Daily Chronicle sports editor Ross Jacobson and sports reporter Steve Nitz spend their days covering the area’s sports scene. Occasionally, they give their viewpoints on those local sports. In this installment of their Take 2 column, they discuss NIU’s surprises and disappointments so far this season.
Nitz: Northern Illinois is sitting in good shape at 8-0, and there has been more BCS talk each week. People expected the Huskies to be good this season, but I did not expect them to be unbeaten at this point.
Which player has been NIU’s biggest surprise so far?
Jacobson: A lot of people will point to Cameron Stingily and his emergence in the NIU backfield, but I’ll go to the other side of the ball and pick out Dechane Durante. Jimmie Ward gets much of the notoriety – and deservedly so – but Durante has been a stellar counterpart at safety in his first season as the starter.
Durante, who is taking the place of Demetrius Stone, already has more tackles (40) and interceptions (three) than he did all of last season. Durante also has two forced fumbles.
Nitz: Great point on Durante, NIU’s safety tandem has been excellent so far this season.
To me, Stingily is an easy answer. The guy had one carry a season ago and has been one of the better tailbacks in the Mid-American Conference this year.
Another huge boost has been defensive end Perez Ford, who like Stingily, is a product of Romeoville High School. Ford leads the Huskies with six tackles for loss and is tied for the team lead with 3.5 sacks. I think a lot of people, including myself, wondered why his redshirt was burned last year, but he credits playing in 2012 for this year’s success.
Jacobson: In terms of disappointments, it actually was really hard for me to find anybody in particular. The obvious candidates are the other running backs outside of Stingily, like Keith Harris, Akeem Daniels and Giorgio Bowers, but those are mainly injury-related or off-field issues.
There was a lot of hope for Juwan Brescacin coming into this season, but he just hasn’t been too productive. He has only 14 catches on the season and Jordan Lynch really seems to look for Tommylee Lewis and Da’Ron Brown, who have combined for 91 receptions. It might be nit-picking, especially because NIU spreads the ball around so much, but Brescacin hasn’t done much outside of the Purdue game, in which he had four receptions for 65 yards and a touchdown.
Nitz: I also expected more from Brescacin, although like you said, NIU is deep at the receiver spot, and the depth is better with Angelo Sebastiano healthy again.
Although I mentioned the safety play as something that has been huge for the Huskies, I think we could see more at corner. The Huskies have struggled at times on the outside, and the injury to the top cornerback Sean Evans has not helped. Coach Rod Carey said he had hoped to have him back this week. NIU is going to need him on the field Nov. 13 when Ball State and quarterback Keith Wenning come to DeKalb.