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Harnish ready to roll as Huskies leader

Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish celebrates touchdown during Humanitarian Bowl last season. | Joe Jaszewski ~ AP/The Idaho Statesman

Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish celebrates a touchdown during the Humanitarian Bowl last season. | Joe Jaszewski ~ AP/The Idaho Statesman

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by the numbers

NIU senior quarterback Chandler Harnish,
statistically speaking, last season:


C-A-Int. Pct. Yards TD YdsPG Effic.

189-292-5 .647 2,530 21 194.6 157.8


Att. Yards Avg. TD YdsPG

137 836 6.1 7 64.3

Honors: First team All-Mid-American Conference; NIU Most Valuable Player; Humanitarian Bowl

Updated: September 11, 2011 12:38AM

DEKALB — Chandler Harnish sounded like the seasoned veteran he is.

“We’re not gonna be under the radar this year. We beat some teams pretty bad last year,” said the Northern Illinois University senior quarterback who directed the Huskies to a school-record 11 wins in 2010.

It included a perfect run through the Mid-American Conference West and a 40-17 Humanitarian Bowl pounding of Fresno State on the blue turf at Boise State.

“We got beat up pretty good when I was a redshirt freshman (in 2007), so I remember that feeling,” continued Harnish. “The next year, you just want to smack that team. And we’re gonna see that (approach from division rivals) this year. We have to bring our A game or we’ll get bit in the butt real quick.

“As long as we’re consistent and keep working towards something, I think we’ll do a lot of good things.”

First and foremost for the players, of course, would be winning the MAC Championship that eluded them in a 26-21 last-second loss to Miami in Detroit last December.

“If I even bring that game up, everyone in the room gets angry,” said first-year coach Dave Doeren, the former Wisconsin defensive coordinator who replaced Jerry Kill when he left before the bowl game to take the Minnesota job.

Doeren will be the third head coach in DeKalb for Harnish, who was recruited out of Bluffton, Ind., by Joe Novak.

It will be Harnish’s fourth year starting and the 6-foot-2, 219-pounder dual-threat signal caller will be more than a blip on the radars of opposing defensive coordinators. His 7,332 career yards of total offense (5,728 passing, 1,604 rushing) and 53 touchdowns rank first and third, all-time, at the school.

After leading the MAC in pass efficiency in 2010, Harnish became the first Huskies quarterback to earn first team all-conference honors in the league and this season found himself listed on the preseason watch lists for three national awards: Maxwell, Walter Camp Player of the Year and Davey O’Brien Quarterback.

“It’s exciting to be on the lists and I’m proud to represent the university,” he said. “But it means nothing. The day that I start focusing on those things is the day we’re gonna fail.

“As far as this year’s goals, our only goal is to win a MAC Championship. I don’t need awards, I’d rather win that.”

He will be directing Northern’s basic multiple attack out of the no-huddle, engineered by former Indiana offensive coordinator Matt Canada, who is back for his second stint with Northern. Canada directed the Michael Turner-led offense in the Huskies’ magical 2003 season that included a climb into the national rankings.

Harnish said the transition has been smooth thanks to similar concepts and experienced players returning on that side of the ball. Canada says having a fifth-year senior helps and Doeren agrees.

“If we didn’t have Chandler we’d probably have to limit the menu,” said Doeren.

“A lot of people are gonna say it’s a quarterback’s offense,” said Harnish. “In ‘no huddle’ you probably throw the ball more and run more plays during the course of the game, so, naturally your stats are gonna look better. But it’s all about winning. Yeah, I want to have a great season, but it’s a team sport.”

Harnish and the Huskies lost league MVP Chad Spann (Indianapolis Colts free agent signee) but have several strong running back candidates led by Jas Hopkins and Akeem Daniels.

“That’s one position I don’t worry about. Those guys are quick and fast,” said Harnish, who also returns four of his five favorite targets from last year in wideouts Willie Clark (42 catches), Martel Moore (40), Nathan Palmer (29) and Perez Ashford (19).

More importantly, the starting offensive line of center Scott Wedige, guards Logan Pegram and Joe Pawlak and tackles Trevor Olson and Keith Otis, returns intact.

“That’s huge,” said Harnish. “The trust factor is always what I refer back to, knowing that they’re gonna make the right blitz pickups. They’re gonna block everybody. They’re not gonna let somebody come off the edge.

“Just working within that pocket is one of the things, as a quarterback, you feel over time. … We’re on a deeper level than most quarterbacks get with their offensive line.”

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