Last season the Northern Illinois Huskies had one of the best defensive units in the MAC, if not the whole country. And it all started with the big men up front.
With last season’s stars Sutton Smith and Josh Corcoran gone this year, that leaves room for Jack Heflin to step up and be one of the key men on the Huskie defensive line.
The redshirt junior defensive tackle hails from Prophetstown, Illinois, a city of just 2,000 people close to the Iowa boarder about 70 miles west of Huskie Stadium.
And while his hometown might be small, Heflin is massive, standing tall at 6’4 and 304 pounds. This offseason Heflin has added 26 pounds to his frame, as he was listed at a lean 284 pounds last year.
During his time at Erie-Prophetstown High School, Heflin was named a first team All-Western Illinois offensive lineman AND defensive lineman in consecutive seasons. He amassed 249 tackles and eight forced fumbles and started in 30 games, a school record.
He joined NIU in 2016 and redshirted that season. From there, though, he has been a staple on the Huskies line. Heflin has played in every game the last two seasons, starting all 13 games in 2017 and, last year, he was able to recorded a tackle in every game but one.
Heflin finished the season as the Huskies 10th leading tackler, with 33 total stops, but was one of the best at getting into the backfield. He tallied eight tackles for a loss, blocked a field goal against Utah, and had six sacks, which ranked third on team (behind Smith and Corcoran who, you might recall, were among the NCAA’s leaders in sacks last season).
His best game came against rival Toledo last season, when he was able to set career highs in tackles, sacks, and TFLs. Against the Rockets Heflin registered seven stops, 3.5 tackles in the backfield, and sacked Eli Peters 2.5 times.
In 2019, with all that extra muscle and bulk he added during the off-season, look for him to make even more of an impact on defense. Because he’ll either power through opposing linemen with ease and get even more stops in the backfield or he’ll get double-teamed, which will free up another Huskie defender to come in and make the stop.
But, either way, Heflin will play a pivotal role on NIU’s defensive line and will look to keep the Huskies’ winning that battle up front in 2019.