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2022 MAC Football Positional Previews: Northern Illinois Huskies defensive backs

NIU only managed three interceptions last season...a number this team will look to improve upon

2021 MAC Championship - Kent State v Northern Illinois Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images

Last season the Huskies gave up 27 passing touchdowns (most in the MAC), 238.3 passing yards per game, and an average of 8.2 yards per catch.

But the Huskies secondary showed great potential last year with some breakout stars and play-makers. And now, in 2022, they return all those starters with an added year of experience under their belt.


The Huskies have ten cornerbacks on the roster (one junior, three sophomores, and six freshmen). They return three starters - Javaughn Byrd, Jordan Gandy, and Eric Rogers.

Gandy, now a junior, had the best season of the three. He has started 20 straight games for the Huskies and finished the 2021 season with 53 stops (sixth on the team), a team-leading ten pass break ups (25% of NIU’s PBU last year), 3.5 TFL, and a pair of fumble recoveries. He’s a solid coverage cornerback that can make plays on an island and, if he gets a hand on you, he doesn’t let go.

Byrd and Rogers are both sophomores that split time starting last season. Rogers started the first five games before getting injured, while Byrd was the go-to corner for the final seven games (with Miles McGee, who is now gone, starting two in the middle). Rogers had 26 stops, 20 of which were solo, and added a pass break up and fumble recovery. Byrd was ninth on the team with 40 tackles - 32 solo - and also had three PBU and a fumble recovery.

Sam Robertson is a 6-1 sophomore who transferred in from North Dakota. As a Fighting Hawk, he tallied 11 tackles in two games before redshirting and then coming to DeKalb. His size makes him a great redzone DB and he should be able to see the field quite a bit this season.

Another big guy is Cyrus McGarrell, a 6-2 freshman that saw action in four games but kept his redshirt status last year. He was used primarily on kick coverage and will be looking for his first tackle this season.


One of the most skilled groups on the Huskie defense is their safeties unit. The return four players who have starting experience, including CJ Brown, Devin Lafayette, and Jordan Hansen.

Lafayette was primed to be a star last season before getting hurt in the season opener at Georgia Tech. But he is back this year and ready to play. The 6-2 redshirt freshman recorded four tackles last year before going down hurt but was a third team All-MAC selection in 2020, when he started all six games as a true freshman.

Brown and Hansen both stepped up last season when Lafayette went down.

Brown blew everyone else away en route to a team-leading 108 tackles (the next most was 74!) and also added four TFL, a sack, an interception, a QBH, and a pass break up. Hansen was fifth on the team, with 58 stops, and also added five pass break ups, three TFL, and a forced fumble.

Jashon Prophete returns to the Huskie lineup as well. Last season he split time between CB and Safety and was also a crucial member of the special teams unit. He finished with 27 tackles and a pass break up.

Jordan White, a 6-2 sophomore transfer from Youngstown State, and Muhammed Jammeh will also look to break out. Jammeh, a redshirt freshman, played in just four games last season to retain his redshirt status and made eight tackles...all in the MAC title game against Kent State. While at Youngstown State, White amassed 67 tackles in just 13 games. He also led the Penguins with three interceptions and four pass break ups.

One final name to watch is Louis Frye. Frye, a 6-0 sophomore, played in the final ten games of last season and, while he was primarily on special teams, he did record ten tackles last season and will look to increase that number in 2022.

The Huskies have a ton of depth and skill in their secondary. It should be vastly improved from last season and will look to keep opponents out of the endzone. And the good news for Huskie fans is that these guys should be around for awhile longer as most are still just freshmen and sophomores.