If you’ve ready any of the other NIU positional pieces you’ve heard this same story over and over again - the Northern Illinois Huskies have an incredibly young group of [insert position here].
Well, their secondary is no different. NIU currently has 19 players listed as part of their secondary, eight safeties and eleven cornerbacks. And guess what...the VAST majority - 17 of 19 - are underclassmen, FIFTEEN of whom are freshmen.
The Huskies do return all their starters from a season ago and have added a new 6’2 freshman cornerback - Cyrus McGarrell - that will look to make an early impact.
The Huskies have eleven corners listed on their roster - eight freshmen, a sophomore, and two juniors (the only upperclassmen in the secondary).
Most likely with that many players Northern will use a nice rotation of players but will be anchored by Dillon Thomas and Jordan Gandy, both of whom started all six games last season.
Gandy had a great 2020 season. The 5-10 sophomore led the team in tackles and pass break ups, with 41 stops and seven broken up passes. He also added an interception to his totals, had a team-high eight passes defended, and was named a second-team All-MAC player as well.
On the other side will be Dillon Thomas - one of the two juniors on the squad. Thomas, who stands at 6-2, finished eighth on the team last season with 19 tackles, two pass break ups and an interception.
The only other Huskie CBs to record stats last season were Zhamaine March and Myles McGee. March, a 5-8 junior, saw action in every game last season, nine games the year before, and appeared in eleven games as a true freshmen back in 2018. In 2020 he totaled five tackles and forced a fumble. McGee (6-0, Fr.) also had five stops last season and broke up a pass.
Cyrus McGarrell joined the Huskies this spring from our neighbors up north. The 6-2 redshirt freshman is originally from Windsor, Canada but played at the Clearwater Academy International in Florida last year where he tallied 42 tackles, forced a pair of fumbles, and recovered three loose balls.
The other listed CBs on the roster are Javaughn Byrd (6-0, Fr.), Emmanuel Harris (5-8, Fr.), Wetu Kalomo (5-10, Fr.), Ty Myles (5-10, Fr.), Eric Rogers (6-2, Fr.), and David Watson Jr. (5-9, Fr.).
NIU has eight safeties on their roster. And, in what could be the youngest group in the NCAA, seven of the eight are freshmen with the lone non-freshmen being a redshirt sophomore.
But, again, the starters from last season - Devin Lafayette, Jordan Hansen, and CJ Brown - all return.
Lafayette, a 6-2 freshman, had a great season in 2020. He started all six games as a true freshman and was second on the team with 36 tackles. He also added an interception, a sack, a TFL, and a pass break up to his stats...all of which landed him a third-team All-MAC selection.
On the other side, CJ Brown and Jordan Hansen both started last season, with Hansen getting the nod four times and CJ Brown starting the other two.
Hansen, a 6-1 true freshman last year, finished sixth on the team with 23 total tackles and led the team with two interceptions. He also had 1.5 sacks, 1.5 TFL, and a pass break up. Brown, a 5-11 freshman, saw action in all six games and had eleven tackles and a pass break up.
Joshua Earl, a 6-1 redshirt sophomore, saw action in four games on special teams last season and played in eight games back in 2019, netting four tackles.
The other safeties listed are Louis Frye (6-0, Fr.), Trevor Laffin (6-0, RS Fr.), Jashon Prophete (5-11, Fr.), and Nate Valcarel (6-1, Fr.).