Tenure vs talent; starting quarterback position still available


Redshirt junior quarterback Ryan Graham lines up against Western Illinois University Sept. 24, 2016. The Huskies begin their season against Boston College 8:30 p.m. Friday at Huskie Stadium. 

By Ryan Ostry

The race of who will be calling plays as quarterback has come down to the week of the season opener, as head coach Rod Carey has yet to make the announcement. Though two strong candidates have been competing for the spot since last season, redshirt sophomore quarterback Daniel Santacaterina has shown the most promise. As long as Carey needs to make the decision, he needs to go with his young, talented thrower in Santacaterina.

In his short NIU career, Santacaterina has passed for more yards per attempt with him being at 9.5 and redshirt junior quarterback Ryan Graham at 5.4, Santacaterina has a higher passing rate at 125.3 compared to Graham’s 112.2 and has a rushing touchdown. Both Graham and Santacaterina are trying to win the job, however, Carey said neither has pushed themselves in front of the other quite yet.

“I really think it’s turned into a two horse race with Graham and Santacaterina,” head coach Rod Carey said. “It could be a situation where I announce something [soon] when the preparation for [Boston College] starts.”

Fans in DeKalb haven’t exactly seen a star quarterback they’ve hoped for since Jordan Lynch left the reins after taking the 2013 Huskies to the Orange Bowl against the Florida State University Seminoles.

Unfortunately for the Huskies, Lynch cannot throw it deep this year as he will be on the sidelines assuming his role as an assistant coach for running backs.

Although there has been a plethora of leg injuries with previous quarterback Drew Hare, there has still been a lot of scrutiny lately on the inconsistency of the two quarterbacks, particularly Graham. Though Graham has more experience, he hasn’t impressed.

Since 2015, Graham has completed 126-229 attempts and has thrown for 1,379 yards with 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions coming out to a 54.9 percent completion rating.

Those statistics scream mediocrity compared to numbers from the other quarterbacks in the nation. In 2016, Graham completed 55.9 percent of his passes compared to 68 percent from Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky in his final year at the University of North Carolina, according to the NCAA’s official website.

Something that has stuck out to Carey, however, is Graham’s diligent work ethic and his will to get better.

“He has gotten much better on his throwing and has been a great leader for us,” Carey said.

Graham knows that it has become a two-horse race but was the first to point out that he and Santacaterina are competitive and they push each other to succeed.

“[Santacaterina] and I do everything together,” Graham said. ‘He does everything well and we compete with each other every single day. I feel both of us will put our team in the best position to win.”

Santacaterina is the young prospect that has not gotten enough play or reps to completely prove himself, but with time, Carey should see that he has the edge on Graham.

There is not much evidence to full-heartedly take Santacaterina over Graham, however, in his short time, he has shown to be more of an X factor and has more flashes of brilliance than his teammate.

There have been many question marks regarding if Santacaterina can lead a team, but Carey cleared up the confusion very quickly.

“[Santacaterina] is a good leader, different type than Graham, but he and Graham are both equally great in that category,” Carey said.

Though Santacaterina has thrown for less than 40 attempts in his career, he has shown in flashes why he should be the leader of this team.

The Huskies will face Boston College 8:30 p.m. Friday at Huskie Stadium.