Jacobson: Through the first five games of the season it seemed as if Leighton Settle was going to be “the man” at running back for Northern Illinois. The junior had 100-yard games against Tennessee-Martin and Central Michigan, including three touchdowns against the Chippewas. But Settle’s production has slipped over the past two games, accumulating only 25 yards on 17 carries.
What’s the current status of NIU’s running back situation? Is it jumbled again?
Nitz: It’s a little more jumbled, but I think Settle still is the best option at tailback right now. Akeem Daniels is a nice change-of-pace option and more of a threat in the passing game, and I would expect to see more and more of Keith Harris Jr. as the season goes on. I like the Huskies’ depth at tailback right now, and NIU coach Dave Doeren has raved about the group’s blocking ability.
Before the season, NIU’s running back situation was considered a question mark. Ross, do you still consider it to be that way, or should Doeren be happy with the unit right now?
Jacobson: I think it’s been fine. The stats have fallen off of late, but quarterback Jordan Lynch has continued his trend of 100-plus rushing yards each game. It’d be nice if Lynch could stay away from all the hits he takes, but nobody can argue with the production.
Harris scored a touchdown against Iowa, but then disappeared for a couple games and rarely saw the field. Do you think it’s a matter of him getting more comfortable on offense being a true freshman?
Nitz: Absolutely. It’s going to be tough for any kid right out of high school to come in and really contribute right away. Plus, the coaching staff didn’t really find out about him until late in the preseason. Harris scored three touchdowns in NIU’s Aug. 18 scrimmage, and didn’t start getting a lot of reps until after that.
Jacobson: The Zips are giving up more than 200 rushing yards a game, 108th in the nation. Do you think the Huskies’ running backs will combine to surpass the century mark?
Nitz: Oh yeah, there’s no doubt. They might very well go over 100 yards in the first half, and I could see Settle running for 100 by himself.