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Canada returns to NIU football coaching staff

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Posted: Thursday, February 10, 2011 11:22 pm | Updated: 2:43 pm, Fri Aug 29, 2014.

Even while he was at Indiana for seven seasons, Matt Canada and his family always kept tabs on NIU football.

It wouldn't be a stretch to say that the Huskies are a second family to NIU football's new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

"Certainly this place has always been fond to me," Canada said. "My kids loved to see every Saturday how the Huskies did during the seven years I was at [Indiana University]."

Canada, who held three different titles under former NIU head coach Joe Novak, including coaching the running backs (1998-2000), quarterbacks (2001-2002) and one season as offensive coordinator (2003), is back on NIU's staff under new head coach Dave Doeren.

"When you get a chance to go to a new place, a lot of times you've got to go rebuild," Canada said. "My situation to come here to a Top 25 program, with this many starters coming back on offense...you certainly can't complain about that so I'm very fortunate."

Three of the four Huskies that made the 2010 All-MAC First Team Offense are returning for next season. Quarterback Chandler Harnish and two members of the offensive line, tackle Trevor Olson and center Scott Wedige, will be back while tailback Chad Spann will not.

When Canada met the NIU offense for the first time, he shared some flattering words with the players who might be still hanging on to hard feelings after Jerry Kill and his staff departed for Minnesota in December.

"It's hard to see your coach leave, but their coaches left because they're great players," Canada said. "Their coaches left because the players were successful. They can take some pride in that. I'm reaping the benefits of getting to come in and work with great players."

The timing of Canada's return seems fitting. Before he departed for Indiana University in 2004, his 2003 season at NIU was a memorable one.

That year, the Huskies garnered national attention by upsetting Alabama, Maryland and Iowa State, which earned NIU a No. 12 ranking in the Associated Press Poll.

Now the Indiana alumnus returns after NIU's thrilling 2010 season, which included an appearance in the MAC Championship Game, followed by a 40-17 victory over Fresno State in the uDrove Humanitarian Bowl.

Besides play-calling duties, Canada will be responsible for coaching the NIU quarterbacks.

He will have the chance to work with Harnish, who he sees as the fuel for the Huskies' drive towards another successful season.

"You win championships with senior quarterbacks who can lead," Canada said.

The arrival of Canada will mark the fourth different quarterbacks coach that Harnish has had in his five years. While some offensive tinkering could be likely, Doeren and Canada are not expecting a playbook overhaul.

"I can change," Canada said. "I can do whatever, I don't make any plays or throws, runs or blocks. I'm a firm believer in [the idea that] players win games. Our job is to put our players in the best position to make plays."

Harnish, who was actually recruited by Canada during the Novak era, was pleased to hear there will not be adjustments in the offense's philosophy.

"For there not to be a lot of changes is a huge relief," Harnish said.

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