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Huskies' offense to present new challenges to Hawkeyes

August 27, 2012 - Andy Heintz
The college football season will officially kick off this weekend for a lot of Division I teams around the country.

Many programs are preparing to play their first games with basic general knowledge of the team that is going to line up against them. Until the game kicks, the coaches and players on the team and the fans of those teams will not know what to expect until it happens.

For the Iowa Hawkeyes, they have to prepare for a Northern Illinois team which went 11-3 last year and won a bowl game over Arkansas State. Iowa also prepares for a team who returns just three starters on offense and lost four-year starting QB Chandler Harnish to the NFL.

"We were pretty excited about the season we had last year, but none of that helps us now," second-year Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren said. "We moved forward pretty quickly."

The Huskies have also moved on from Harnish, who threw for 3,216 yards and rushed for another 1,379 last season as the team's offensive leader. This year, the team looks to replace a slew of offensive starters lost to graduation.

Insert Jordan Lynch -- the latest Husky to take over at quarterback.

"He is one of the toughest kids I have been around in coaching," Doeren said. "He is a strong runner. We just need to get this guy some games. We're excited to let him play, but he needs to see the bullets flying out there."

Doeren also will have to find a way to replace last year's leading rusher in Jasmin Hopkins and the team top three receivers in Martel Moore, Nathan Palmer and Perez Ashford. The offensive line will look different, too, a four starters will need to be replaced, including returning starter Logan Pegram, who will not be available due to injury.

"All of our linemen would have played anyway because we had a nice little rotation going," Doeren said. "Losing Logan hurts our depth. We were two deep at every position, but now we have about five guys that we will use. It's a talented group though."

The offense led the way last year as Norther Illinois won its final nine games of the season. This year, Doeren will rely heavily on a defense that returns eight starters and also welcomes back linebacker Tyrone Clark, who was suspended for all of last year after leading the Huskies in tackles in 2010.

Northern Illinois did play in Soldier Field -- the site of Saturday's Iowa-Northern Illinois game -- but lost to the Big Ten's Wisconsin, 49-7. Doeren does feel like playing there will give the Huskies an advantage this season.

"There is an awe factor and we probably have less of one since we were able to play there last year," he said. "It helps for sure. It is a pretty inspiring arena and it will be a great experience playing at a tremendous venue."

While Iowa prepares to face a new-look Northern Illinois offense, Doeren must prepare for two new coordinators in Iowa City.

"You have to cover more bases I think," he said. "With Brian Ferentz running the offensive line, and Kirk Ferentz still the head coach, I don't think that running game is going to change much. But we did study some Texas film to get a look at what Greg Davis might do.

"Defensively, Phil Parker was there with Norm Parker so things may look the same. We are preparing for more press coverage, but I don't think he changes a lot."

Northern Illinois' top returning rusher is Akeem Daniels, who gained 303 yards last year on the ground. Lynch played 13 games last year but was never the starter at quarterback.

The Iowa-Northern Illinois game can be seen on ESPNU beginning at 2:30 p.m.


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