DeKALB — Jordan Lynch was announced as Northern Illinois’ starting quarterback at the beginning of spring practice.
That didn’t come as a surprise. The junior was a reliable backup last season, working his way into games as the teams wildcat quarterback. He came off the bench in the GoDaddy.com Bowl when Chandler Harnish injured his ankle, leading the Huskies on a 78-yard touchdown drive.
This year there are a lot of question marks behind Lynch. Backup Matt McIntosh is just a redshirt freshman who has no game experience, and he didn’t start taking practice reps until the spring.
Behind him are two freshmen, Drew Hare and Geneva product Matt Williams. NIU coach Dave Doeren said the current plan with them is to have one dress and travel as an emergency quarterback. In a perfect world, injuries would be minimal to Huskies quarterbacks and both would be able to redshirt. McIntosh was NIU’s emergency quarterback last season.
Doeren said he’s going to wait as long as he can before he decides which one of the freshmen travels.
“When you start to feel like one of them is pulling ahead of the other, the other guy comes back,” Doeren said. “They’re very competitive guys. You like what you see in them though.”
The Huskies obviously hope Lynch is healthy all season. If he were to go down, it would be McIntosh under center for NIU. McIntosh, like Lynch, is a good runner.
“The kid can run, I’ll tell you that,” Doeren said. “He’s busted out some really nice runs.”
Doeren said McIntosh still has work to do in the passing game. He knows where to go with the ball, but is still picking up the speed of the game.
That comes with reps, which McIntosh didn’t get in practice last season. He worked on individual drills, but wasn’t able to run any plays until the spring. Hare and Williams have taken snaps in preseason practice, and NIU quarterbacks coach Bob Cole said there are a lot of reasons why the freshmen are seeing more time this year, one of them being the Huskies were putting in a new offense a season ago.
“It’s hard to come from playing every down in high school to sitting on the sidelines and not playing at all except for individual drills,” Cole said. “That’s hard on any freshman. The guys we have this year coming in probably have more reps than any freshman I remember getting in practice.
McIntosh also came from a high school that predominately ran the ball so it’s taken some time to get used to the collegiate passing game. With a year of experience under his belt and finally being able to get reps in practice, McIntosh has a good grasp of the offense, and Doeren said he got better every day of spring practice.
“I think I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable with [the offense],” McIntosh said. “Obviously I’ve got a lot to work on still. Just to be quick with the ball, quick with my reads. But overall I think I’ve gotten better.”