By JEREMY WERNER - jwerner@daily-chronicle.com

NIU has an open competition for starting quarterback

CHICAGO – Most Northern Illinois football fans are wondering who will quarterback the Huskies to start the 2010 season.

NIU coach Jerry Kill is right there with them.

"That's going to be the No. 1 question," Kill said. "That's a good question. I wish I could give you a solid answer there. I think it'll all turn out when we start two-a-day camp."

Kill said there will be an open competition at quarterback among redshirt juniors Chandler Harnish and DeMarcus Grady, junior college transfer Casey Weston and redshirt freshmen Jordan Lynch and A.J. Hill. The Huskies start practice a week from today.

Harnish, who has 18 starts at NIU, likely would have had the inside track if he hadn't missed spring practice while rehabilitating a knee injury suffered during the 2009 season. But Harnish recovered quickly and did not need surgery.

Grady was 4-0 as a starter last season in Harnish's absence and passed for 280 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 330 yards.

Weston, recruited after Harnish's injury and Mt. Prospect senior Miles Osei decommitted from NIU in favor of Illinois, must learn a new offense this fall but was highly productive at Northwest Mississippi Community College.

"We've got some depth there," Kill said. "What we need at that position is durability and stability."

Boenzi eligible? Kill said former Geneva defensive tackle Frank Boenzi could be academically eligible for the start of the 2010 season.

"I'm optimistic that's going to happen, that we'll be fine," Kill said. "We got four or five people that need to get through the clearinghouse, which is not a problem, it's just the process you go through."

Several Big Ten programs passed on Boenzi, a 6-foot-3, 305-pound defensive lineman, not because of his skill – he was rated a three-star prospect by Rivals.com – but because of academic shortcomings brought on by early high school struggles.

But with the thought of missing out on a college football career, Boenzi seems to have put more of an emphasis on his studies.

Boenzi likely wouldn't make an immediate impact on a deep, experienced Huskies defensive line, but gaining eligibility alone would be a milestone for the Geneva product.

"He's done a great job," Kill said. "He's worked his tail off. That's a credit to him and his commitment to put himself in good position. We feel pretty good about where Frank's at."

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