The Northern Illinois Huskies improved to 11-0 this season with a win at Toledo, and Jordan Lynch’s name is starting to pop up in Heisman Trophy discussions. Sports editor Jon Styf and columnist Tom Musick discuss:
Musick: Whenever I watch Northern Illinois play football, two questions come to mind. For one, how is NIU so much better than in-state programs Illinois and Northwestern? And, two, why does Jordan Lynch make me think of Tim Tebow?
Styf: I know you are joking. You’re talking about a very good athlete in the MAC and one of the best college football players of all time, who dominated the SEC. SEC safeties are bigger and way faster than anyone playing defense in the MAC. Tebow took it to them, actual at them and through them. Lynch is fast, Lynch is a great MAC player, he should probably even get a seat in New York. But he certainly shouldn’t win the Heisman, or be in the Tebow conversation.
Musick: I get what you’re saying about the SEC providing tougher competition, but Lynch doesn’t set the schedule. He reminds me of Tebow in that his hard-nosed running style sets him apart. In 11 games (all wins), he is up to 1,434 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns, not to mention 2,418 passing yards and 21 passing TDs. Those are video-game numbers. I don’t know whether he’ll earn a trip to New York with the other Heisman finalists, but I hope he does.
Styf: Jack Taylor doesn’t set the schedule either, but his 109 points for Grinnell don’t mean we should be comparing him to Wilt Chamberlain. I’ve spent plenty of time watching both the MAC and Tebow (starting when he was in high school) and the best comparison I can make between Tebow and Lynch is that both were told they would be better off not playing QB. Colleges wanted Lynch as a safety and, ultimately, the decision to play QB is probably going to cost Lynch a lot of money (though NIU has made plenty off him). If he had played safety in the Big Ten, he would probably have a nice looking NFL career ahead. If Tebow, who was one of the strongest guys on those unbelievably talented Florida teams, had stuck to linebacker or played fullback, he’d still be in the league too.
Musick: Tebow still could be in the league if he agreed to switch positions. Even today, I bet someone could use him as a tight end-fullback type. So what do you think is Lynch’s future? Could he be converted to running back? Could he switch to safety, as a few college quarterbacks have tried (and failed) to do? Could he actually make it as a quarterback? Every weekend, guys like Scott Tolzien and Matt McGloin are receiving opportunities to play. Why not Lynch?
Styf: Same reason Tebow and Vince Young can’t make it. I don’t think you’re giving guys like McGloin and Tolzien enough credit. McGloin played a heck of a game last Sunday. It’s hard to be a QB in the NFL and it’s certainly a different skill set. The reason it won’t be Lynch is that he can’t make the tough throws downfield against a good defense, NFL throws. Lynch looks great throwing underneath the coverage and running all over the place. Lynch does not sit in the pocket and hit his third or fourth read, in traffic, like you need to be able to do to play quarterback in the NFL. He’s a heck of an athlete, but the world is littered with great athletes who couldn’t make it in the NFL.
Musick: OK, fair enough. Mr. McGroin, or whatever your name is, I apologize. You are worthy to play (for a few more games, at least). But I’m cheering for Baby Tebow, who doesn’t have an SEC offensive line or a coast-to-coast PR machine to help his cause, and I’m hoping that the nation continues to learn his name.