ILLINOIS LEADS LEAGUE AGAIN WITH 10 ALL-MID-AMERICAN CONFERENCE
--- Northern Illinois Universitys football program made its
case for post-season competition by leading the coaches All-Mid-American
Conference all-star team for the second season in a row.
The 2003 All-MAC
grid squad was announced by loop commissioner Rick Chryst on Monday
Not only did
the Huskies---who finished the regular season with a 10-2 overall
record and currently rank No. 29 in both national polls this week---top
the Mid-Am with 10 all-league selections, but Northern Illinois
featured a conference-high and school-record seven First-Team All-MAC
picks. NIU led the league with 11 overall All-Mid-Am choices in
2002 and had six first-teamers in 2000.
All-MAC in balloting by the loops 14 head coaches this year
were senior tailback Michael The Burner Turner, senior
placekicker Steve Azar, senior wide receiver P. J. Fleck, and junior
offensive tackle Jake VerStraete on offense, plus linebacker Brian
Atkinson, defensive end Vinson Reynolds, and cornerback Randee Drew
on defense. Senior strong safety Akil Grant made Second-Team All-Mid-Am
while senior linebacker Nick Duffy and senior center Todd Ghilani
were on the Honorable Mention All-MAC unit.
a tremendous accomplishment for our program in a very, very competitive
league, said Huskie head coach Joe Novak. Ten All-MAC
players and seven first-teamers is really indicative of this group.
Theres eight seniors among that ten. That was a great senior
class. Production-wise, you cant beat that group. Youre
talking about some outstanding three-year regulars and people such
as Michael Turner, Steve Azar, P. J. Fleck, Akil Grant, Randee Drew,
and Nick Duffy who really piled up some great numbers for our program.
To be honest, I dont know if you could ever match such a senior
champion Miami (OH) wound up with nine All-Mid-Am picks---led by
First-Team All-MAC quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Marshall and
Toledo were next with seven all-league performers, followed by West
Division kingpin Bowling Green State, Akron, and Western Michigan
with five apiece.
Springs, CO / Highlands Ranch) made Northern Illinois history by
becoming the schools initial four-time All-MAC gridder. A
semifinalist for the prestigious Lou Groza National Placekicker
Award, the 5-foot-7, 195-pound senior set league records for career
kick-scoring (370 points) and career field goals (73). Azar set
numerous Huskie records---including five of the programs six
longest field goals---and previously made First-Team All-Mid-Am
in 2001, Second-Team in 2002, and Honorable Mention in 2000. He
scored 80 points as a frosh, 91 as a soph, 95 as a junior, and 104
as a senior.
Chicago) and Drew (Milwaukee, WI / Glendale Nicolet) represent two
of the six league First-Team repeaters with Toledo offensive lineman
Nick Kaczur, Marshall wide receiver Darius Watts, Western Michigan
defensive end Jason Babin, and Central Florida defensive back Atari
Bigby. Five 2003 First-Team All-MAC representatives were second-teamers
in 2002---including NIUs Atkinson, Miami (OH) QB Roethlisberger,
Marshall defensive lineman James Martin, Bowling Green State defensive
back Janssen Patton, and Ball State defensive back Justin Beriault.
as The Burner, the 5-10, 232-pound tailback appears
to have clinched his second straight Mid-Am rushing title with 1,648
yards this season. For the second consecutive year, Turner is the
Northern Illinois candidate for the leagues prestigious Vern
Smith Leadership Award---symbolic of the loops MVP---and a
semifinalist for the Doak Walker National Runningback Award. The
Burner finished his regular season as the MACs No. 2
all-time rusher and No. 13 on the NCAA list with 4,941 career yards.
Among his numerous entries into the Huskie Record Book, Turner is
No. 1 in school career rushing, No. 1 in career all-purpose yardage
(6,038), No. 1 in career touchdowns (47), No. 1 in career 100-yard
games (21), and No. 1 in career rushing attempts (940).
The 5-11, 180-pound
Fleck (Sugar Grove / Maple Park Kaneland) wound up No. 4 in league
receiving and No. 15 nationally with 77 catches for 1,028 yards
and six TDs this fall. The sure-handed No. 82 set Northern Illinois
career records in punt returns (87) and PR yardage (817). Those
77 receptions rank second only to NIU Hall of Famer and Third-Team
All-America Dave Petzke (NCAA-leading 91 grabs in 1978). Flecks
179 career receptions and 2,162 catch yards rank No. 3 on the schools
all-time list. Two weeks ago, Fleck was named to the First-Team
CoSIDA District V All-Academic squad.
In his second
year as a regular, VerStraete (Atkinson / Geneseo J. D. Darnall)
blocked for a Northern Illinois offense that produced a 2,500-yard
passer, 1,500-yard rusher, and 1,000-yard passer for the first time
in the programs 102 years. The 6-foot-7, 311-pound junior
led the Huskie O-line in snaps (827) and tied for the best season
blocking grades (85 percent). In 12 games, VerStraete collected
47 pancake blocks. No. 66 also made First-Team CoSIDA
District V All-Academic.
production, Drew ranked among the Mid-Am leaders in interceptions
(six), passes defended (six picks and a
school single-season record 15 pass deflections), and kickoff returns
(27 for 581 yards or a 21.5 ypr. average). The 5-foot-8, 184-pounder
completed the regular season with 174 career stops, 38 deflections,
and 14 pass thefts.
/ Fenger)---the other junior---led the Huskies in total tackles
(108), solo hits (65), QB sacks (six), and QB hurries-pressures
(12) in 2003. The 6-1, 223-pounder---known to his teammates as The
Beast---recorded five twin-digit tackle games---14 apiece
vs. Buffalo and Bowling Green State, 13 vs. Iowa State, plus 11
vs. Ball State and Alabama.
MI / St. Martin dePorres) really came into his own as a senior---capped
by making First-Team All-MAC. The 6-1, 255-pounder shared the Northern
Illinois QB sack (six) and fumble-cause hit (three) lead, rated
No. 1 in team tackles for loss (15 for 53 yards), and wound up No.
2 in QB hurries-pressures (11) as a first-time regular (11 starts
games with a left knee sprain this year, Grant (Kankakee) made Second-Team
All-MAC and notched 93 tackles and 361 career stops. Duffy (Wheaton
/ Warrenville South) missed half the season, posted 62 hits, and
notched 339 career tackles. Ghilani, a Second-Team All-MAC pick
in 2002 and a three-yeare regular, led the team in pancakes
school-by-school All-Mid-Am breakdown: Northern Illinois (10), Miami
(OH) (9), Marshall (7), Toledo (7), Akron (5), Bowling Green State
(5), Western Michigan (5), Ball State (3), Central Michigan (3),
Eastern Michigan (2), Central Florida (2), Buffalo (1), and Kent
Other league football awards will be announced this week include
MAC Freshman of the Year and Special Teams Player of the Year Monday
(December 1), Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year and Coach
of the Year Tuesday (December 2), and the Vern Smith Leadership
Award recipient Wednesday (December 4).
2003 All-Mid-American Conference football team:
All-MAC Offense: C---Scott Mruczkowski, Bowling Green State; OL---Nick
Kazcur, Toledo; OL---Nate McPeek, Marshall; OL---Jacob Bell, Miami
(OH); OL---Jake VerStraete, Northern Illinois; TE---Andrew Clarke,
Toledo; WR---Darius Watts, Marshall; WR---Lance Moore, Toledo; WR---P.
J. Fleck, Northern Illinois, QB---Ben Roethlisberger, Miami (OH);
RB---Michael Turner, Northern Illinois, RB---Anthony Sherrell, Eastern
Michigan; RB---P. J. Pope, Bowling Green State; PK---Steve Azar,
All-MAC Defense: OLB---Lorenzo Scott, Ball State; OLB---Brian Atkinson,
Northern Illinois; DL---Jason Babin, Western Michigan; DL---Vinson
Reynolds, Northern Illinois; DL---Phil Smith, Miami (OH); DL---Jamus
Martin, Marshall; ILB---David Lusky, Eastern Michigan; ILB---Terrell
Jones, Miami (OH), DB---Janssen Patton, Bowling Green State; DB---Randee
Drew, Northern Illinois; DB---Atari Bigby, Central Florida; DB---Justin
Beriault, Ball State; P---Adam Anderson, Western Michigan.
All-MAC Offense: C---Todd Londot, Miami (OH); OL---Erik Faasen,
Toledo; OL---Travis Barclay, Ball State; OL---Adam Kieft, Central
Michigan; OL---Ben Herrell, MIami (OH); TE---Matt Brandt, Miami
(OH); WR---Matt Cherry, Akron; WR---Martin Nance, Miami (OH); WR---Greg
Jennings, Western Michigan; QB---Josh Harris, Bowling Green State;
RB---Jerry Seymour, Central Michigan; RB---Earl Charles, Marshall;
RB---Trinity Dawson, Toledo; PK---Jason Swiger, Akron.
All-MAC Defense: OLB---Terna Nande, Miami (OH); OLB---Charles Tynes,
Marshall; DL---Jack Gitler, Western Michigan; DL---Frank Ofili,Toledo;
DL---Mitchell Crossley, Bowling Green State; DL---Toriano Brown,
Marshall; ILB---Brock Dodrill, Toledo; ILB---Chase Blackburn, Akron;
DB---Rickey McKenzie,Akron; DB---James King, Central Michigan; DB---Akil
Grant, Northern Illinois; DB---Mark Graham, Buffalo; P---Matt Prater,
All-MAC (next in top six voting regardless of position): WR---Kendrick
Mosley, Western Michigan; C---Todd Ghilani, Northern Illinois; ILB---Eric
Mahl, Kent State; TE---Mike Brake, Akron; TE---Jason Rader, Marshall;
ILB---Nick Duffy, Northern Illinois.
information, please contact Mike Korcek) -NIU-