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Blake Holder was never committed to Dave Doeren, or the old Northern Illinois coaching staff.
Holder, a 6-2, 190-pound receiver from Streamwood who gave a verbal commitment to the Huskies back in June, admits he thought about opening up his recruiting when Doeren took the North Carolina State job the day after winning his second consecutive Mid-American Conference championship.
There was also the fact Holder also saw the coach who recruited him, Ryan Nielsen, and wide receivers coach Frisman Jackson leave DeKalb to join Doeren in Raleigh, N.C.
Holder said he was impressed with Carey after taking a visit to NIU in December.
“I committed to Northern Illinois University as a school, not the coaches,” Holder said. “I knew that was the school I wanted to go to regardless of the coaches. I wanted to stay, and once I met [Carey] I knew I wanted to stay because he’s a great guy.”
Prairie Ridge safety Sean Folliard, who’s already on campus after graduating high school a semester early and will transition to linebacker, said it wasn’t easy when he first heard the news of Doeren leaving. However, for Folliard, there wasn’t too much of a change, with Carey being promoted. It also helped that linebackers coach Kevin Kane is still part of the staff.
“First day [without Doeren] I was pretty scared. When I first heard about it, I was hyperventilating, stuff like that,” Folliard said. “But there’s no real change for me.”
For Carey, it’s been a busy, busy couple of months. He had to prepare for the Orange Bowl, where he also handled play-calling duties. There was also the job of putting together a coaching staff, and then recruiting. To Carey, this time of year is all about time management, when coaches are spending hour after hour either on the road or at an airport.
“You’ve got to use all the time that you have in the day because a lot of it’s eaten up in travel,” he said.
While much of the recruiting class has stayed in tact since the coaching change, there have been some new verbals, and players who have decommitted, after Doeren left.
Jerseyville Jersey quarterback Mitch Kimble and St. Louis wide receiver Corey Winfield committed to NIU over the summer, but have pulled theirs back and are now headed to Syracuse, according to Scout.com.
Lincoln-Way East senior quarterback Tom Fuessel re-opened his recruiting just before Doeren left for North Carolina State and is now verbally committed to Northwestern.
National recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said Carey’s familiarity with recruits probably allowed NIU to keep most of its class together after Doeren’s departure.
“Since they hired from within I don’t think [the coaching change] has that much of an impact,” Lemming said. “I think they did a good job of clearing things up to the recruits quickly.”
The Huskies have also added players like Mobile, Ala. running back Jordan Huff and Alpharetta, Ga. wide receiver Malik Mitchell.
“I felt good about the class that we had before Dave left. There had been changes to the class since Dave left,” Carey said. “Overall the class, it’s strong. Its a small class, but it’s a strong class.”
Carey said the fact that he won’t be signing a big 20-25 player class helped out in recruiting this season. With a smaller class, which should be around 15-20 players, the coaching staff was able to build better relationships, according to Carey.
“We were able to manage that,” he said. “... We really got to know them quite well, quite quickly because there wasn’t a large number of them.”