Northern Illinois Huskies

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Texas, Cincinnati among potential landing spots for Louisville graduate transfer QB

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As the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Lamar Jackson is the unquestioned starter under center for Louisville heading toward the 2017 season.  Now, Jackson’s backup is on the move.

Following the Cardinals’ spring game this past weekend, Kyle Bolin confirmed that he will be transferring from the U of L’s football program.  After earning his degree next month, the quarterback will be leaving Bobby Petrino‘s team as a graduate transfer and eligible immediately at another FBS program.

As to a potential landing spot?  Northern Illinois is one as this was tweeted Monday evening…

… while Bolin retweeted the following tweet around the same time:

NIU, though, won’t be the only program looking to add an experienced signal-caller. In fact, Texas, Cincinnati and Western Michigan have already spoken to Bolin, as confirmed by the player himself.

Bolin started five games in 2015 as he and Jackson shared quarterbacking duties that season.  Jackson replaced Bolin after a pair of picks in the regular-season finale against rival Kentucky that year and, coming off his four-touchdown performance in the Music City Bowl win over Texas A&M, the former was firmly entrenched as the starter heading into the spring of 2016.

State budget cuts drove need for Northern Illinois to add Florida State to loaded 2018 schedule

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Northern Illinois raised a few eyebrows a few weeks ago when word came out that they had added a trip to Florida State to their 2018 schedule.

The 2013 Orange Bowl rematch from the days of the BCS was notable not only for the two schools participating in it but because it added to the Huskies’ absolutely loaded non-conference slate even more. In 2018 alone, the program will take trips to Tallahassee as well as Iowa and BYU. The Huskies will sandwich a lone home non-conference game with Utah in there as well.

As it turns out though, the MAC program had a rather unique impetus to adding the Seminoles to their schedule: state budget cuts.

“A $1.6 million infusion (from the FSU game) saved a lot of jobs and a lot of heartbreak in our department,” NIU athletic director Sean Frazier told FoxSports.com. “Our football staff stepped up and were a team player.”

The school has been on the wrong end of political issues in the state of Illinois that have led to huge cuts across higher education. That has trickled down to affect athletics and resulted in the need for a few “paycheck” games for one of the annual contenders in the MAC. Frazier did note that he was going to be upgrading the Huskies’ football schedule either way because of changes in the College Football Playoff, but even he would be the first to admit that 2018 is even tougher than it should be because of the financial need to schedule somebody like Florida State.

Safe to say that Northern Illinois will open next season with the most difficult schedule in the country as a result of all that maneuvering. The flip side is the benefits from games like the one at FSU will go a long ways toward keeping the athletic department running much smoother down in DeKalb.

Florida State to reportedly host 2013 Orange Bowl rematch

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Florida State will host Northern Illinois in 2018 according to a report from scheduling clearinghouse FBSchedules.com.

The site notes the Huskies will travel to Tallahassee on Sept. 22, 2018, for a price of $1.6 million.

The two sides have met once previously, in the 2013 Orange Bowl. Florida State won that game, 31-10.

To make room for the trip, Northern Illinois will push a previously scheduled home game with Idaho back to Sept. 9, 2023. The Florida State game sets up an extremely daunting 2018 non-conference slate for NIU; the Huskies are already scheduled for visits to Iowa and BYU and a home game with Utah that season.

Florida State still has one open spot remaining for the ’18 campaign. The ‘Noles will visit Notre Dame on Nov. 10 and host Florida on Nov. 24. Look for an FCS team to fill Florida State’s final vacancy, likely in the opener.

Northern Illinois hires Steve Crutchley as wide receivers coach

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Northern Illinois has hired Steve Crutchley as its wide receivers coach, the program announced Tuesday.

The majority of Crutchley’s collegiate coaching experience came in the Land of Lincoln; he was the running backs coach at Southern Illinois from 2008-12 and an assistant at Western Illinois from 2013-15. He spent the 2016 season as the head coach at Eau Claire Memorial High School in Wisconsin.

“I’m really excited about bringing Steve to NIU as part of our coaching staff,” NIU head coach Rod Carey said in a statement.  “I’ve known him for 17 years.  I respected him as a player first and have watched his coaching career closely.  I know he’s going to bring a lot to us – from knowledge about the state of Illinois from his time at Southern Illinois and Western Illinois, to on-field coaching and recruiting. As a person, he’s as good as they come; he’s a quality individual who will relate to our players and to recruits really well.”

Crutchley arrives at a crucial time for the Carey and the Huskies. A program that ascended to the Orange Bowl upon Carey’s promotion to head coach has dipped from 12-2 in 2013, to 11-3 in ’14, to 8-6 in ’15 and finally to 5-7 last fall.

“NIU Football has been a great program, it has great tradition and I’m excited to be a part of it,” Crutchley said. “It’s a program I’ve followed throughout my coaching career.  I’ve known Coach Carey for a long time from his days at Wisconsin-Stout when I was at Eau Claire. I’m a Midwest guy, and this is close to home in Wisconsin so it’s a good fit for me and I’m looking forward to getting started.”

Northern Illinois finished 73rd nationally in passing last season, averaging 224 yards per game through the air. Christian Blake, a rising senior, stands as the team’s leading returning wideout with 34 grabs for 457 yards and two touchdowns.

Jordan Lynch returns to NIU as running backs coach

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Arguably the best player in school history is on his way back to the Northern Illinois football program. On Wednesday, the school announced the hiring of former quarterback Jordan Lynch. Lynch will serve the program as a running backs coach. Given Lynch’s production running the football during his time with the Huskies, he should be able to offer a few tips and suggestions to Huskies running backs.

Lynch played quarterback for Northern Illinois from 2010 through 2013 and was instrumental in leading the program to a pair of MAC championships (2011 and 2012) and two additional MAC West championships (2010, 1013). Lynch was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2013 and led the Huskies to its first and only BCS bowl berth in the same season, ending with a 31-10 loss to Florida State in the Orange Bowl.

“Obviously, with Jordan, the name speaks for itself,” NIU head coach Rod Carey said in a released statement. “Heisman Trophy finalist, got us to the Orange Bowl, got us to the cusp of a Fiesta Bowl, and set all sorts of records. He’s probably one of the most beloved players that have come through here in recent history. When you are talking about the greats of Huskie Football, our tradition, you can’t do that without saying the name Jordan Lynch.”

Before graduating from the NIU program, Lynch set a handful of new NCAA records; moist rushing yards by a quarterback in a season (1,920 rushing yards in 2013), most rushing yards by a quarterback in a single game (321 yards vs. Western Michigan in 2013), most 100-yard rushing games by a quarterback in a season (12 in 2012) and most rushing yards per game by a quarterback in a season (137.1 ypg in 2013). Lynch was undrafted in 2014 but signed as a free agent by the Chicago Bears as a running back. He was released before the start of the season and was signed by the Edmonton Eskimos of the CFL in January 2015. He was on Edmonton’s Grey Cup championship team in 2015 and scored the game-winning touchdown in the CFL’s championship game.

“I always knew when I got done playing football, I wanted to get into coaching,” Lynch said. “I just love being around the players and being back at NIU. When [Coach Carey] started talking to me about the possibility of a position opening up here, I took some time and thought about it. I felt it was a great opportunity for me and I couldn’t pass it up.”