Created:Monday, April 18, 2011 12:17 a.m.CST
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Backup QB making strides

By RYAN WOOD - rwood@daily-chronicle.com
Backup quarterback Jordan Lynch throws a pass during practice April 2 at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb. (Kyle Bursaw – kbursaw@daily-chronicle.com)

DeKALB – He is standing in the middle of organized chaos.

There are linemen hitting each other like trucks. Receivers, defensive backs and linebackers sprinting through special teams drills. Tight ends and fullbacks catching footballs from a machine.

Surrounded by it all, Jordan Lynch stands still. He’s joined by Northern Illinois starting quarterback Chandler Harnish and offensive coordinator Matt Canada. The three are having a conversation, discussing plays, specific reads and any necessary changes. Lynch absorbs as much as he can.

“It’s a lot to take in, and it’s great information from them,” Lynch said. “Coach Canada, he has a lot of experience, being at Indiana and everything. And Chandler, he’s one of the best to ever play at NIU. So whatever they have to say, I’m going to take in.”

Lynch, who along with Harnish are the only quarterbacks on NIU’s spring roster, isn’t one to shy from the chaos.

A physical, natural runner, the redshirt sophomore welcomes it more than most quarterbacks. When he threw an interception a few practices ago, Lynch was the first to run down the defensive back and make the tackle. Some quarterbacks simply avoid contact in that situation.

It’s the small details of the position Lynch needs to refine. Only one spring – or, if the unthinkable happens, one play – away from possibly becoming NIU’s starting quarterback, Lynch knows he needs to learn as much as he can as quickly as he can.

Huskies coach Dave Doeren said he’s seen significant improvement since spring practices started.

“It’s remarkable. He couldn’t even get lined up the first day,” Doeren said. “You could tell there was smoke coming out of his ears. But I know he’s a lot more comfortable now.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt we could win a lot of games with him as our starting quarterback. The package may change, based on his skill set to what Chandler does. But I have no doubt at all in my mind he could go in and win games for us right now.”

Last season, Lynch’s play package centered on running the football. In that role, Lynch developed the reputation of a running quarterback, while his talent as a passer was criticized. It’s a label he shrugs off, even if last fall’s numbers show his inexperience throwing the football.

With the quarterbacks not exposed to live contact this spring, passing has been Lynch’s focus. From what he’s seen, Harnish said he’s confident in Lynch’s ability.

“See, I’ve always been a person that’s been a full believer in his throwing,” Harnish said. “I think he’s got a great arm. He just needs more experience throwing the ball in games. He does a great job in practice throwing the ball. He’s got a strong arm. He’s confident with his throws, and he knows where he wants to go with the ball.

“I think that’s an unnecessary knock, because it’s not true.”

When they’re not conversing on the middle of the field, Lynch and Harnish have spent plenty of time together. As a fifth-year senior, Harnish said Lynch’s youthful presence is keeping him young.

A Tim Tebow fan, Lynch has been seen doing the Florida Gator chomp at Huskie Stadium. Sometimes Lynch will face the stands during practice, look at the empty bleachers, and wave his arms in a motion used to energize the crowd.

“He’s trying to get no one on their feet,” Harnish said, laughing. “It’s pretty funny.”

If Lynch is an expert at keeping Harnish loose, he’s also an extra pair of eyes he can use to bounce off information. That’s why, while Lynch is trying to learn as much as he can, Harnish wants his backup to speak up when they discuss plays, specific reads and needed changes during the middle of practice. As Harnish says, teaching is the best learning.

Lynch may be in Harnish’s place soon enough. Until then, Lynch said, he knows what he needs to do.

“Just keep improving every day,” Lynch said. “Just keep sitting down with Chandler, keep watching film, and keep getting better. Because if anything ever happened to Chandler, I’m the guy right now to step in.

“I think I could step in and do a good job. Chandler taught me a lot.”

Who wins the Boca Raton Bowl?
NIU
Marshall