The Daily Chronicle's Steve Nitz answers your NIU and MAC-related questions right here. Look for a new installment of questions and answers each week. Submit your questions to Steve on Twitter @SNitz_DDC or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Questions from Jason Bloomfield:
Obviously he didn’t play last year, but how much were the Huskies counting on the return of Devon Butler, and how much does his loss impact the LB corps and defense overall?
Steve Nitz: As you know, Butler had a good season in 2010, when he finished with 80 tackles and was a second-team All-Mid-American Conference selection.
While Devon had a good spring practice and he's fully healthy, he wasn't even a guarantee to start, according to NIU coach Dave Doeren. When I asked Doeren about Butler last month, he indicated that he would be competing for the starting spot at middle linebacker with Victor Jacques.
Does Butler's loss hurt? Absolutely. But, I think NIU's defense will be able to handle his departure.
Jason Bloomfield: Sticking with the LB corps, how much does the return of Tyrone Clark boost this group and the defense overall?
Steve Nitz: Due to his suspension last season, I think people forget how good Clark was in 2010 as just a sophomore, when he was named NIU's defensive MVP and had 78 tackles.
When I asked Doeren about Clark in July, he raved about what Clark was able to accomplish on the Huskies' work team last season. Though he didn't see any game action, Clark was named NIU's Work Team Player of the Year. Due to his speed and the fact he was a high school quarterback, he even took some snaps when NIU was preparing to face a running quarterback.
I think NIU's linebacking corps will be strong at the outside spots with Clark and Jamaal Bass, who was suspended three games late last season after the Toledo band incident.
There's also more depth at the position, while Doeren said there were games last year when NIU had no backups. Michael Santacaterina has some experience, starting four games in 2011. Doeren said redshirt freshman Boomer Mays got better every day of spring practice, and there's Jacques, who's beginning his fifth year in the program.
Jason Bloomfield: Lastly, how many NIU fans do you expect in Chicago? Iowa fans are notoriously strong travelers, but I’m wondering if you think the game being on a neutral site is going to be a big factor.
Steve Nitz: I thought the showing from the NIU fans at Soldier Field against Wisconsin last season was pretty strong. Will Huskies supporters outnumber the Hawkeyes contingent? That's highly doubtful. Iowa is a bigger school, has more of an alumni base and a better football history.
Yet I expect the Huskie fan showing to be stronger than 2007, the last time these two teams played in Chicago. It certainly won't be like when Florida Atlantic had a "home game" against Michigan State at Ford Field in 2010.