Carey, Northern Illinois Confident In Middling Recruiting Class
By Lana Sache
National Signing Day played out fairly for every team in the Mid-American Conference. While MAC coaches obviously weren’t going to harp on not being able to sign all of their targeted recruits, the conference did grab some of the top players in the region.
Although Western Michigan the highest-ranked MAC class ever and Central Michigan head coach Dan Enos classified the 18 recruits that the Chippewas landed as "another outstanding class," Northern Illinois took a different approach.
Northern Illinois was the MAC's top team last season. NIU stayed nationally ranked most of the season, peaking at No.14 in Week 15, but ended the season ranked No. 23 in the BCS. The Huskies went undefeated until the conference championship game where it suffered a devastating 47-27 loss to Bowling Green. Three weeks later, Northern Illinois' season ended with a 21-14 loss to Utah State in the Poinsettia Bowl.
Still, NIU managed to sign the most recruits in the MAC with 31 to rank fifth in the conference, according to Hustlebelt.com.
It is somewhat surprising that Northern Illinois head coach Rod Carey landed the biggest recruiting class when you consider his methods. Carey is not someone who makes a big scene during recruiting season. There is no doubt that he could have stolen many recruits away from Western Michigan after the Broncos finished as the worst in their division.
However, Carey recruits by projecting his confidence in transforming players into something special rather than depending on their high school performances. He has transformed mediocre recruiting classes into MAC championships, Heisman nominations and first-round draft prospects.
The modest Carey does not look at his recruits like others do. He had a plan this offseason, executed it and brought in the freshmen he needs. The Huskies had three main positions of need: defensive back, wide receiver and quarterback.
Carey said that the Huskies "hit home runs in all three of those areas, along with the D-line," in his press conference on signing day.
Previously, Carey felt the Huskies signed an abundance of players at one position and then waited several years before grabbing another bunch at that position.
That was what happened two years ago when Northern Illinois signed five offensive linemen, then did not sign a single recruit for the offensive line last year. Carey now realizes that he has to disperse his pool of recruits. This year, that strategy focused on finding some wide receivers and another great quarterback.
“The expectations for the quarterback kind of mirror the expectations of our program, which we expect to be in the mix for the MAC championship every year," Carey said. "Those are the expectations we have and the quarterback that plays that position for us has those expectations squarely on him, to perform at a level that can put us in that position.”
Is Northern Illinois' future star quarterback in this class? The Huskies signed a pair of potential starting quarterbacks in Ryan Graham and three-star prospect Landon Root, one of the top players from Kansas. They will at least provide a solid backup plan for Lynch’s successor, and one could be a possible starter in the years to come.
“We will find the guy that we believe can lead us, and we will use his strengths,” Carey said.
The biggest addition for Northern Illinois, however, was cornerback Deion Hallmon of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. NIU put more emphasis on Florida recruits than any other MAC team this offseason and consequently landed five players from the Sunshine State. Hallmon was the Huskies' biggest recruit, as he was wooed by Florida State and 41 other FBS schools. Hallmon is an athletic cornerback, can plan on seeing the field as a freshman and should become a star.
NIU should have a great season in 2014. Carey's carefree attitude about the recruiting rankings shows that he is confident as a coach and confident in the returnees. He puts no stock into third-party critics and rating systems. Instead, he values the players he signs and their families.
The NCAA's motto should be the same as that of Carey: “Recruiting isn’t a business, it’s about people.”