Created:Wednesday, February 3, 2010 11:26 p.m.CDT
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Signing Day Notes: Illini on his mind

By JOHN SAHLY - jsahly@daily-chronicle.com

DeKALB – If you needed another reason to look forward to the Northern Illinois at Illinois game on Sept. 18, Vance (Charlotte, N.C.) High School safety Dechane Durante certainly gave one.

Vance coach Phil Culicerto said that Illinois offered Durante a scholarship during his junior year and wanted him to commit early. After Durante decided to keep his options open and not commit early, Illinois called during the third week of Durante's senior season and rescinded the offer.

"That night he caught 14 balls for 250 yards, one was a 99-yard reception for a touchdown," Culicerto said of Durante, who also played wide receiver. "I think he was a little steamed."

Culicerto added that Durante has the ability to make an immediate impact for the Huskies, who travel to play the Fighting Illini in the third game of this season.

"Dechane is a gamer," Culicerto said. "The man comes up big for you. Always makes big plays. Go-to-guy. He did a lot of things for us this year. He came up with the big interception, the big return, the big catch, because he's supposed to."

Culicerto said Durante needs to add about 5 to 10 pounds of muscle before he can really be an impact player, but Durante is in a weight room program this semester and should be at least part of the way there by the time he steps foot on campus in DeKalb.

"I think [NIU] was the one that fit him," Culicerto said. "The fact that they wanted him. We're not talking redshirt. Talking to coach Kill and the staff, I believe they're looking for somebody to come in and help out right away. Dechane's the type of guy that can do that."

Kill called Dechane an "athletic freak."

"To me, he's an ACC player," Kill said.

The Huskies lost Prospect quarterback Miles Osei to the Fighting Illini after Osei decommitted from NIU.

"Illinois came in and offered him. ... Miles felt that it was something he wanted to do, both athletically and academically," Kill said. "I told him we understood that. That's part of the profession. I wish him nothing but luck."

Familiar face:
Kill was asked about recruiting his boss' son, Sycamore's C.J. Compher. C.J.'s dad is NIU athletic director Jeff Compher.

"I'll be honest with you," Kill said. "I had to take all those things out of it. I've got to look at what's best for our football program. I've got to do what our needs are. You look at local kids, and it happens to be his son. At the same time, in C.J.'s situation, it's a specific need for us.

"Right now, at the H-back/tight end position, which is kind of a combined position, is a position that when I took the job, there wasn't that type of position. It fills a specific need. We know we're getting a smart young man. We know we're getting an athletic young man because we've had him here. You can't miss on stuff that you see."

Wells joins up:
Months after it became public that NIU baseball player Jayme Wells wanted to play football, too, he signed with the NIU football team Wednesday. The former Wisconsin Football Coaches Association first-team all-stater's baseball scholarship will be a football scholarship in 2010-11.

Two Vikings on board: Frank Boenzi isn’t sure yet when he’ll be eligible to play football at NIU, but he already has a roommate in mind once he arrives in DeKalb.

That would be Michael Santacaterina, Boenzi’s fellow Geneva senior who recently opted to join NIU as a preferred walk-on.

Consider that Geneva graduate Pat Schiller will be a junior linebacker for the Huskies next year, and it is evident that there are strong ties between NIU football and Geneva, coached by Huskies alumnus Rob Wicinski.

“That would be cool if we all got to play,” Boenzi said at Geneva’s college signing ceremony Wednesday afternoon. “Three Geneva people holding it down on the Huskie defense.”

Boenzi, a 305-pound defensive tackle, said he still is working toward gaining approval from the NCAA Clearinghouse to become eligible next year, but regardless, is committed to eventually playing his college football at NIU. Boenzi’s Letter of Intent was processed by NIU late Wednesday afternoon, allowing him to officially be included among the Huskies’ 2010 recruiting haul.

Boenzi said he still is attempting to make up for a rocky start to his high school academic career.

“I have to see how I do on the ACT the next time I take it. ... how my grades even out at the end of the year, how I do in summer school, and then I should know right before I go down there,” Boenzi said. “It’ll be like a last-minute thing.”

Santacaterina was a two-way standout at Geneva who is likely to try his hand at linebacker with the Huskies. He had ample interest from Division II and III programs but has long been locked in on the possibility of playing Division I, even if it meant walking on.

Santacaterina expects to redshirt as a freshman and eventually prove his worth to Kill and the coaching staff.

Knapek transfers: Former Genoa-Kingston offensive lineman Cody Knapek has transferred from Rock Valley Community College and signed with Northern Michigan on Wednesday.

• Jay Schwab contributed to this report.

How do you feel about NIU's recruiting class?
NIU couldn't have done better
Huskies went to a BCS bowl in 2012, it's disappointing
Talk to me in three years