CFB HUDDLE/Brandon Folsom -- Northern Illinois second-year coach Rod Carey (right) speaks with reporters, along with senior running back Cameron Stingily, during MAC Media Day on Wednesday, July 23, 2014, at Ford Field in Detroit.

No timeline for Northern Illinois to name Jordan Lynch’s successor

DETROIT – When Chandler Harnish handed the reins of the Northern Illinois offense to Jordan Lynch, the transition between quarterbacks was nearly seamless.

From 2010-14, the two helped NIU win 46 games – the same amount as Alabama and Stanford – while only Oregon (47) had more wins during that time.

Harnish finished his career with 30 different offensive school records as a four-year starter and the Indianapolis Colts drafted him after his senior season. Lynch immediately took over as a junior and led the Huskies to 24 wins, a BCS bowl bid in 2012 and was a Heisman Trophy finalist last year.

With Lynch now in the NFL, NIU must usher in another new quarterback to lead the Huskies in the Mid-American Conference West Division, a process second-year coach Rod Carey depicts as business as usual.

“The transition isn’t really too hard,” Carey said Wednesday at MAC Media Day at Ford Field in Detroit. “It’s kind of natural.”

It’s kind of natural in that the NIU program, from former coaches Joe Novak, Jerry Kill and Dave Doeren to Carey himself, has coached its talent to play like NFL-caliber players for the past decade in DeKalb, Ill.

Lynch was an underrated recruited who sat behind Harnish as a redshirt freshman. Through Doeren’s coaching, and later Carey, he went from a role player, to a starter and to a standout who flourished into a media darling, posting video game-like numbers with his feet as a human highlight reel each week.

But his success didn’t start on game day. It started in practice, a place where the Huskies breed their younger talent into future stars every day. As cliché as it sounds, it’s the hard work each player puts in there that makes the team successful on Saturdays.

“We do that every day,” Carey said. “You have to tackle that every day. For quarterbacks, it’s footwork; it’s ball positioning; it’s timing with the wide receivers; it’s weight room work; it’s on-the-field work; it’s being around your guys creating that chemistry. It’s all of the above, and it has to happen every day.”

NIU expects each quarterback to work just as hard as the starter, even the walk-on freshman who is last on the depth chart. That’s why Carey is certain Lynch’s replacement will step in and keep the Huskies nationally relevant.

Junior Matt McIntosh and sophomores Drew Hare and Anthony Maddie have battled for that starting position this offseason. McIntosh and Maddie are threats to run and can resemble Lynch at times, while Hare is a true pro-style passer who relies on his arm more than his feet.

Although Carey expects the winner of the job to lead the team to another appearance in the MAC Championship, he doesn’t expect the new quarterback to play like Lynch or Harnish from Day 1.

He’s given each quarterback on this year’s squad the same advice.

“Just be yourself,” the coach said he told them. “You can’t go in and try to be Jordan or try to be Chandler. If you do that, you’re not going to be very good. Be yourself and everything else will take care of itself.”

The three quarterbacks did well in spring practices but came up short during the spring game. No one has run away with the starting job, but Carey expects someone to grab it during one of NIU’s 29 fall practices.

But at this time, not even the coach himself knows when he’ll announce the starter.

“I don’t know when,” he said. “It could be the day before our first game. It could be five days before. It could be two weeks before, or all of the above.”

Whoever lands the starting job will have help around him.

The Huskies return nine offensive starters, including four linemen. Two experienced seniors – Ryan Brown and Tyler Loos – will protect Lynch’s replacement from outside pass rushers, and junior interior linemen Aidan Conlon and Andrew Ness have each started in every game since 2012. The four enter fall camp with a combined 103 starts on their resume, while redshirt senior Tyler Pitt fills the opening at right guard with his 42 games of experience as a reserve player.

On the outside, seniors Da’Ron Brown and Tommylee Lewis will continue to be dynamic pass catchers. Brown, who is on the Biletnikoff Award’s preseason watch list, led the Huskies in receiving with 752 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013. Lewis finished last season as an All-American Honorable Mention. He was a threat to score as a receiver, rusher or return specialist in each game, and his 1,405 all-purpose yards yielded him All-Conference First Team honors.

The team may be the strongest at running back, as Cameron Stingily returns as a senior to best his mark of 1,119 yards rushing from last season. At 6-foot-1 and 235 pounds, he stands as a bruiser opposing MAC West teams struggle to tackle. He averaged 86 yards per game last year, and the league named him Offensive Player of the Week twice. Senior Akeem Daniels will rotate with Stingily throughout each game and bring a burst of speed to NIU’s offense. Daniels was an integral player during the 2012 MAC Championship, recording 195 yards in the win, but he missed all of 2013 with an injury.

The chatter surrounding the program is that the Huskies will rely heavily on their running backs to help ease the new starting quarterback into the offense. It would be the smart thing to do, some say, especially with the experience at the position and on the offensive line.

When asked if that’s what the Huskies should do this season, Stingily was quick to offer his opinion.

“Personally, I hope so,” the tailback chuckled, while panning his face toward his coach.

“Why you gotta look at me?” Carey snapped.

“I’m a running back,” Stingily responded. “I want the ball in my hands.”

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Pac-12 Media Days: A Knack for Mining Hidden Gems Could Be Key for Rich Rodriguez and Arizona

HOLLYWOOD, California – Two-time All-American running back Ka’Deem Carey leaves a Grand Canyon-sized void in the Arizona Wildcats backfield–and head coach Rich Rodriguez is well aware.

“I don’t have a Ka’Deem,” Rodriguez said Wednesday at Pac-12 media days. “And quarterback–if I had a starter, I’d tell you.”

Oh, by the way: Arizona must also replace its starting quarterback, as it has every offseason since Rodriguez arrived in Tucson before the 2012 season. B.J. Denker was the Wildcats’ second-leading rusher in 2013 with 949 yards and 13 touchdowns. He scored another 16 through the air.

For an offense typically built from the ground, replacing almost 3,000 yards in rushing production is a major undertaking; even for a coach with the offensive credentials of Rodriguez.

But Rodriguez has a proven knack for mining hidden gems, a quality that should ensure Arizona remains one of the most offensively potent teams in the Pac-12. And the question isn’t so much if as who.

Take Denker. A year ago when Rodriguez was fielding similar questions about his vacant starting quarterback position, Denker was mostly an afterthought. The sparsely recruited JUCO transfer backed up Matt Scott in 2012, but USC transfer and 4-star freshman prospect Anu Solomon garnered more offseason attention.

It wasn’t always smooth sailing for Denker, but by season’s end, his command of Rodriguez’s spread offense was a driving engine powering the Wildcats to an 8-win finish. Denker was also a star of Arizona’s upset of Oregon in the regular season’s penultimate week.

Rodriguez is playing both the quarterback competition–a multiple-man race with no clear frontrunner in sight–and the running back situation close to the chest. He’s more than willing to talk about the receiving corps, however.

“The crew I feel the most confident in is our seven or eight receivers: Nate Phillips, Samajie Grant, Trey Griffey…Austin Hill coming back, Davonte Neal, Cayleb Jones, David Richards,” Rodriguez rattled off.

Last year, a dearth of experience at receiver and Hill’s ACL tear forced first-year players Phillips and Grant into starring roles. The duo will remain integral to the passing attack, but the influx of transfers and Hill’s return mean defenses will be left guessing.

Meanwhile, everyone is left guessing about the quarterback. Scroggins and Solomon are back in the mix, with transfers Connor Brewer (Texas) and Jerrard Randall (LSU) involved.

No two are alike in their playing style, so at least for Week 1, Rodriguez has a level of gamesmanship he can employ as UNLV tries to game plan. After that, it’s likely Rodriguez remains committed to a clear No. 1.
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