the all-time WAC record.

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