QB-Palooza continues to rock on. With only eight days left until the season opener, Northern Illinois University head coach Rod Carey has not named a starting quarterback between incumbents Drew Hare, Anthony Maddie and Matt Mcintosh.
Carey hasn't even been able to narrow his choices down to just two guys, let alone one. "It's still a three horse race. I'd love to sit here and tell you it's a two horse race, and tell you who the two are. But all three: Maddie, Matt and Drew, are all doing a nice job. They're making it tough on me." That's how Carey described the situation in an interview with the Chicago Tribune on Monday of this week.
He went on to say that it's possible, if things continue this way, all three could play in the season opener one week from Thursday in DeKalb.
I know many Huskies fans are a bit frustrated waiting on the naming of the next guy to take over this high powered offense. After all, stellar quarterback play has become the norm around this team recently. For two amazing years under Chandler Harnish, Huskies fans thought , "it can't get any better than this". Then Jordan Lynch happened. And things went to an entirely new level for two more years.
So who will be the guy who replaces the legend who replaced the legend? Well, if you're hoping it will be another legend, you're probably mistaken. That's almost impossible in any sport. Even in fiction it never happens. Three James Bonds in a row? Nope, thanks Timothy Dalton. Three Batmans in a row? Nope, way to go George Clooney. So maybe our next QB isn't a Daniel Craig or a Christian Bale. He can be a Pierce Brosnan or a Val Kilmer and still get the job done.
The fact that no one has stood out is a pretty good indicator that Coach Carey has three qualified, but not outstanding prospects. The thing that is making the decision so tough is the fact that they all do different things well. One guy's strength is the other guy's weakness is the other guys adequacy.
Great runner, decent runner, average runner. Accurate short, accurate medium, accurate long. Average arm strength, good arm strength, better arm strength.
Whether letting all three play is actually an option, I don't know. But if their skill sets aren't enough to distinguish them as the starter, then maybe their gamesmanship can be. Some guys practice well and regress when the bright lights come on. Other guys do just the opposite. So maybe we have three guys that are pretty even at their own talents. And maybe one of them is the kind of guy whose game goes up a few notches when the pressure is on. There's only one way to find out who that might be.
From what I've seen this seems like a reasonable resolution. I've studied their highlight videos. I've watched them practice and scrimmage. Yet it's still hard to choose one definitively. It's apples to oranges to bananas.
But since no one is picking a guy yet I'm going to give you my opinion on who should start. Here is how I see all three guys, pros and cons, and who I'd pick.
Positives: Accuracy, touch and average running skills. Hare looks great from the line of scrimmage to about 25 yards down field. His ball is very catchable as he hits receivers in stride and also knows when to take a little speed off of his pass when its not needed. While not a great runner he does posses decent speed and pocket awareness when to tuck it and run.
Negatives: Arm strength. I first noticed this last year. In a very memorable play from the Umass game, Hare throw a long sideline screen to Chad Beebe who turned it into a 80 yard TD. Reviewing that play, I noticed Hare needed to take an extra hop step to get more speed on the pass. Even then it wasn't exactly a rope. It's the kind of pass you need to gun over there quickly with a lot on it. Hare doesn't possess that kind of arm. He bounced the same type of pass at the receivers feet in Thursday's scrimmage.
Positives: Athletic, Very good running skills, deep ball, dynamic. Maddie is a bit of a youtube sensation with his back flips and bench press. While these aren't necessarily quarterbacking skill, it does show off the kind of athlete he is. Maddie has good arm strength and displays nice touch on a deep route. Easily the best runner of the three. He's faster and more elusive than both Hare and Mcintosh. He may be ideal for a read option attack to suck up the safeties and go deep. Can be a game changer.
Negatives: Arm slot, inconsistency, experience. Maddie throws from a very awkward angle. Somewhere around his ear hole. While he still throws a decent ball he's asking for maybe one or two balls a game being batted down. Maddie can look great on one pass, bad on the next. Being a transfer with no experience, there's just no telling how he may perform.
Positives: Arm strength, throwing motion, good running skills, highest floor. Mcintosh can fire a post pass 25 yards with good velocity and accuracy. He comes over the top nicely when he throws with a good release point. Matt is a better than average runner in his own right. As for the highest floor, I mean he is the least risky of the three. While doing nothing great, he is a good runner and a good passer. He's also the oldest and most experienced.
Negatives: Touch, accuracy short. Mcintosh throws almost as hard on a screen as he does on the deep post. There's a time to take something off of your throw. Give your receivers an easier ball to catch.
As for who I'd pick, I've gone back and forth between two guys for awhile now. The front runners, Mcintosh and Hare. I like Hare's short passing game. Those are higher completion percentage plays and a good way to keep the offense moving. But Mcintosh can get bigger chunks of yards with his intermediate to deep passing skills. Both guys are solid runners, with an edge to Mcintosh, but they're not going to dictate a defense to stop that part of their game.
As for Maddie, I love him as the spark off the bench. He could be the guy to rally the team from a deficit. I see big plays coming out of this Western Michigan transfer and maybe the quarterback of the future. But for now I think he needs to sit.
My pick is Mcintosh. As much as I like Hares accuracy, the lack of arm strength is going to limit certain passes for him. Not so much the deep balls. Those don't need to carry more than 45 yards in the air and he can do that. But it's the deep outs that hang in the air too long and can be picked off. There's also the tight windows that need a fastball. Couple that with the fact that he's the lesser runner of the two and I have to go with the junior Mcintosh as the next QB.
Mcintosh doesn't have it all but he has enough. The Huskies running game and a great offensive line should give him the support to run an effective offense while also being a threat, not just a game manager. All this offense needs to do is establish the run and hit some big pass plays. This he can do.
How good does he need to be? Not Lynch or Harnish good. Those are huge shoes to fill. Sideshow Mel sized shoes. But he's going to have to put some points on the board. The defense is a question mark and some games may require 24 or more points to win.
Whomever Carey eventually decides on, I hope the fans support him. To expect the same level of QB play we've gotten accustomed to is asking for a letdown. With an abundance of skill position players, it's time for the NIU offense to be more of an all around team effort. A solid level of quarterback play will suffice. I have no doubt Matt Mcintosh can be the guy to provide that effort. That and a little more.