Is Harnish the Man for Northern Illinois?

With senior QB Dan Nicholson missing valuable August practice time at NIU due to soreness following off-season shoulder surgery, can redshirt freshman Chandler Harnish be the man to take over and lead the Huskies' offense this season? In this report, we take a look at Harnish's game and offer video highlights of the QB in practice to let the Huskie fan decide whether Harnish can get the job done.

As it turns out, the Chicago Bears aren't the only team in Illinois with a quarterback dilemma.

With Dan Nicholson sidelined due to the shoulder surgery during Spring football practice, Chandler Harnish was clearly the guy getting the most time at the quarterback position for Northern Illinois.

With the start of the season looming at Minnesota on August 30th and with Nicholson still limited with soreness in the shoulder of his throwing arm, the question of whether Harnish is ready to lead the NIU offense becomes more paramount.

In a recent scrimmage, Harnish received the lion's share of the reps. He threw for 89 yards while completing 11 of 24 passes with two interceptions, and completed one touchdown pass. Harnish also demonstrated his ability to escape the pocket, running for 28 yards on 13 carries and scampered into the endzone for another touchdown.

Harnish was critical of his performance. "Today was a little bit tougher day for me," Harnish said. "I thought I had been improving every day, but we saw a lot of coverages and a lot of blitz from the defense. I'm disappointed that I struggled a little bit, but at the same time it's a good thing. I'll be able to learn and watch the film."

Adding to the confusion at the quarterback slot was Nicholson's return to practice yesterday. One has to wonder if he can be ready in time for next Saturday and did Nicholson miss too much precious practice time?

"Whoever plays that position is going to be a leader for us," said NIU receivers coach P.J. Fleck. "The kids are going to believe in him. Have we made that decision yet? No. Are we in the process of trying to find out and make that decision? Yes. We want to make sure the whole team feels comfortable with that guy. He's going to have to be comfortable with everyone else around him as well. We're getting closer and closer as we go. It's going to be a guy who's ready to take on the load of Coach Kill. He is a very, very energetic guy. He does a great job with our quarterbacks. You've got to be tough mentally. Hopefully one of those guys really emerges in the next week and we can name a starter."

Does Harnish have the tools to be that guy? "Obviously his size makes him a very good player," Fleck said. "He looks the part, 6-3 and 215 (lbs.), he can run and he can throw. He's just got to continue with confidence to get him to where he needs to be. A lot of it is just knowing the offense, learning the new offense, adapting to it, and just adapting to the whole scheme of things. He's a very tough, tough kid. He can run, he can pass, he's tough and he's a high character kid."

Next we turned to the heart of the Huskies' offensive line in center Eddie Adamski to gain some insight on the quarterback slot. "Right now we've got four or five starters competing for the job," said Adamski. "To be honest I don't know who's going to be starting in two weeks. They're doing a great job controlling the offense. It‘s up in the air right now."

As an untested freshman, is Harnish ready for the job? "He's a good leader," Adamski replied. "Being a young guy, it's surprising. Spring ball was good with him, he was the starter for spring. We'd be happy with him, but any one of those guys would be a great leader."

Harnish sure doesn't seem to lack confidence. "The guys are coming along awful quick, we're improving every day," Harnish observed. "We've just got to get into that game mode. If we keep working hard and listening to what these coaches have to say, we'll be ready."

"I think we're going to keep improving and I think we're going to have a great shot up at Minnesota."

Huskie fans can judge Harnish for themselves. subscribers can watch the following videos of Chandler Harnish in practice. Harnish is wearing the black jersey (#12).

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