DeKALB – For the first time since 2010, Northern Illinois is going into spring practice without having named its starting quarterback.
Three players – sophomores Drew Hare and Anthony Maddie and junior Matt McIntosh – will compete for the job throughout the spring and fall camp.
It’s one of a number of things to keep an eye on in spring practice. Here are the five storylines to follow.
1. The quarterback competition
NIU fans have been spoiled with Chandler Harnish and Jordan Lynch. Maybe one of the three quarterback candidates will have a solid career, maybe they end up winning conference MVP.
At this point, it would be foolish to expect any of the three to be at the level NIU’s signal-callers were at the past three seasons.
Hare and McIntosh got some experience in blowout games last season, while Maddie worked with the scout team after transferring from Western Michigan.
NIU coach Rod Carey said all three quarterbacks will be getting equal reps.
2. Akeem Daniels
Tailback Akeem Daniels was a major threat during the end of the regular season in 2012.
However, he missed the entire 2013 campaign because of a foot injury.
Daniels is practicing, and there’s potential for the duo of him and Cameron Stingily to be dynamic.
“I think our backfield is going to make a lot of noise this year,” Stingily said during Tuesday’s pre-spring practice news conference.
3. Defensive line
All four starters from last year’s unit – defensive tackles Ken Bishop and Anthony Wells and defensive ends George Rainey and Joe Windsor – have graduated.
There’s still some experience – players like ends Jason Meehan and Perez Ford and tackles Mario Jones and Donovan Gordon.
4. Who has the edge to be NIU’s placekicker?
NIU had the luxury of Mathew Sims the past three seasons.
While Sims struggled at the end of the 2013 campaign, he came up with big kicks during his career.
Senior Tyler Wedel has handled kickoffs the past three seasons, and was NIU’s punter last year. He has the ability to kick field goals, and went 3 of 5 for a long of 42 yards filling in for an injured Sims last season. The other kicker on the roster is sophomore Josh Orne.
5. The Huskie Bowl
Let’s face it, spring games can be lame. Last season’s Huskie Bowl brought some excitement. It’s the same format this season, though the coaches have yet to be decided.
Linebackers coach Kevin Kane and offensive line coach Joe Tripodi were the coaches in last year’s game, with Tripodi’s squad winning.
Hopefully it’s a tradition that continues.