Illinois University 2004 Preseason Football Camp & Annual Media
It Is --- Northern Illinois University officially opens its (1)
103rd football season since 1899 (no teams during World War I in
1917-19), (2) 2004 schedule against nationally ranked University
of Maryland for the second straight year (September 4 at Byrd Stadium
in College Park, MD), (3) 40th campaign in Huskie Stadium since
1965, (4) 36th year in the major-college ranks (National Collegiate
Athletic Association Division 1-A since 1969), (5) eighth season
in its second Mid-American Conference tenure, and (6) 18th MAC season
overall since 1975. Northern Illinois---currently a member of the
MAC West Division---is one of 117 NCAA 1-A football playing institutions
Plot A --- For the first time since 1990, Northern Illinois
has received preseason votes in one of the two major
football polls. In the preseason ESPN / USA Today Top 25 coaches
poll released July 30, head coach Joe Novak and the Huskies tied
for the No. 48 spot with Boston College. NIU---which finished 10-2
overall, plus No. 26 in the final ESPN / USA Today poll and No.
29 in the Associated Press media version in 2003---garnered 10 points.
In fact, five Mid-Am programs earned preseason 2004 support, led
by the University of Toledo (No. 35 with 33 points), followed by
Bowling Green State University (No. 39 with 22 points), Miami (OH)
University (tied for No. 40 with 21 points), Marshall University
(No. 45 with 13 points), and the Huskies. Last season, NIU rated
10th in the first Bowl Championship Series standings in mid-October.
In August, 1990, Northern Illinois---coming off a 9-2 campaign with
senior QB Stacey Wishbone Wizard II Robinson back running
coach Jerry Pettibones high-powered triple option---rated
among the Top 35 in the old United Press International
coaches poll with others receiving votes and No.
46 in the (then) USA Today poll that summer.
Plot B --- As a major-college, Northern Illinois guns for an
unprecedented fifth consecutive winning season (6-5 record in both
2000 and 2001, 8-4 in 2002, and 10-2 in 2003). Prior to this current
streak, the best the Huskies have managed in the 1-A era would be
the four straight non-losing seasons during the Jerry Pettibone
regime (5-5-1 in 1987, 7-4 in 1988, 9-2 in 1989, and 6-5 in 1990).
The last five-season Northern Illinois win streak? Try 1962-66 (8-2
in 1962, 10-0 in 1963, 7-2 in 1964, 9-1 in 1965, and 8-2 in 1966)
for Hall of Fame head man Howard Fletcher.
Plot C --- Seven times in the last nine years, Northern Illinois
has featured an 1,000-yard rusher (TB Charles Talley with 1,540
yards in 1995 and 1,008 yards in 1996, TB William Andrews with 1,127
yards in 1999, TB Thomas Hammock with 1,083 yards in 2000 and 1,096
in 2001, plus TB Michael Turner with 1,915 yards in 2002 and 1,648
in 2002). Okay, so projected TB starter A. J. Harris (Wheaton /
North) enters 2004 with a modest 443 career rushing yards as a junior.
Guess what? Believe it or not, the Huskie front five O-line returns
six starters. How is that possible, you ask? Four regulars come
from 2003---including 6-foot-7, 311-pound senior Rotary Lombardi
Award watch list prospect Jake VerStraete (Atkinson / Geneseo J.
D. Darnall) at OT, 2003 Third-Team The Sporting News Frosh All-America
Doug Free (Manitowoc, WI / Lincoln) at OT, junior Jake Ebenhoch
(Sussex, WI / Hamilton) at OG, and soph Matt Rogers (Lockport /
New Lenox Providence) at OG. Add 6-3, 296-pound senior OG Matt McGhghy
(Keokuk, IA) from 2002 and 6-foot-7, 315-pound senior Mark Orszula
(Lisle) from 2001. McGhghy comes back from a team suspension for
violation of team rules and Orszula was granted a sixth-year of
eligibility by the NCAA after missing the last two seasons with
a left leg injury. Novaks 2004 team strength (O-line) just
got stronger by two quality players. Can you say eighth 1,000-yard
rusher in ten years?
Plot D --- Unheralded, underappreciated, underrated Northern
Illinois senior QB Josh Haldi (Madison, OH), until this year, that
is. Item No. 1: The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Huskie quad-captain finally
got some respect as one of 42 players named to the preseason Davey
OBrien National Quartetback Award watch list this summer.
Item No. 2: Not only does Haldi enter the 2004 campaign with 4,631
career air yards and 40 touchdowns on 333-of-597 completions (2001-03),
No. 10 ranks ninth nationally among active starting QBs in career
NCAA Division 1-A won-lost percentage (.750 with an 18-6 mark as
a starter) on a list that includes All-America candidates such as
Matt Leinart of Southern Cal (.923 pct.), Jason White of Oklahoma
(.833 pct.), Brock Berlin of Miami (FL) (.833 pct.), David Greene
of Georgia (.800 pct.), and Alex Smith of Utah (.900 pct.). Item
No. 3: Yes, it is (was) two different football eras, but Haldi can
rewrite school career records that were set by Northern Illinois
College Football Hall of Fame QB George Bork (577-of-902 passes
for 6,782 career yards and 60 TDs during 1960-63). Item No. 4: How
can Haldi not be a College Sports Information Directors of America
Academic All-America candidate with those numbers on the field and
a 3.92 cumulative gpa as an accountancy major? Hint, hint.
National --- In addition to Haldi (Davey OBrien National
Quarterback Award watch list) and VerStraete (Rotary Lombardi Award
watch list), Northern Illinois boasts a third national
player in senior LB Brian Atkinson (Chicago / Fenger). Known to
his teammates as The Beast, No. 38 also made the Rotary
Lombardi Award watch list this summer. Atkinson and VerStraete also
were selected preseason Honorable Mention All-Americas by Street
& Smiths College Football.
MAC --- Overall, 12 Huskie performers made at least one preseason
All-Mid-Am team---(1) Atkinson, (2) senior TE Brad Cieslak (Long
Grove / Lincolnshire Stevenson), (3) Ebenhoch, (4) Free, (5) Haldi,
(6) Harris, (7) senior FS Lionel Boogie Hickenbottom
(Dolton / Chicago Robeson), (8) senior CB Rob Lee (Port Washington,
WI), (9) senior DE Travis Moore (Robbins / Blue Island Eisenhower),
(10) senior PR-WR Dan Sheldon (Elgin / Burlington Central), (11)
VerStraete, and (12) senior DT Martin Wilson (Lisle).
THE PROS: The
Huskie Ten --- Thats the number of former Northern Illinois
players in National Football League camps this week. The list includes
veterans such as(1) DT Hollis Thomas (Philadelphia Eagles),
(2) OT-OG Ryan Diem (Indianapolis Colts), (3) WR Darrell Hill (Tennessee
Titans), (4) WR Justin McCareins (New York Jets), (5) WR Frisman
Jackson (Cleveland Browns), plus free agent (6) WR Jon Pendergrass
(New York Jets), (7) QB Chris Finlen (New York Jets), and (8) rookie
WR P. J. Fleck (San Francisco 49ers), (9) SS Akil Grant (Tennessee
Titans), and (10) fifth-round draft pick TB Michael Turner (San
Diego Chargers). First-year free agent CB Randee Drew (San Francisco
49ers) was cut last week. Three other ex-Huskies---CB Eddie Davis
(Saskatchewan Roughriders), C Mike Sutherland (Ottawa Renegades),
and DB Donnavan Carter (Hamilton Tiger-Cats)---started the summer
on Canadian Football League rosters.
Northern Illinois --- Its a season of television firsts
for Northern Illinois football.
First No. 1: Two home contests---the MAC West showdowns vs.
Bowling Green State (September 24) and Toledo (November 9)---will
originate from Huskie Stadium on ESPN2 for the first time in school
history. Northern Illinois four previous ESPN or ESPN2 grid
telecasts have all come on the road (Cal State Fullerton in California
Bowl III in 1983, Nevada-Las Vegas in 1987, Northwestern in 1990,
and Bowling Green State in 2003). First No. 2: For the first time
in school history, all five of Northern Illinois 2004 home
contests on Brigham Field at Huskie Stadium will appear on TV. In
addition to the ESPN2 cablecasts, the Southern Illinois home opener
(September 11) will appear on Fox Sports Net Chicago, plus the Akron
(October 2) and Central Michigan contests will be aired on the new
Video Northern Illinois --- The Northern Illinois Preseason
Football Special---an expanded 60-minute version of the weekly
Inside Huskie Sports show will debut Monday (August
16) at 7 p.m. (CDT) and then replayed on Saturday (August 21) at
3 p.m. (CDT) on Fox Sports Net Chicago. Produced and hosted by Brad
Hoey of NIU Media Services, the season premiere features head coach
Joe Novak, senior QB Josh Haldi, and the new coaching staff members.
The weekly 30-minute edition of Inside Huskie Sports
debuts on Thursday (September 2) on Fox Sports Net Chicago. The
show will also appear on September 9, September 16, September 23,
and September 30 on Fox Sports Net Chicago and then switch to Comast
SportsNet in October. Check your local listings for updated air
Classic Northern Illinois --- Eat your heart out, ESPN
Classic. Did you miss last years memorable, heart-stopping
20-13 OT victory over No. 15-ranked Maryland? Your VCR blow up?
Your dog chew on the VHS cassette? Hard-core Huskie fans can watch
(or tape) a special edited two-hour version of the 2003 season-opening
NIU-Terrapin match-up at 4 p.m. (CDT) on August 21 and at 1 p.m.
(CDT) on September 4 on Fox Sports Net Chicago.
HUSKIES: Radio Cardinal and Black --- Northern Illinois 2004
football can be heard exclusively on the Huskie Radio Network on
eight affiliated stations and via the internet with Bill Baker (play-by-play),
Mark Lindo (color), and Sid Simmons (sideline reporter) this fall.
For the 16th season, WLBK-AM (1360 khz) in DeKalb serves as the
flagship for the expanded network that also includes WAUR-AM (930
khz) in Naperville-Aurora, WRHL-AM (1060 khz) in Rochelle, WMKB-FM
(102.9 mhz) in Mendota, WSEY-FM (95.7 mhz) in Oregon-Mount Morris,
and WMNW-FM (96.3 mhz) in Atlanta. WCCI-FM (100.3 mhz) in Savanna
will carry all six Northern Illinois road games and new outlet WCKG-FM
(105.9 mhz) in Chicago-Elmwood Park will broadcast NIUs road
dates at Maryland, Iowa State, and Central Florida. The Huskie Radio
Network can also be heard on the internet via Broadcastmonsters.com
through the niuhuskies.com athletic website.
For Starters: This year NIU boasts 16 returning starters---the most
for the Huskies since 2002 (18 regulars)...College Football Hall
of Fame: Former Northern Illinois Little All-America QB-DB Tom Beck
will become the second Huskie to be inducted into the College Football
Hall of Fame in South Bend, IN, this weekend (August 13-14). A three-year
Northern Illinois letter-winner (1959-61), Beck was inducted into
the NIU Athletics Hall of Fame in 1987 and made the programs
All-Century Team in 1999...Speaking of the HOF: Three people affiliated
with Huskie football will be enshrined into the NIU Athletics Hall
of Fame on Homecoming October 15-16---(1) HB Ernie Wickstrom (1949-50),
TB T. C. Dantzler (1991), and assistant coach John Wrenn (1960-68,
1975)...Political Huskie: Ex-Northern Illinois FB-HB Antonio Davis-Fairman
(1985-87) is a Republican candidate for the U. S. Congress in the
7th Congressional District.
information, please contact Mike Korcek) -NIU-