DeKALB – With signing day approaching shortly after the Orange Bowl a year ago, Northern Illinois coach Rod Carey was left to scramble.
Carey likened recruiting to “herding a flock” on Wednesday, and in 2013, he was a few shepherds short, as teams across the country plucked various coaches after the Huskies reached their first BCS bowl in program history. After a full year of recruiting with a full coaching staff, Carey, who took over for Dave Doeren in December 2012, unveiled a recruiting class on Wednesday that was ranked second in the Mid-American Conference by Rivals.com.
“Last year's class we were really proud of as well, but we did that one short-handed,” Carey said. “With this one, all of our guys who we brought in know all of the coaches. There isn't any familiarity that has to be developed there. We've had 13 months to do that. We really feel fortunate about that."
This year's class includes nine defensive backs, which Carey listed an area of need after losing several to graduation this season. The Huskies also brought in five wide receivers, five defensive backs and a pair of quarterbacks.
The highest-rated recruits in the class, according to Rivals, are offensive lineman Shane Evans, defensive back Deion Hamilton and quarterback Landon Root.
“Offensively we didn't have a ton of skill leave us this year … but we wanted to get ahead of that with the wide receivers,” Carey said. “We knew, if you look at last year's class with the DBs we brought in, and then if you look at this year's DBs, that we're addressing that need before it really came to fruition, and we feel like we're right on time with it.”
After rushing to try to keep his flock together in 2013 after Doeren left for North Carolina State, Carey was able to take his time this year. Newfound name recognition brought on by making a BCS Bowl, holding a national ranking for most of the 2013 season and a Heisman run by quarterback Jordan Lynch certainly helped him cobble together this year's class, but simply being around with a full staff for a year made life much easier for the second-year coach.
“As far as the relationship development, starting early last year, that was really the first round, and I think it went, as much as you can say, as expected,” Carey said. “I don't know that there was anything that caught me by surprise. ... You are really trying to herd the full flock, and try to get around and be everything to everybody, and you want to be that, but that means you can't just focus on one thing.”