Chicago Sun-Times

NIU QB Chandler Harnish eager to prove his critics wrong

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Most of Chandler Harnish's strengths don't show up on film. The former Northern Illinois quarterback is scrappy, smart ... articulate, confident, athletic, battle-tested -- a competitor with ''grit, tenacity and leadership traits,'' according Pro Football Weekly's Draft Guide.

Without the prototypical size or impressive arm strength, he's destined to be a late-round draft pick at best. But he doesn't take a back seat to anybody at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.

''I have a chance to prove my critics wrong,'' Harnish said during an interview at Lucas Oil Stadium. ''There's a lot of people out there that don't believe I have enough arm strength or am accurate enough or have great footwork because I was a shotgun quarterback, so I want to prove to those people that I can do those things -- be comfortable, show that I have a good throwing motion and then just show my ability to interview and kind of let these coaches know what kind of person I am.''

Harnish, who threw for 3,216 yards, 28 touchdowns and six interceptions for NIU as a senior, can't be discounted as a quarterback who can thrive in the right situation. He's not short at 6-1 1/2 and has the mobility and speed to make plays on the fly.

''Being an athletic quarterback coming out of college is something I could definitely use to my advantage,'' Harnish said, ''because the NFL's changing, and quarterbacks are being able to move out of the pocket more and more and that's a good trend for me.

''But again, I still need to show that I can make the throws and do the things from under center and the different drop-backs to prove that I can play in this league.''

Harnish might be just another quarterback who has the intangibles but not enough of the measurables to succeed in the NFL. But keep an eye on him. There aren't as many quarterbacks of any kind who are as entrenched in reality as him. He knows his weaknesses and isn't afraid to acknowledge his flaws -- like botching a snap in the East-West Shrine Game or playing poorly against some of the ''big-time'' teams on Northern's schedule. He not only has self-confidence, he has self-esteem -- an often ignored trait when scouting prospective professional athletes.

''I feel I can compete with the best of the best,'' Harnish said. ''I think one of the knocks on me is that I"m a little bit shorter than those guys and people just are pretty curious to see me throw. Yeah, I threw for 3,000 yards m senior year, but we didn't throw a ton throughout my whole career and it's just another aspect of my game that I want to prove to people that I can do.''

Harnish also said he'll have to prove he can make plays from under center after operating almost exclusively as a shotgun quarterback at NIU. But he knows he can do it.

''I'm 100 percent certain, because I've run that offense in the past,'' said Harnish, who hails from Bluffton, Ind., about 100 miles northwest of Indianapolis near Fort Wayne. ''My first year at Northern Illinois, when I was a true freshman -- I redshirted -- we were all under center. We had no shotgun.

''In high school we were a lot under center, had a little bit of shotgun. So we take snaps every single day, my center and I, Scott Wedige, and we would do it every day and we still do it to this day -- we train together in Chicago. Just continuing to get better and keep that consistent feel from taking the snap under center.''

Harnish said he is working with two quarterback coaches, Jeff Christensen of the Throw It Deep Academy and former NFL quarterback Turk Schonert, a former Bears draft pick.

''Both are really good guys,'' Harnish said. ''Jeff is more my technique guy, whereas Turk Schonert's more of my Xs and Os, learn-the-game, watch-film, get-on-the-chalkboard type coach.''

Like almost anybody else at the combine, his success depends heavily on being with the right team at the right time. He is projected as a fifth- or sixth-round pick.

''[You] always trying to sell yourself to everyone, but at the end of the day it only takes one team to love you,'' Harnish said. ''Obviously I was a dual-threat quarterback coming out of college, but I want to show people that I can still throw and do a lot of things that NFL quarterbacks are asked to do.''

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This page contains a single entry by Mark Potash published on February 23, 2012 12:39 PM.

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