Aug 13, 2013
Over the next two weeks, NIUHuskies.com will preview every position on the 2013 Northern Illinois football team, continuing today with the linebackers. In addition, sign up for Huskies All-Access to see a video breakdown of every position with interviews and practice highlights. The video will be available within 24 hours after the article is posted. Wednesday's position group: tight ends and fullbacks.
Safeties | Offensive Line
DeKALB, Ill. - With four players combining for 55 appearances last season on the Northern Illinois defense, the Huskie linebacking corp is a seasoned group that will provide both speed and brawn in NIU's defense. Add the fact that there are no seniors in the group and you have a contingent that will look to remain strong past the 2013 season.
"We're young and old but we have a veteran group," said linebackers coach Kevin Kane, "we have guys in place who are able to lead these young guys who are coming in to the program."
Three of the four returning linebackers in this year's group, juniors Jamaal Bass (Miramar, Fla./Miramar) and Michael Santacaterina (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) and sophomore Boomer Mays (Lawrence, Kan./Eudora), all played in 13-or-more games on the second level of the NIU defense, while Rasheen Lemon (Chicago, Ill./Proviso West) made the most of his playing time, 14 games, on special teams.
Combine those four veterans, who combined for 13.5 tackles for loss in 2012, with five true freshman and two redshirt frosh, and the Huskies have a rank that will grow over the years under the tutelage of guys who've played a significant amount of football at Northern Illinois University.
With 25 games already under his belt over the last two seasons, Bass is the most-seasoned linebacker for the Huskies in 2013. He has combined for 145 tackles from his weak side backer position since he cracked the starting lineup. Bass is also NIU's second-leading returning tackler from 2012 with 83 stops, including six behind the line of scrimmage.
He already has a wealth of experience in his grasp and this season Bass has been looked upon as a leader of the group, mentoring the freshman and showing them the ropes. He cites linebackers like Tyrone Clark and Pat Schiller as guys who really helped him along the way but says he wants to follow what Clark did in his time at NIU - improve his game everyday while being looked upon as a leader of the defense.
Also appearing in all 14 games last season was Santacaterina, who appeared as a middle linebacker in spell relief. The Illinoisan made 28 stops last season and proved himself a valued commodity in coverage situations as he recorded an interception, three pass breakups and deflected four passes.
The sophomores of the group still have three years of football ahead of them, but have already combined for 27 games between the duo.
Mays played in 13 games last season and accumulated 31 tackles, 18 of the solo variety and five behind the line of scrimmage. Mays also appeared on some special teams units, serving as a backup long snapper last season. Lemon, a redshirt sophomore, will look to expand his role in 2013 after appearing in all 14 games on special teams, where he recorded 11 tackles.
It is unclear what the freshman roles will be in the upcoming season, but Coach Kane is confident in the returners ability to lead the younger guys into the future. As in years past, the potential is there in the group for younger guys to step in and fill in to spell the elders of the group.
"(The older) guys are pushing (the younger) guys and teaching them at the same time so I'm excited about what the guys are doing," said Kane.
Head Coach Rod Carey shares Kane's sentiment and thinks the future status of the Huskies linebacking corp is in good hands with the experienced players on this year's squad.
"(The linebackers) have a lot of experience without being seniors and I think that plays a lot into the fact about how they're handling themselves and how they go about their business. They have high expectations," said Head Coach Rod Carey.
It's clear that the linebacker position is in a solid state heading into the 2013 season and possibly beyond. The upperclassmen of the group will carry the load and lead the youth of the group but the response of the seven freshman, including five from Illinois, will decide the strength of the unit.
The Huskies open the 2013 season at Iowa Aug. 31st while the home opener against Eastern Illinois is set for Sept. 21st. Season and single game tickets for Northern Illinois' 2013 home schedule are on sale now. The new Huskieland Plan, which includes a ticket to all five home games (sections A and G) and $50 in Doggie Dollars good for parking and/or concessions, is just $50. All remaining season ticket locations for the 2013 Huskie Stadium home slate are just $100 while NIU Alumni Association members, senior citizens (62+), youth (3-13), NIU Varsity Club (former letterwinners) members and faculty and staff can see every game for just $88. Season tickets are available by calling NIU Athletics at 815-753-PACK (7225), or go online to www.NIUHuskies.com/tickets for complete information and order forms.
Single game tickets are priced at just $15 for seating in the upper rows of sections A and G in Huskie Stadium, while seats in sections B, F and lower A and G are $24 for the general public and $18 for senior citizens (ages 62 and over) and youth (ages 3-13). Seats in section C, D and E, as well as seats on the East Side, are just $30 for the general public and $20 for senior citizens and youth. Single game tickets for the five-game home schedule can be purchased through the NIU Athletics Ticket Office in the Convocation Center, online via Ticketmaster and NIUHuskies.com and on the phone by calling 815-753-PACK.