Northeastern opening up offense in hopes of improvement

Second-year Northeastern football coach Tim Houseman wanted to give his offense a makeover this season, shifting from a power running game to a spread attack. But the former star linebacker for the Jets realized he needed help to implement the change.

That’s why he’s thrilled with two additions to his staff, brothers Jeremy and Zach Windle. They worked previously at Catholic Central and became available with the retirement of longtime coach Steve DeWitt, who ran the spread.

“I think we knew what we needed to do and got the right help in here to run the offense we needed to run,” Houseman said.

The Jets were desperate for a change after going a dispiriting 2-8 in 2015.

“Jeremy is the offensive coordinator, and he’s got a really great coaching style,” said Houseman, a 1990 Northeastern grad and All-American at Ashland University. “The kids have responded to him well.

“I’m not going to make any bones about it. He wants our players to work and expects kids to do what we feel they’re capable of doing. He’s been a big help.”

The Jets appear to have the personnel to make the offense work. Junior Dylan Hand became the starting QB last season when Bo Davis suffered a broken bone in his shoulder in week two. The 5-foot-10, 180-pound Hand is elusive and is an effective thrower, having amassed 500 passing yards in the final game against Triad.

“Dylan has really good feet and a good arm,” Houseman said. “He’s a dual threat. He can really run and sees the field really well.”

The 6-1, 215-pound Davis will slide to running back, and he’ll share the load with 5-10, 190-pound senior A.C. Leffell. Clearing space up front will be 6-5, 290-pound tackle Lane McKinney, an All-Ohio Heritage Conference pick, and a returning starter at guard in 5-10, 220-pound Zach Taylor.

“We’ll definitely be a lot better this year,” said McKinney, who’s getting looks from top Division-III colleges.

Asked the reason for the rosy outlook, he said: “The new offense. We’ve got a different attitude than what we had last year at this time.”

Another reason for optimism is that the Jets have a relatively healthy number of seniors with 12 on the 33-player roster. They had just three last season.

“We lost a few games last year because our youth and inexperience would come back to bite us,” Houseman said. “Our kids just wore out, and it’s not that they weren’t in shape. But when you’ve got a 14- or 15-year-old kid going against a senior, that’s a big jump. The good thing is those freshmen and sophomores are stepping up.”

The Jets haven’t had a winning record since finishing 6-4 in 2010, going 17-33 the last five seasons. But Houseman is encouraged by a renewed commitment to the offseason weight program, which has carried over to preseason camp.

He declined to reveal whether he’s set a goal for wins this year, saying only: “Our goal right now is to beat Kenton Ridge (in the Aug. 28 home opener). That’s what we’re working toward.”

But he added: “My expectations are pretty high this year.”

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