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NIU's ‘wide open’ quarterback competition underway

Candidates to fill Lynch’s shoes get equal reps

DeKALB – Dave Doeren named Jordan Lynch his starting quarterback heading into spring practice two years ago.

Lynch never looked back, putting up two record-setting seasons and finishing third in the Heisman Trophy balloting in 2013.

Now, it’s up to Northern Illinois coach Rod Carey and his staff to help determine the next Huskie who will start under center, the player who will have the pressure of following in Lynch’s footsteps.

The competition began Tuesday, when NIU opened spring practice, and will continue throughout fall camp in August.

There are three candidates this spring – junior Matt McIntosh and sophomores Drew Hare and Anthony Maddie. True freshman Landon Root, a talented three-star recruit who signed with NIU in February, could factor into the mix, but for now it’s between the players on campus.

“[Carey] said it’s an open competition. It’s anybody’s spot, anybody can take it,” McIntosh said after Thursday’s practice at the Chessick Center. “It’s just whoever can run the offense the best, it comes down to simply that. Whoever can score the most points, whoever can just have the chemistry of the team is going to be the guy.”

Hare and McIntosh worked behind Lynch last season, with Hare appearing in three games and McIntosh getting into five contests.

Maddie was not eligible to play last season after transferring from Western Michigan, and spent time with the scout team. When Broncos coach P.J. Fleck replaced Bill Cubit after the 2012 season, he replaced Cubit’s spread offense with a pro-style system.

Maddie, a dual-threat quarterback who worked in a spread offense at Aurora Christian High School, said the change in systems was one reason he transferred.

Carey is giving all the quarterbacks equal reps in practice, with them splitting time between the first and second units.

“It’s definitely nice going over and getting [first-team] reps and getting in a position to be able to start next year,” Maddie said. “It’s definitely a lot of fun. Plus, the guys – me, Matt and Drew, we’re all friends. It’s a good friendly competition in the room. There’s no animosity between us, it feels good.”

No matter what each guy does this spring, there’s still plenty of time for the competition to play out. Carey did say that when he names a quarterback, that person will be the starter and there won’t be a rotation.

If Carey seems sure about one thing, it’s the fact there isn’t a player who has a leg up on everyone else.

“They’re all right there,” Carey said. “It’s wide open.”

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