Kill’s rotation keeps defenses guessing


NIU backup quarterback has made a significant impact during multiple games this season.

By Andrew Singer

Without the luxury of contract extensions, college coaches are forced to part with quality players after four years of eligibility.

This leaves coaches with whatever players they’ve prepared to replace their vacated playmakers.

Jerry Kill, NIU football head coach, learned while playing under former Southwestern College head coach Dennis Franchione how important it is to build depth on a roster. By frequently rotating players throughout the season, a head coach is able to keep his player’s fresh on game day while at the same time replenishing the team for the future.

“I’ve spent a lot of time studying this great game of football,” Kill said. “And when you’re one of these supposed mid-majors you have to find some way to build depth.”

Regardless of whether a program is qualified as a BCS team; with the amount of uncertainty in college football, Kill has never found a reason to only play a select number of guys over the course of a long game.

“Why play a guy that’s going to get tired?” Kill said. “Let’s rotate him and keep him fresh. Plus you’re going to have injuries, and if you only have four or five guys playing in a game, you have no one qualified enough to step in after them.”

Rotating defensive linemen or wide receivers is fairly easy to comprehend, but most fans may not understand a coach giving a backup quarterback snaps while the starter is successfully leading the team. This year, though, Kill has brought in Jordan Lynch on numerous occasions, trying to give the redshirt freshman at least a couple looks in each game.

Against Buffalo two weeks ago, Lynch rewarded Kill’s trust with a 90-yard touchdown run against the Bulls; the longest by a Huskie quarterback in NIU history.

Working with the starting offense since spring practice has helped Lynch’s progression dramatically; putting him in a better position to prepare for the years ahead.

“It means a lot that coming into the spring I was already getting looks,” Lynch said. “Now, whenever Chandler [Harnish] needs a blow I can come in and be prepared to run or pass the ball.”

Besides putting a team in a better position for the future, rotating players on a regular basis places a heavy burden on the opposition.

“When other teams see different running backs and quarterbacks on film,” Kill said. “They in turn don’t know what to prepare for.”

This season especially, NIU wide receiver Nathan Palmer has seen the rotations on offense complicate the game for opposing defenses.

“Offensively it has helped us a lot,” Palmer said. “In the backfield we have Chad [Spann], Ricky [Crider] and Cameron [Bell]. So, while other defenses are tired we’re just out there having fun.”

While rotating personnel may seem like a practice specifically designed for programs that go years between great recruits; Kill has seen the practice take other programs to national prominence.

“My good friend [TCU head coach] Gary Patterson, we came up under the same coaching philosophy,” Kill said. “Watching TCU play; they’re pretty good with how they rotate. Also, another team that has all types of offensive personnel changes in a game is Boise State, and it’s worked out pretty well for them.”