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Veteran line paving the way for NIU offense

Published: Monday, Aug. 18, 2014 11:28 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Aug. 18, 2014 11:38 p.m. CDT
Danielle Guerra - dguerra@shawmedia.com The NIU offensive line gets ready for the snap during practice in Huskie Stadium in DeKalb on Monday, August 18, 2014.

DeKALB – Northern Illinois senior offensive tackle Ryan Brown brings a wealth of experience to the Huskies’ offensive line. And he’s not alone.

The same can be said for fellow tackle Tyler Loos, not to mention junior center Andrew Ness and junior guard Aidan Conlon. All have a boatload of experience for NIU, having started the past two years.

The group that was a big question mark heading into the Orange Bowl season of 2012 has matured greatly, and will be counted on heavily to protect whichever quarterback wins the starting gig.

Conlon and Ness each have 28 starts under their belts. Brown has 27 and Loos has 19.

“You just don’t get it in college football the way that we have had it going back to 2012 when we were young,” said Rod Carey, who was the group’s offensive line coach two years ago before being promoted to replace Dave Doeren as head coach. “They know each other now and they’re talking and communicating. When you get that on the offensive line that’s the continuity.”

Brown said the continuity is big when it comes to communication.

“It’s huge. We know what we’re doing, we know the calls,” he said. “Basically, we don’t have to say anything on the line. We almost know what each other’s going to do.”

The new starter up front is senior guard Tyler Pitt, but even he’s a veteran in a certain sense. Pitt has spent time rotating every other series at offensive guard. Now, the 6-foot-5, 314-pounder is listed as a starter at right guard.

“[The experience] helps a lot because I’ve seen the field a lot, I know what’s going on,” Pitt said. “I’ve been playing here the whole time. Now, I just want to start and play more, not get taken out because I can help the team even more.”

The offensive line will play a big part in paving the way for the Huskies tailbacks and protecting either Matt McIntosh, Anthony Maddie or Drew Hare. NIU allowed only 0.79 sacks a game last year, a total that ranked second in the Mid-American Conference and fifth in the country.

Needless to say, expectations are high for Carey.

“I expect them not to miss pickups, I expect them not to miss blitzes,” Carey said. “I expect them to handle their men that they see and to communicate.”

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