The Northern Illinois Huskies have been one of the best teams in the MAC when it comes to producing great running backs.
There was LeShon Johnson in the 90s. Michael Turner, Thomas Hammock, and Garrett Wolfe in the early 2000s. Chad Spann, Joel Bouagnon, and, yes, even Jordan Lynch more recently. And now...that torch has been passed to Tre Harbison.
Harbison, a redshirt junior, hails from Shelby, North Carolina where he destroyed his high school competitors, setting Cleveland County’s all-time rushing record with 5,770 yards and 100 touchdowns. He initially committed to the Virginia Cavaliers but transferred to NIU after spring practice in 2016, where he redshirted in DeKalb.
In 2017, playing behind Jordan Huff, he showed signs of brilliance in his limited exposure, as he carried the ball just 55 times but amassed 290 yards and three touchdowns.
Last season he was able to break out as the lead back. Harbison tallied 1034 yards and five touchdowns on 206 carries (an average of 5.0 yards per carry) and became the Huskies first 1000-yard rusher since 2015, when Joel Bouagnon had 1286 yards. He finished the 2018 season third in the MAC in rushing yards and was a second-team All-MAC selection.
Now, as we head into the 2019 schedule, the Huskies have a new head coach, Thomas Hammock, who was a former running back and coached halfbacks at both the NCAA-level and in NFL. With him at the helm, it’s likely that we’ll see a complete overhaul of the Huskies offense with much more emphasis placed on the ground attack...and that should mean big things for Harbison.
Just look what Hammock did in his first stint at NIU, as the running backs coach for the 2005 and 2006 seasons. He had Wolfe slash defenses on his way to more than 3500 rushing yards, including a 1928-yard season in 2006.
While, admittedly, Harbison and Wolfe have totally different rushing styles, Harbison does have many of the same qualities. Tre has great patience and vision, finding a hole to break through on almost every play, and then, once he gets through the line, his unique blend of strength and speed makes him tough to bring down. There’s a reason why he was only brought down in the backfield a handful of times last season...in fact, during all of the 2018 season, he only lost 11 yards!
Currently, Harbison already sits in the top-30 of all Huskie running backs, at #28. If he can surpass the 1000-yard mark this season and next, he’ll most likely finish his career in DeKalb as a top-5 rusher all-time.
And, with this new coach and new offensive look, Harbison is primed to do even more damage this season and next.