DeKALB - When the call came in at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday night, Northern Illinois head football coach Jerry Kill nearly dropped the phone. It was Maurice Coon, a defensive end prospect from Lakeland, Fla., calling to say he was decommitting and set to attend South Florida. Kill was caught off-guard. He was set on recruiting Coon ever since the 6-foot-1, 238-pounder drove 14 hours on a whim to attend Kill's Southern Illinois football camp last summer. But in this day and age of college recruiting, nothing is a certainty until the players sign on the dotted line. After five minutes of sticking with his story, Coon finally broke down and told Kill “I'm just messing with you coach.” And on Wednesday morning - National Signing Day - Coon became one of 13 players in Kill's first recruiting class at Northern Illinois. Coon said he decided to play for Kill during that camp last summer, when Kill pushed him to stay on the field for eight straight plays, even when he was exhausted, during an intense drill sequence. “I knew at that point I wanted to play for him,” Coon said. “At the end of the day, coach Kill came up to me and told me ‘It takes a lot of heart to come all the way up from Florida to do this.'” Along with Coon, the Huskies had a few pleasant surprises on signing day. One was quarterback Brandon Rogers, who the Huskies started recruiting less than two weeks ago. The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder from Tulsa, Okla., led one of his state's most successful teams but after a scholarship offer to Kansas fell through, he was left with nowhere to go despite graduating early. Kill got a call from a junior college coaching friend, the same one that alerted him to Brandon Jacobs - now the starting running back for the New York Giants. “When you get sent Brandon Jacobs, you tend to listen to the guy that gives you the call,” Kill said. Rogers threw for 2,565 yards and 25 touchdowns last year at Tulsa Union, a team that played one of its games on the NFL Network. Rogers said he was excited to prove what all the other teams had missed out on. “This is a program that has been known to produce NFL players and that says a lot about the program,” Rogers said. “I am looking forward to getting up there this summer and getting to know the players, coaches and area better.” Another late surprise on the scene was 5-foot-7 running back Meco Brown, from Moss Point, Miss. Brown had most of his area's media convinced he was headed to Jackson State before announcing that he would head to NIU at a press conference Wednesday. He said he was impressed with the Huskies' facilities, especially the Yordon Center. “It was amazing,” Brown said. “I loved every part of that building. You don't get that kind of facility down here in Moss Point.” Kill pushed NIU's running back tradition of fellow 5-foot-7 star Garrett Wolfe and Michael Turner to Moss, along with his history with Jacobs, who starred under Kill at Southern Illinois. “Meco Brown was a guy that I couldn't believe was just laying around this late,” Kill said. “This kid is like Darren Sproles. He's very fast, has great vision and an athletic kid. He's a cross between Garrett and Jerry Seymour. “His size isn't what people want. But we've made a living on people's decisions on that.” Kill had his hands full after taking over the program from Joe Novak this December. But he relied on the expertise of recruiting coordinator P.J. Fleck, one of two Novak holdovers, to lead the charge. Fleck helped ensure junior college transfer Darnell Bolding and wide receiver Chase Mejia enrolled early. And he helped convince players like athlete Tommy Davis, Sycamore High linebacker Kevin Sabock and safety Jody Van Laanen kept their commitments. “For a second, I didn't hear anything from them,” Davis said. “But after that when I visited I just felt welcome. They really, really knew what they were doing.” Kill said that convincing Sabock to stay even after his father, Mike, was no longer on the staff after 24 years at NIU was a big endorsement of the new regime. “I think he feels comfortable with his son coming to school here and I feel good about that,” Kill said. “That tells you about the transition we made.” Sabock said that while he will be staying near home to play at NIU, he expects his family to be moving by the fall when his father finds a new job, so it will be like living away from home next season anyway. “There was no question in my mind or my family's mind,” Sabock said. Sabock's signing ceremony was rescheduled for Thursday at 3:30 p.m. after school was cancelled Wednesday. The same happened to defensive line recruit Adam Coleman from Bettendorf, Iowa. The other recruits in the class were defensive lineman Brian Lawson (Park Forest, Ill.), tight end Dan Edem (Apple Valley, Minn.), junior college transfer defensive back Kiaree Daniels (Kissimmee, Fla.) and offensive lineman Logan Pegram (Silver Lake, Kansas). Kill said that while his coaches were out recruiting over the last month, they also were focusing on next year's recruits - because players in the Chicago area and the Midwest tend to commit much earlier than elsewhere. “We've got five coaches that are recruiting in this area,” Kill said. “But we recruited mostly juniors, to be honest with you, because we were so late getting up. We had to concentrate a year on out plus this.” Daily Chronicle sports writer Nick Gerts contibuted to this report. Sports Editor Jon Styf can be reached at email@example.com.
The Class of 2008 Darnell Bolding lb, 6-2, 215, Coffeyville CC Meco Brown rb, 5-7, 185 Moss Point (Miss.) HS Adam Coleman, dt, 6-3 259, Bettendorf (Iowa) HS Maurice Coon, de, 6-1 238, George Jenkins HS, Lakeland, Fla. Kiaree Daniels,db, 5-10 195, Highland JC Tommy Davis, ath, 5-11 180, Althoff Catholic HS, East St. Louis, Ill. Dan Edem, te, 6-2 220, Eastview HS, Apple Valley, Minn. Brian Lawson,dl, 6-3 260, Rich East HS, Park Forest, Ill. Chase Mejia, wr, 5-8 170, Rock Bridge HS, Columbia, Mo. Logan Pegram, ol, 6-3 298, Silver Lake (Kansas) HS Brandon Rogers,qb, 6-2 210, Tulsa Union HS, Broken Arrow, Okla. Kevin Sabock, lb, 6-2 203 Sycamore HS Jody Van Laanen, db, 6-0 205, Ashwaubenon HS, Green Bay, Wis.