TB Garrett Wolfe

2004 Statistics

Coach: Joe Novak
47-55, 9 years
2004 Record: 9-3
at Maryland LOST 20-23
at Iowa State LOST 41-48
at UCF WON 30-28
at West. Michigan WON 59-38
at Ball State WON 38-31 (OT)
at East. Michigan WON 34-16
vs. Troy WON 34-21

2004 Final Rankings
AP-29, Coaches-29, BCS-UR

2005 Outlook

Success breeds success, and that's what Northern Illinois is working on doing these days. Head coach Joe Novak, heading into his 10th season in DeKalb, has completely turned around a program that went 1-21 in his first two years. The Huskies have tied for three Mid-American Conference titles in the last four years (finished second in 2003). To top it off, they beat Troy in the Silicon Valley Classic, their first bowl appearance in 21 years.

While on that topic, playing in the MAC has its spoils, for despite a 27-9 record over the last three years, and five consecutive winning seasons, the Huskies have been invited to just one (minor) bowl game. That has forced them to schedule some heavyweights, which makes 2005 perhaps the toughest year yet (the Huskies open at Michigan and then Northwestern). A nationally televised date with Miami (Ohio) leads up to the real test on Nov. 16 - again on national TV - when the Huskies visit Toledo, a place where they haven't won since 1972.

There have been too many good seasons in a row to suggest that the Huskies are a fluke. Developments at QB, WR, and LB will tell all, so watch these variables/dimensions to dictate NIU's direction. A national powerhouse they are not, but with a potent(ially powerful) offense and an adequate defense, they will once again be in the hunt for the MAC title and that elusive minor bowl berth.

Projected 2005 record: 8-3
QB - 3 DL - 3.5
RB - 4.5 LB - 2.5
WR - 3.5 DB - 2.5
OL - 4 ..

Passing: Phil Horvath, 123-72-7, 954 yds., 6 TD

Rushing: Garrett Wolfe, 256 att., 1656 yds., 18 TD

Receiving: Sam Hurd, 27 rec., 298 yds., 3 TD

Scoring: Garrett Wolfe, 21 TD, 126 pts.

Punting: None

Kicking: Chris Nendick, 16-21 FG, 51-52 PAT, 99 pts.

Tackles: Javan Lee, 106 tot., 57 solo

Sacks: Ken West, 8 sacks

Interceptions: Adriel Hansbro, 2 for 1 yd.; Ray Smith, 2 for 83 yds., 1 TD

Kickoff returns: Garrett Wolfe, 11 ret., 21.0 avg., 0 TD

Punt returns: Dustin Utschig, 1 ret., 16.0 avg., 0 TD


OT Doug Free
OFFENSE: Dan Sheldon-WR, Matt McGhghy-OG, Jake VerStraete-OT, Brad Cieslak-TE, Josh Haldi-QB
DEFENSE: Travis Moore-DE, Kursten Strothman-DE, Jason Hawkins-SLB, Brian Atkinson-MLB, Rob Lee-CB, Lionel Hickenbottom-FS, Anthony Gallagher-P

The Huskies are used to having a smart, fundamentally sound "field general" of a quarterback (Josh Haldi). Phil Horvath has the best handle of the offense, having proved much against Bowling Green (and others) in his three starts. He played well when Haldi injured a foot, and came into spring atop the depth chart. Horvath stands tall and delivers, running adequately, but less often and effectively than Haldi. His only knock is his decision making - he had more INTs (seven) than TDs (six). His completion rate is high, but he has to settle down and keep mistakes to a minimum for the Huskies to win. Zach Ullrich will be breathing down his neck all season. Horvath wins the job, but he'll be on a short leash. Watch Horvath play well enough to hold the job tentatively, for coach Novak won't be afraid to use Ullrich, or either of his freshmen phenoms - Britt Davis and Dan Nicholson - if the offense sputters.

Running Back
There are certainly not many returning duos that produced like this one did (2,478 yards, 22 TD). Led by two workhorses, Garrett Wolfe and A.J. Harris, Northern Illinois has one of the top rushing offenses (ranked 11th). Wolfe was crafted from the Warrick Dunn mold - he's tiny, but incredibly quick (school's single-game rushing mark 325). Harris, on the other hand, is the power back the Huskies will send in for a first-down. Harris possesses 4.39 speed and can light up a defense, too. Harris is the compliment to Wolfe, getting about half as many carries and being relied upon less in the passing game (shorter routes). Together, they'll berate opposing Ds with a balance few teams can ever hope for in a one-back attack.

The two main aerial weapons are gone, but the talent pool hasn't completely dried up. Senior Sam Hurd is an asset to the offense in every way, with the size, speed and sure hands, and with excellent blocking skills, to boot. Shatone Powers will find a way to get open and will develop into NIU's most reliable receiver. Both of them will end up in the 40-catch neighborhood. What would improve the unit even more is if Greg Turner (a converted running back) and Jarret Carter, a pair of lightly recruited players who were impressive in the spring, will continue developing into the fall.

Tight End
Jake Nordin has started and can now look for the pigskin a little more, especially early on as the receivers adjust to their new roles. Expect NIU to utilize the position more, for Nordin is a worthy target at which to throw.

Offensive Line
When three starters return - including a pair of the MAC's best - replacing two starters doesn't seem so tough. Center Brian Van Acker is a flat out stud, and the top center in the conference. Left tackle Doug Free is among NIU's most impressive athletes (a 30-inch vertical leap with a squat of 565 pounds), while Ben Lueck is among the MAC's best (left) guards (should the NCAA grants him a medical redshirt season, that is). That leaves the right side to fill, but a pair of very capable seniors - guard Jake Ebenhoch and tackle George Daglas - is set to fill them. Subscribing to the old Denver Broncos philosophy of small, athletic linemen, NIU has just one 300-pounder (Lueck) in the starting lineup. The results are rather Bronco-esque, too, as the Huskies have produced a 1,000-yard rusher for six straight seasons (only Texas has a longer current streak, at nine), five of them winning ones.

Playing in the MAC, the Huskies don't see the country's best defenses every week, but they still respectably ranked among the top units in total offense (14th) and points (13th). As they're replacing a three-year starter at quarterback, it is good that this is a run-first, run-often offense (64%), and the run game is among the best. No question, it's Wolfe and Harris who will make this offense go, but Horvath has to be mistake-free enough to keep foes honest and fearful of the pass. If Horvath doesn't develop the balanced threat early, the ground game will suffer.


C Brian Van Acker


Returning Starters in bold
QB Phil Horvath-Jr Zach Ullrich-So
TB Garrett Wolfe-Jr A.J. Harris-Sr
WR Sam Hurd-Sr Matt Simon-So
WR Marcus Perez-So Jarret Carter-Jr
WR Shatone Powers-Sr Brandon Davis-So
TE Jake Nordin-Jr Pat Raleigh-Sr
OT Doug Free-Jr Chris Acevedo-So
OG Ben Lueck-Sr Matt Rogers-Jr
C Brian Van Acker-Sr Ryan Tuggle-Fr
OG Jake Ebenhoch-Sr Matt Biondi-So
OT George Daglas-Sr Jon Brost-Fr
K Chris Nendick-So Luke Biondi-Jr



Defensive Line
With three returning starters, this would appear to be a strength, but the unit has to improve for such to be true. Ken West is among the top pass-rushing ends on the MAC, while Quince Holman has shifted from tackle to end, where he will be freed up to make more plays. Those two, combined with a tackle rotation that includes Adam Schroeder and Martin Wilson, make this a solid group, but one that needs to crank it up a notch. As the season goes along this group will get better and better.

The Huskies are on marginally shaky ground here. Luckily, they have Javan Lee to lean on. He's the only returning starter, and he was voted first-team all-MAC after a stellar junior year. He needs some help, though, and will lean on classmate Jason Hutton to give it to him. There's nothing spectacular about Hutton, but he is always around the ball. The key to the group could be T.J. Griffin. The frosh was a tailback at this time a year ago, but he's been rather impressive at strong side backer after the switch. Overall, this is an untested group, but one that will use athleticism to make plays.

Defensive Back
The Huskies had trouble against the run and the pass (ranked 70th), but they'll have opponents "seeing double" now. The Hansbro twins - Adriel and Alvah - are the starting cornerbacks. Both are small and quick, and seem to share the same play-making genes. Adriel has the most experience (having started), but Alvah will step in and make an equal impact. Strong safety Ray Smith will hit anybody in his way, and knock down any pass he can possibly reach. Other than those three, there isn't much depth, so health issues would genuinely hurt the entire defense.

It's hard to pick on a team that finished 9-3, but the defense has to be better, period. Too many points (25.3 per game) and yards (376.1) were allowed, and that can't be repeated. Depth is a concern throughout, but the front seven will be better, while the secondary appears to have grown into a solid set. Still, don't expect any drastic improvement(s). The Huskies don't have any upper-echelon units, but with their power-packed offense, the D's developments can improve the entire team's outlook. There is sure to be a game or two where the defense blows up, but for the most part, it'll play together well enough to keep NIU competitive.


LB Javan Lee


Returning Starters in bold
DE Quince Holman-Sr Erek Benz-Fr
DT Martin Wilson-Sr Adam Schroeder-So
NT Eric Pittman-Jr Brad Benson-Jr
DE Ken West-Jr Larry English-Fr
SLB T.J. Griffin-Fr Shedrick Mossman-So
MLB Jason Hutton-Sr Tim McCarthy-Fr
WLB Javan Lee-Sr Bob McLearen-So
CB Adriel Hansbro-Jr Andre Morris-Jr
CB Alvah Hansbro-Jr Vincent Matthew-Fr
SS Ray Smith-Sr Saul Ibarra-So
FS Mark Reiter-So Dustin Utschig-Jr
P Jason Baez-So Andy Dittbenner-Fr




Chris Nendick was handed a lot of opportunities in his freshman year, and he came through most of the time (about ¾ of his tries). Coverage should continue to be strong.

Youngsters Jason Baez and Andy Dittbenner will battle for the punting job, with Baez holding a slight edge. The net results were rather bad, so the new punters should help hangtime.

Return Game
The Huskies feel lightning-quick receiver Marcus Perez will do well at the job. Wolfe is the top returning kickoff man, but Perez and Harris are most likely to do the honors.