Northern Illinois focuses on skill; recruiting class includes 10 from state
BY RICK ARMSTRONG Sun-Times Media February 6, 2013 9:56PM
Northern Illinois wide receiver Martel Moore (1) leaps into the end zone after escaping from the grasp of Florida State defensive back Lamarcus Joyner (20) during the second half of the Orange Bowl NCAA college football game, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013, in Miami. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
Updated: February 7, 2013 7:36PM
Crashing the Bowl Championship Series and going to the Orange Bowl was a boost for Northern Illinois’ recruiting, but it likely will have a bigger impact next year, coach Rod Carey said.
“A lot of these recruits were committed before the bowl game,” the new coach said Wednesday before reviewing his 24-man class, which features 10 players from Illinois and has an emphasis on skill positions.
“But every school you walk into now, the coach wants to talk about the Orange Bowl.”
The Huskies signed six defensive backs, three wide receivers, three tight ends and one quarterback.
“We had to get going with some skill because we had signed so many big guys last year,” said Carey, who succeeded Dave Doeren — now at North Carolina State — in early December.
Carey didn’t think the coaching change, resulting in four new assistants and a fifth yet to be named, was a negative for recruiting.
In fact, he said it was a positive because two of the players — 6-4 wide receiver Malik Mitchell (Alpharetta, Ga.) and athlete Aregeros Turner (Copey, Ohio) — who many think might be headliners of this group, probably were landed because of their relationship with new assistant Roy Manning, who first recruited them in his previous job at Cincinnati.
“It’s all about relationships, and it’s about people,” Carey said. “This is not a business.”
Turner was ranked the 11th-best running back and 37th-best prospect in Ohio by Rivals.com. Mitchell is listed as a three-star recruit by ESPN.
“Do guys have more stars [than previous NIU recruits], whatever that means,” asked Carey. “I don’t know. I don’t pay one bit of attention to that. You put on the film, it doesn’t lie.
“I do know that the 6-4 for Mitchell is not a typo. He can look me in the eye and he can go up and get it. And Turner, you can put him in the backfield, in the slot or at wideout. You just want to get this guy the ball. He has great speed.
“There’s always late movement and [the Orange Bowl] may have helped in that regard. Would we have gotten them if we hadn’t been in it? I don’t know, but we were in the Orange Bowl.”
Aurora Christian, which last fall won the Illinois Class 3A title for the second consecutive season, sends three players to Northern: running back Joel Bouagnon, safety Brandon Mayes and wide receiver Chad Beebe, son of former NFL player and ACS coach Don Beebe.
Other Illinois products include Prairie Ridge linebacker Sean Folliard, who is enrolled in school this semester and will take part in spring drills; Proviso West linebacker Jamaal Payton; defensive backs Justin Corbett of Lincoln-Way East, Zeb McLaurin of St. Ignatius Prep and Draco Smith of Mount Carmel; wide receiver Blake Holder of Streamwood; and Montini offensive lineman Tate Briggs.
Several could play next year, said Carey, who had 14 scholarships but did not delineate which of the 24 were recruited as preferred walk-ons.
“We tell them, ‘You’ve got to expect to play, train to play and we’ll adjust from there,’ ” Carey said.