Quarterback: the most discussed battle for starting position at football camp.
NIU has been stable at quarterback over the last five years with Chandler Harnish and Jordan Lynch, who combined for three Vern Smith Leadership Awards, given to the Mid-American Conference’s most valuable player.
Just as Lynch was passed the torch by Harnish, Huskie fans will be looking for this season’s QB to carry on the great NIU tradition.
The Huskies ended spring practices in 2014 with three candidates for the position this fall and, thus far, they have remained in tight competition.
“It’s been a pretty intense battle from many different facets,” said offensive coordinator Bob Cole. “They’ve been going at it since spring ball through fall camp and it’s been real close every day. One day, one guy will have a good practice; another day, another guy will have a good day. It’s a friendly competition but they all want to be the guy. Whoever it is, the other two will support him.”
Hare, a native of O’Fallon, Missouri, is in his third year with the program, having made three appearances for NIU last season. Hare finished 5-for-9 passing with 153 yards and two touchdowns, including an 81-yard reception by Chad Beebe at UMass. He completed his first touchdown versus Eastern Michigan, an 11-yard touchdown by Ricky Connors.
“Drew is a true pocket passer and is extremely accurate,” Cole said. “He knows where to go with the ball and he makes good decisions. He doesn’t put you in a hole and you can definitely win with a guy like that because of the playmakers we have around him.”
Maddie transferred to NIU from Western Michigan in the fall of 2013, returning to his home state, where he starred for Aurora Christian. The Plainfield native served as NIU’s scout team quarterback last season against a Top 25 defense, which he said made him better every week.
Maddie brings mobility to quarterback position.
“Anthony Maddie is the ‘X factor.’ He’s an extremely good runner and his passing has improved dramatically,” Cole said. “In the beginning of last spring, he wasn’t even in the mix, and now he’s right in the middle of the battle.”
McIntosh, the most experienced Huskie in the group, is entering his fourth year in the offensive system Cole has installed at NIU. He’s made 12 appearances during his career, completing 60 percent of his passes (9-of-15) with three touchdowns to his credit, including two last season. As a rusher, McIntosh has totaled 31 carries for 136 yards and two touchdowns.
“Matt’s been around the longest. Leadership-wise, I think he brings a lot to the table with the guys. He’s got a little juice when he’s out there on the field, and he does a good job of running the offense when he’s out there with the football. That’s probably his biggest strength,” the offensive coordinator said.
Cole and head coach Rod Carey are in a unique position as all three quarterbacks are capable of starting for NIU. “It’s a good problem to have,” said Cole, and it’s one that he’s never had in his 37 years of coaching.
“All three of them might have to play at some point. Whoever we put out there, this is the first time in my time as a coach that we’ve had three legitimate, good quarterbacks. Usually you have one really good quarterback or two good ones, but right now we have three. Coach Carey and I will make a decision soon, but it’s a good problem to have.”
Regardless of who starts in the Aug. 28 game, all three quarterbacks have forged a friendship and will remain close.
“When I came in, I stuck pretty close to Matt, so we’ve known each other for awhile now. Once Anthony transferred, we hit it off really well. He’s actually my roommate now,” Hare said.
“We all work very hard together,” Maddie said. “While the receivers and running backs are all running around tired together, ours is more of a mental wear, so we have that bond in our group.”
“It’s a friendly competition. I know for me, anytime I come off the sideline I go to Drew or Anthony and ask them, ‘What did you see there?’ or ‘What did I do wrong?’ And they do the same with me,” McIntosh said. “It’s great to have this type of competition.”