Five new football players started classes earlier this week and officially joined the Huskies via the transfer portal, Northern Illinois University announced Wednesday.
Here’s a look at those five players and how they’ll impact coach Thomas Hammok’s roster this upcoming season ahead of spring practice.
Gabriel Amegatcher, sr., CB, Nebraska-Kearney
What to know: Amegatcher had a strong sophomore year but only played four games in 2022. He defended four passes, came up with an interception in 2022 and recovered two fumbles.
NIU’s need level: Very high. Probably the highest of any position group. With Eric Rogers at Rutgers and Jordan Gandy also in the portal, cornerback was thin.
What Hammock said: Hammock said the goal was to increase competition in the cornerbacks room.
Instant reaction: There are no eye-popping numbers from the former Lockport standout, but it’s a need position. The size is there [6-2, 195, maybe more by the start of the season] and likely there’s eye-popping film of the senior out there that sold the staff on him.
Cam’Ron Dabney, jr., CB, Kansas
What to know: He had limited playing time with the Jayhawks although he appeared in almost every game. He had three tackles and no other stats this past season.
NIU’s need level: See above. The Huskies needed cornerback depth. And that they got.
What Hammock said: He shared praise for both of his new corners, emphasizing how important it is they are here for the spring.
Instant reaction: While neither Amegatcher nor Dabney bring a wealth of experience, they check a lot of boxes. NIU’s done a good job adding through the portal. Adding a couple older players to freshmen like Amariyun Knighten or Cyrus McGarrell who probably had far too much playing time last season because of injury, and you can see where the group is poised to make a leap.
Tyler Jackson, sr., LB, Lamar
What to know: An all-Southland Conference selection who had 142 tackles, 12 for a loss, over the past three years.
NIU’s need level: Not a pressing need, but with Nick Rattin and Kyle Pugh having graduated, adding someone experienced to the linebacker group was important. He doesn’t have eight years of experience like Pugh, but who does?
What Hammock said: “Tyler was very productive at Lamar. We liked what he brought to the table in terms of his leadership, his experience and his ability as a ‘knock-back’ tackler.”
Instant reaction: Bringing in a veteran middle linebacker to replace Pugh and Rattin is a really solid move and the act of a team that sees itself competing this year as opposed to building with younger players. The front seven was very good for the Huskies last season, and Jackson should help keep it that way.
Davis Patterson, sr., WR, Notre Dame College
What to know: No, not that one. Was the second-leading receiver for the Falcons in 2021 but was injured last year. He also has also played for James Madison.
NIU’s need level: The Huskies were poised to have players back from injury bolster the wide receiver group, so probably low-to-medium. Again, it was a position that was crying for experience.
What Hammock said: “He was injured last year but had a big year a season ago. His upside is really high. You see the explosiveness, the ability to go get the ball on film. We want to be a big-play offense, and to have a receiver that can stretch the field vertically will make us more dynamic.”
Instant reaction: Cole Tucker has graduated, so the group is young, although Trayvon Rudolph should be back from injury. Bringing Patterson in creates a very deep, interesting group around Rocky Lombardi this year, even if there are some injuries again.
Gavin Williams, jr., RB, Iowa
What to know: One of two former Power 5 players coming onboard, Williams had 43 carries for 138 yards and no touchdowns last season. He had 65 carries for 305 yards the year before and still is searching for his first career touchdown.
NIU’s need level: Maybe the second-highest on the team behind the secondary. Leading rusher Harrison Waylee left for Wyoming and Jaiden Credel went to Middle Tennessee State.
What Hammock said: “We knew him coming out of high school, he is a big, strong, physical one-cut runner with a lot of great football ahead of him. He’s a home-run threat with the ball in his hands, also a returner on special teams. We look forward to watching him this spring.”
Instant reaction: A lot was going to fall on Antario Brown. Williams, Brown and JUCO transfer Azhuan Dingle form a pretty good three-man rotation, on top of whatever other young backs [Christian Nash] the Huskies have been developing. Also, don’t sleep on the ability to return kicks. Sure, Rudolph may be back, but depth is always good. Besides, someone is going to have to replace Tucker in the punt returner spot as well.