NIU will open the 2014 season at Huskie Stadium (pictured) against FCS school Presbyterian on August 28th (photo taken by Gabe Salgado/Chi City Sports).
DE KALB- With just 10 days remaining until the opening kick off of the season, the Northern Illinois Huskies are still trying to put things together on the football field. The team has been undergoing some position battles in training camp over the last three weeks. But with the final days of practice upon them, they are still undecided on the most important decision of all…… starting quarterback.
2013 Heisman Trophy finalist, and current Chicago Bears running back, Jordan Lynch set a new standard for Huskie quarterbacks over the previous four seasons (the last two as the starter). His 10,569 career yards from scrimmage and 100 career touchdowns -both NIU records- have made Northern Illinois Football a force to be reckoned with.
Lynch’s skill set led the school to a combined 24-4 record from 2012-2013. And along the way they won two Mid-American Conference West Division Titles, the 2012 MAC Championship, played in the 2013 Orange Bowl, gained nationwide respect. Lynch may never truly be replaced, but equaling his production -or coming close to it- is a responsibility that will fall on the eventual starter in 2014.
Sophomore’s Drew Hare and Anthony Maddie, along with junior Matt McIntosh are the three signal callers vying to be the man under center next week. In order to make things easier for his quarterbacks, head coach Rod Carey says replacing Lynch is not the mission.
“It’s not about replacing (Lynch)”, Carey said to me in his office, “it’s about being the starter at Northern.” He also noted that each man fighting for the job brings their own skill sets to the table.
“McIntosh has probably played the most out of the three (nine games), he can run the football and he can throw the football. I guess you can say he has that dual threat (ability). Maddie probably fits into that similar category…. And Hare is more of that pocket guy. But all three play the quarterback position well, I know all three (are capable).”
The issue of the quarterback position has been all of the buzz on campus all summer long. Collectively, all three men have combined to complete 14-of-24 career passes for 264 yards and five career touchdowns during their time in De Kalb. They’ve also put together 183 career rushing yards. Far from anything Lynch accomplished in a Huskies uniform, but Carey believes that these young men can be successful if given the opportunity.
“I like the way they’ve gone out an attacked the pressure (in practice and from the fans and media). Were still in camp mode, but (we’re taking) baby steps every day.”
One thing that will help whomever is named the starter next Thursday is that all five running backs from last season -led by senior Cameron Stingily– are back with the addition of a couple freshman. When asked if the running backs can take pressure off of the quarterbacks Carey said, “I think so. But again, in the end there’s always pressure on the quarterback. He has to be able to play the position, that’s what makes your team tick. He has to make the plays when the time comes.”
Carey did however stress the importance of bringing back all five starting offensive lineman from last year. “The same five guys -knock on wood- that started the 2012 Iowa game, are the same five that will start the first game this year (next Thursday against Presbyterian at 6:30pm). I think anytime you have continuity on the o-line, with experience, that’s a big positive.”
While that may be important for whomever is named the starter, at the end of the day it’s their show according to coach Carey.
“Whoever that guy (the new starter) is going to be just needs to come in and be himself. Again, we’re not trying to replace Jordan. We got three young men who are all playing really well (in practice).”
Is Carey close to making a decision yet? “I don’t know how this thing will sort out, they’re in a heated battle, it’s moment by moment” Carey said. He added, “We got different guys taking the lead here and there.”
As for when he’ll probably make his decision Carey said, “I can guarantee you this…. as soon as I know, you guys (the media) will know.”
Fair enough coach.. But I know that the Huskie nation eagerly awaits your decision. Follow me on Twitter @GabeSalgado82