Dominate Line of Scrimmage
It’s no secret that games are won and lost in the trenches. You can take a look at various metrics, and there are plenty, that point to such a fact. Some teams choose to dominate the line of scrimmage by owning time of possession on offense. Some use the trenches simply to keep defenses honest. Others like to stack their defensive front and rotate 2-3 deep and stay fresh throughout the game. Whatever the team philosophy may be, winning the battle at the line of scrimmage on both sides will help you win games.
It isn’t a guarantee, because both sides of the ball have to play well. Take for instance, Northern Illinois, who ranked 70th in rush offense and 11th in rush defense. Not terrible per say offensively, but you would like to see more from your future coaching staff. The advanced stats paint an even bigger contrast. They of course went on to win the MAC last season with defense.
Matt Rhule and Geoff Collins
Where to start with this one.
Matt Rhule’s 2016 class recruits are now upperclassmen. If there was one glaring weakness in that staff’s recruitment, it was their inability to nab offensive linemen.
Geoff Collins was forced to play true freshman, who for what it’s worth, held their own for the most part. Adam Klein and Isaac Moore look legit.
But after Rhule’s departure in 2016, the 2017 class was lacking with Collins only having 2 months to salvage the class, which brought about the necessity to start freshman last season. Collins’ sole full class saw him bring in a combined 12 OL/DL and OL/DL transfers. He tried his best in 1 year.
But then Collins and company left, leaving Carey to try and salvage the 2019 class. 7 combined OL/DL and fortunately was able to add 1 more of each this offseason to bring the total to 9. Still, it’s not enough.
So after 3 recruiting cycles: 2017, 2018, and 2019, we are left with 1 full recruiting class of OL/DL. Once you take into consideration some of the transfers out, which includes multiple DL and OL including highly touted recruit 3 star DE Dante Burke and veteran OL Darian Bryant, the overall depth looks limited.
Rod Carey and his offensive philosophy at NIU included a lot of running. In the last 3 seasons NIU has ranked 23rd, 28th, and 13th nationally in rush attempts per game. His offensive style requires offensive line depth. That may become an issue when your recruiting classes have been limited due to coaching changes.
So far in this 2020 recruiting class, Rod Carey, Coach Tripodi, and the offensive staff have been working hard on the recruiting trail. Over the weekend they receieved a commitment from Sam Davis, a 3 star OL from Ohio. He makes it 4 offensive lineman commits so far. They have been searching far and wide for their reinforcements, receiving verbal from Miles Zietek out of Germany and Liridon Mijezinovic out of Netherlands. And following Davis, Bryce Thoman out of ho-hum Harrisburg rounds out the 4th OL to commit.
Defensively, coach Knowles and Stewart have been just as aggressive on the defensive front. They have recruited well so far nabbing dynamic interior lineman in Demerick Morris and most recently, Chazz Wallace. Morris holds offers from essentially every MAC program and some CUSA schools. His tape shows exactly why the staff have been recruiting him since he was a sophomore. He is 6’3 and 285lb, he looks ready to jump into the rotation from day 1. Strong up the middle, Morris is similar in style to Ioannidis, who is now 21.75 million dollars richer after signing a contract extension in April.
Over the weekend, Knowles and Stewart were able to grab another DT in Chazz Wallace who has multiple P5 offers. He is another bully up the middle and will make for an excellent companion to Morris.
In total, the Owls currently stand at 4 DL commits with a silent addition of Georgia DE Chavez Tresk. Playing time is likely a strong recruiting pitch given the depth concerns.
Heading into the dead period, having 8 combined OL/DL is exactly where the Owls need to be if they want to replenish the losses from the last several years. The run-focused offense requires depth and the Owls currently are more thin than they would probably hope to be.
Defensively the Owls 2-deep is also thin this year. Behind Dioubate and Archibong are relative unknowns and the defensive ends have similar issues behind Quincy Roche and Dana Levine. Zach Mesday plays with a lot of heart and figures to rotate in regularly.
Come December we will know just how much the OL/DL has depth issues. We will see the results on the field. We will also see it on the recruiting trail.