NIU Football Position Preview: Offensive Line

DEKALB, Illinois – Whether it was opening holes for the country’s fourth-best rushing attack, which averaged 241.4 yards per game, or allowing the country’s second fewest sacks, a mere .79 per game, NIU Huskie’s offensive line was for many of them a backbone the achievements of the 2021 season, that’s just the way of the head coach Thomas hammock imagines his teams being built.

“The success of our offensive was predicted by our offensive line, that’s where it starts,” Hammock said. “That’s how we build our football team. We build our team from the inside out; I’ve said that from the moment I took this job to the moment I’m no longer here. We always will be a team built from the inside out.” the offensive line and defensive line and that will be the strength of our team.

“That’s how you have to play in the Midwest, that’s how you have to play in NIU with the elements, the wind and all these different things. I couldn’t be happier with the guys we have up front and the young guys developing behind them.”

Among the guys at the top are four starters from a season ago: Brands Cox (Peoria, Ill./Peoria) at left tackle, JJ Lip (Milwaukee, Wis./Whitefish Bay) at left guard, Logan Zschernitz (Spencer, Wis./Spencer) at right guard and Nolan Potter (Cedar Rapids, Iowa/Washington) in the right tackle. That kind of continuity up front gives the Huskies a very good feel for their offensive line going into the 2022 season.

“These guys have a lot of experience, they’ve done a lot of repetitions,” Hammock said. “These four guys started (last year) but John Champe has started games for us and we are very confident that Peter Nigra will intervene there and do a great job. We’re very comfortable with our top seven, eight guys up front, we feel like we’re extremely deep. We feel like we guys can rotate, we feel like we have guys who can play in multiple positions, which is important throughout the season. And we feel like we have depth and I think all of those things can hopefully lead us to be great up front.

Downtown, Peter Nigra (North Indianapolis, Indiana/Brownsburg) replaces an All-MAC performer Brayden Patton. Nygra played in three games last season and coached the NIU offensive line Daryl Agpalsa has been impressed with his work ethic since arriving at DeKalb.

“From the day he came here, he was a mid-year high school kid. He just put his head down and worked and was one of the hardest workers on our football team,” Agpalsa said of Nygra. “I think he gets a lot of respect and trust from his teammates for the way he goes about his business. He’s a tireless worker, he has a great understanding of our system and I think they’re really excited about it.”

Both Potter and Zschernitz, who line up to Nygra’s right, have started 20 consecutive games this season, Potter was a 2021 second-team All-MAC selection, while Zschernitz received All-MAC third-team honors. On his left, Lippe appeared in all 14 games a season ago and made 13 starts, while Cox has started 29 straight games dating back to the Vanderbilt contest in 2019. With this kind of stability, it’s easy to see why Agpalsa thinks Nygra will fit in seamlessly.

“I think because the other four have such continuity with each other, they can see things and have the ability to switch to make the game work,” Agpalsa explained. “They’ve spent a lot of time with Pete and built that continuity, so I think there’s a lot of trust there.”

As both Hammock and Agpalsa were quick to point out, the Huskie offensive line extends well beyond the five starters, with plenty of other talent and experience in the group.

John Champefrom Brookfield, Wisconsin started games for us in 2020 and has been an active starter and backup for us on the inside,” Agpalsa said. “He’s doing a fantastic job in the first days of camp. Evan Buses from Kimberly, Wisconsin, he was a starter for us and was a swing, tackle/tight end for us a year ago and has a wealth of replays, replays from last season, he has a wonderful camp too. And then along comes Matthew Schooley. He’s doing a great job as our center with our younger group and a lot of these guys come around.”

After splitting the team into two groups for Monday and Tuesday practice to allow everyone more repetitions, the Huskies held their first full team workout of camp on Wednesday morning. Hammock was extremely pleased with the efficiency of the session.

“I thought it was fantastic,” Hammock said. “We got off the field eight minutes early and that was the most replays we’ve ever gotten in my four years here. The way we structured the training we were able to get quality reps, we develop guys, young guys are I’m excited about this team, I’m excited about their mentality, their approach and the way they work.

“We have to keep stacking days, we have one more practice (Thursday) then they have a day off. I love what the NCAA has done with the schedule this year so that we have two extra days to recover, that’s going to be important and we’re going to take full advantage of that.”

The Huskies will be back on the practice ground at 7:15 a.m. Thursday morning at Huskie Stadium. For the full camp schedule and links to daily coverage, visit the 2022 Camp Central page on

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