DeKALB – Northern Illinois learned it was in the Orange Bowl the night of Sunday, Dec. 2.
It didn’t take too long for Huskies coach Rod Carey, who was named to the position earlier that day, to feel the impact NIU’s season had on recruiting.
Carey introduced his 24-player recruiting Class of 2013 Wednesday afternoon at the Yordon Center, and said he felt the positive effects the Orange Bowl had on recruiting right away.
“When did we find out we were in the Orange Bowl, was that Sunday night? Monday morning,” Carey said.
Many Huskies signees, such as Streamwood receiver Blake Holder, Prairie Ridge safety Sean Folliard, Miami-area linebacker Robert Jones and the Aurora Christian trio of Chad Beebe, Joel Bouagnon and Brandon Mayes were committed long before the NIU logo showed up next to the Orange Bowl’s on ESPN’s BCS Selection Show.
It doesn’t mean the Huskies’ staff wasn’t able to land some late commits. Players such as Mobile, Ala., running back Jordan Huff, Ohio running back Aregeros Turner, Indianapolis defensive lineman William Lee and Georgia receiver Malik Mitchell committed in January or early February.
Some of the late interest was because of the changes on the coaching staff. New NIU running backs coach Roy Manning recruited Turner when Manning was on staff at Cincinnati. Turner originally committed to the Bearcats, but backed out when Butch Jones took the Tennessee job. Carey said Turner wouldn’t be part of this class if not for Manning.
Mitchell was recruited by new NIU receivers coach Thad Ward, when Ward was at Western Michigan. Carey said the coaching change affected recruiting in a positive way.
Of course, the Huskies’ historic season made a big impact, as well.
“How recruiting goes, there’s always a lot of late movement, and that late movement provided us to get some guys that I don’t know ... if we would have gotten them or wouldn’t of without the Orange Bowl,” Carey said. “But we were in the Orange Bowl, and we did get them.”
Montini guard Tate Briggs, listed at 6-foot-4, 297 pounds, had scholarship offers from other non-AQ schools, but instead chose to attend NIU as a preferred walk-on. Briggs decided late because he didn’t want to give a verbal commitment to a school and then change his mind, and some of his scholarship offers were filled by other players.
Briggs said he loved the facilities at NIU, and said the Huskies’ Orange Bowl appearance was definitely a plus. Briggs even went to Florida to watch the game.
“Even though they got beat, they still put up a fight and they never backed down at all, so I liked that,” he said.
Huff said the Huskies have been with him since his sophomore year, and mentioned how the Orange Bowl appearance shows what kind of potential NIU has.
“That was really good,” he said. “It shows me that they’re an up-and-coming program I wanted to be a part of.”
The potential NIU has is one thing Mitchell, who had an official visit in late January, mentioned as well, in addition to the school coming off its first BCS bowl appearance. Plus, the Chessick Practice Center, NIU’s new indoor facility, is being constructed as well and should be ready in the fall.
There’s certainly a lot to look forward to in DeKalb, something that certainly will draw recruiting interest.
“It shows that they’re a team that’s on the rise,” Mitchell said. “The fact that they won back-to-back MAC championships, that was definitely a big part in my decision, because I would be able to come into a team that was already good and try to find my place and contribute any way that I can.”