Geoff Collins handed out nicknames like candy.
Rod Carey hands them out like Scrooge with Christmas Gifts.
Different strokes for different folks.
Collins, the self-proclaimed Minister of Mayhem, called his defense “The Darkside Defense” last season. That same defense went out and gave up 45 points to Boston College, 49 to Houston, 52 to UCF and 57 to Duke.
Hardly a unit that earned any nicknames.
Keeping people out of the end zone is a priority for the Owls this season and Carey hinted as much in a radio interview with Harry Donahue when he said his defensive philosophy was to have a “more sound base” and to take fewer chances designed to create turnovers for the trade of keeping the bad guys out of the end zone.
The good news is that Collins brings a sound system for Northern Illinois and three outstanding defensive coaches in DC Jeff Knowles, Melvin Rice and Walter Stewart. Mix in co-DC Fran Brown with his special knowledge of personnel and the Owls will get a lot more from their talent than they have in the last two years. On October 28, the Huskies won a football game against BYU by scoring just seven points because their defense only allowed six. Yes, that was the same BYU team that beat Wisconsin and that was the same Wisconsin team that beat Manny Diaz’s Miami team, 31-0, in the bowl game.
In Knowles’ first season as defensive coordinator this past fall, the Huskies were second in the FBS in sacks with 50, trailing only national champion Clemson. The Huskies were ranked 11th in the nation in rushing yards allowed per game (109.2), 10th in team tackles for loss per game (7.9) NIU had six all-Mid-American Conference selections on its defense.
In Knowles’ first season
as defensive coordinator
this past fall, the Huskies
were second in the FBS in sacks
with 50, trailing only national
champion Clemson. The Huskies
were ranked 11th in the nation
in rushing yards allowed per
game (109.2), 10th in team tackles
for loss per game (7.9) NIU had
six all-Mid-American Conference
selections on its defense
Arguably, with the linebackers Collins has now and a front line that includes returning starters like Karamo Dioubate, Dana Levine, Dan Archibong and Zack Mesday he probably has more talent than he had at NIU.
There is some learning for the coaches, especially ones who weren’t with Carey last year at NIU. One of them is Fran Brown, the co-defensive coordinator/cornerbacks coach. Brown coached four seasons at Temple, spent the last two years as an assistant at Baylor and is now back with the Owls.
One change in the defense, according to a recent Marc Narducci story, is that the Owls will play off more receivers instead of playing press coverage.
That tends to keep the play in front of the defensive backs and limits long scoring plays.
In other words, don’t expect this defense to give up 57, 52 or 45 points in any single game.
It’s not Mayhem, but Mayhem was never what it was cracked up to be so this change appears to be a welcome one.
We’ll just have to come up with a new nickname for those one-time dark side guys.