Kyle Bursaw – email@example.com Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch (6) throws during practice at Huskie Stadium on Monday, Aug. 6, 2012.
Updated: October 1, 2012 5:59PM
DeKALB — It’s been years since Northern Illinois had a quarterback not named Chandler Harnish see consistent playing time at quarterback.
From the Huskies’ 2008 season opener at Minnesota until the GoDaddy.com Bowl win in January, it was Harnish usually taking snaps under center for the Huskies. The man drafted by the Indianapolis Colts set numerous records with NIU and was the 2011 Mid-American Conference MVP.
But last season was the end of Harnish’s run. Now, it’s time for a new era.
The Jordan Lynch era.
“I always prepared as if I was the starter the past three years,” Lynch said. “The feeling’s great. I love that pressure to become the starter and guys looking up to you. I love taking that leadership role.”
The junior has bided his time since arriving at NIU in the fall of 2009. He redshirted that first season, but saw some game action as the team’s Wildcat quarterback in 2010 and 2011. In the GoDaddy.com Bowl victory over Arkansas State, he was able to lead NIU on a touchdown drive when Harnish was out with a tweaked ankle.
NIU coach Dave Doeren’s announcement at the start of spring practice that Lynch would be the starting QB was no surprise. When Lynch takes the Huskies’ first snap in Saturday’s game against Iowa at Soldier Field, he will be taking that next step.
In his first season as NIU’s starter, Lynch not only will be leading an offense with inexperience on both the offensive line, which has five new starters, and at running back.
One thing he does have in his back pocket is being able to learn from arguably the Huskies’ greatest quarterback ever. Lynch watched Harnish perform for three seasons. He saw the running and passing ability, and the game-winning drives.
“One of the biggest things Chandler taught me, just watching him, was when the game came down to it, he was always the guy they went to,” Lynch said. “He always capitalized. He always played within himself, you know, very humble.
“In the film room he taught me a lot about defenses and everything. Chandler helped me out tremendously. I’m the player I am today because of him.”
One offer to play QB
Lynch was a star at Mount Carmel, running the triple-option with ease. Playing for a loaded Caravan team, he averaged six yards a carry his senior season and had 15 rushing touchdowns.
The Division I interest was there. Big Ten schools wanted him. There was interest from the Mountain West. Problem was, none of those programs wanted him as a quarterback.
Mount Carmel only threw the ball about eight times a game, according to Lynch. The schools recruiting Lynch wanted him as either a safety or an athlete.
NIU was the only school that thought Lynch could be a Football Bowl Subdivision quarterback. He said former NIU coach Jerry Kill had confidence in him, and that if it didn’t work out, he was going to be an athlete.
“I know some colleges were probably a little iffy whether to take me or give me a try,” Lynch said. “At the end of the day, I’m happy I ended up at Northern. I think it was a perfect fit for me.”
Knows how to throw
Lynch didn’t start playing quarterback until he got to high school — he was always a running back. In a triple-option offense, the quarterback basically is a running back as it is, and Lynch figured he’d give it a shot.
“They needed someone. I said I’d do it,” he said. “I guess it worked out pretty good.”
Lynch said the Caravan actually threw more than they ran in practice, so he had that experience. But he still had a ways to go throwing-wise when he got to DeKalb. Two things he had to pick up on were working out of the shotgun and his five-step drop.
Over the last three years, Lynch’s accuracy has moved forward. His arm strength has improved and he’s gotten more comfortable. In his minimal throwing experience, he has completed 73 percent of his passes.
He hasn’t thrown a lot during games because he wasn’t asked to. The coaching staff wanted to give Harnish a break, and Lynch’s job was to run the football.
Doeren said Lynch has a quick release, a strong arm and can throw the deep out.
“The biggest thing quarterbacks have to learn is when they should take the risk and when shouldn’t they on certain things,” Doeren said.
Running’s an option
Doeren has said that Lynch is a better runner than Harnish. It’s something Lynch has been comfortable doing. He’s got good vision, which he said comes naturally, and works to pick up blocking schemes when he’s watching film.
Lynch has the legs. He’s got the arm. The junior even has a good amount of experience for someone who never has started at the college level.
It may be a little awkward for fans when it’s No. 6 taking NIU’s first snap at Soldier Field and not No. 12. Odds are, Lynch isn’t going to equal or surpass Harnish’s 2011 performance.
But if Lynch performs the way he and the coaches think he can, NIU shouldn’t have to worry about the quarterback position the next two seasons.