Created:Thursday, September 3, 2009 12:02 p.m.CDT

Q&A - Sept. 3

Welcome to the first edition of the Q&A.

Every Thursday, I'll answer your NIU and MAC-related questions right here. Do you have a question about NIU or the MAC? Maybe yesterday's announcement of a game at Minnesota in 2010 leaves you with a question or two. E-mail your questions to me at and I'll answer them next Thursday.

Here are this week's questions and answers:

Nick B. asked: Hey John, here are a couple questions for your upcoming Q&A. Anything you can answer would be great.

Do you expect to see DeMarcus Grady at any position other than QB this season?

How much playing time do you expect Martel Moore and Perez Ashford to see?

How do you expect [NIU] coach [Jerry] Kill to split the carries between Brown and Spann?
John Sahly:
Nick, thank you for your questions. I'll take these in reverse order.

NIU coach Jerry Kill was asked this very question about his use of the running backs at Tuesday's news conference. His answer was that he would play the hot hand and not much would change from last season. I can tell you it has been, without a doubt, the one question that has consistently bugged him since last season.

I think if you're looking for how the NIU coaches ideally want to use the running backs this season, look at what they did with Southern Illinois in 2004 or 2007.

SIU 2004 (3,404 total rushing yards): Brandon Jacobs: 150 carries for 992 yards Arkee Whitlock: 151 carries for 959 yards. Antoine Jackson: 44 carries for 298 yards QB Joel Sambursky: 58 carries for 225 yards Note: CB/RB/WR/KR/PR: Craig Turner: 34 carries for 334 yards in an obvious "slash" role.

SIU 2007 (2,901 total rushing yards): John Randle: 201 carries for 1,076 yards Larry Warner: 85 carries for 525 yards Deji Karim: 76 for 386 yards QB Nick Hill: 121 carries for 357 yards Richard White: 61 carries for 283 yards

Now compare those two seasons to NIU (2,206 total rushing yards) last year: QB Chandler Harnish: 118 carries for 539 yards Me'co Brown: 110 carries for 510 yards Chad Spann: 88 carries for 429 yards Justin Anderson: 53 carries for 209 yards Ricky Crider: 43 carries for 208 yards QB DeMarcus Grady: 39 carries for 188 yards

Kill, and I think everyone else would agree here, has said repeatedly that Harnish can't lead the team in rushing again. Looking at those two SIU seasons, you're looking at about 300 carries being split between the top two running backs. John Randle established himself as the season progressed in 2007, while Jacobs and Whitlock were equally effective in 2004.

If Brown or Spann get going, I think that back will receive more carries like Randle did. If they're about equal, they'll end up with about the same number of carries like Jacobs and Whitlock. That is, at least, how I think the coaches want to operate things. We'll see how it goes, though.

To answer your second question, I expect Moore and Ashford to see a decent amount of playing time and it will only go up if they make plays. They had spectacular camps, which is why they aren't being redshirted.

For your third question, I've got to say I spent a long time thinking about it. I've been to most of the practices, spoken with coaches, jotted down my own observations and I can honestly tell you I'm more lost on that than when I started.

Will he see 30 snaps? I wouldn't be surprised. Will he stand on the sidelines the whole game? I wouldn't be surprised by that either. I can tell you that if and when he sees the game, expect to see a quicker Grady and a more effective quarterback. It leads me to believe that he has to see the field because of his skill set, but in what capacity? I don't know.

C Cmfp asked: What's the story with Cameron Bell?

Is Jayme Wells practicing with the team or will he be in the future?

Have any additional walk-ons joined the team?
As of Tuesday evening, here is the status on Bell, a running back who transferred to NIU from Iowa State, straight from Kill:

"Cameron Bell, we're just waiting for the NCAA," Kill said. "That's a process where it's in front of a committee and you just have to wait until they tell you. Like I told him, we're treating him like a freshman right now. If after the first or second game, he gets cleared and he can play, we'll take a look whether it's worth bringing him out or not.

"If he was cleared [Wednesday] we wouldn't play him at Wisconsin because he's not ready to play. We haven't given him the reps."

And here is the latest on Wells, again courtesy of Kill:

"His situation is that he's not playing on our team at this point in time because of a situation which is complicated," Kill said. "We had 25 commitments. If he came over right now that would be 26 and we would be over because if he's on a baseball scholarship, he would count towards football so we can't do that. That's where we're at.

"He's told me he wants to play and we recruited him. I have a good relationship with the baseball coach [Ed Mathey] and so when our season is over we'll certainly visit."

Wells' scholarship, assuming he does come out for football, would count towards next year's recruiting class.

Walk-on tryouts were held late last week and I'll hopefully have an answer for you on walk-ons early next week.

Randy asked: I am very new to the world of football. In following the Huskies this past year, with a nephew on the team, I become quite frustrated following along during a game due to the lack of names on the jerseys. For those more familiar with the players and positions, I'm sure this is not a problem. However, for us "rookies" it would certainly be a smoother ride with quick references to the players on the field.

I can't think of a good reason to leave them off. Am I missing something here?

JS: Randy, who is your nephew? I don't think you're missing anything here and I would love to see names on the back of the jerseys. Count me in as someone who wants to see it all across college football. It's up the individual institutions, though.

Hoopnut asked: Who do you see as the toughest defense in the conference?

JS: Great question. I think you have to look at Temple as the toughest defense. The Owls bring back more than 80 percent of their total tackles from last season. Statistically they'll probably end up as the top defense in the conference simply because of their talent and no Central or Western Michigan on the schedule. Don't count out Central Michigan, though. DE Frank Zombo and LB Nick Bellore are two of the top defensive players in the conference.

David M. asked: Can you ask Coach Kill if he has given though to showing the team a highlight reel of the Appalachian State victory over Michigan as a prelude to a Huskie victory over Wisconsin?

JS: David, I'm pretty sure they haven't done that. And why Appalachian State? If you want the Huskies to watch film of an FCS school against a Big Ten team, I think you would want them watching how Cal Poly went up to Wisconsin last season and took the Badgers to overtime.

Eric A. asked: How are season tickets sales for NIU Football? Wondering how the economy has affected season ticket sales and what past season ticket sales were like. Also, how are the sales coming with the new 3-game mini pack deal? Has that been a hit with people?

JS: Eric, as of Wednesday, the number of season-ticket plans sold were just above the 3,100 mark. That's down about 12 percent and the economy is an obvious reason why. NIU does expect to make some of that up in the next two weeks as traditionally a decent number of NIU fans jump on board for season tickets just before the first home game. Group sales and individual sales I've been told have seen an uptick.

That's it for this week. Send your questions in for next week's Q&A to The deadline is 7 p.m. on Wednesdays.

Will NIU football win the MAC this season?