DeKALB – New Northern Illinois football coach Dave Doeren insisted Wednesday that the Huskies were not a hard product to sell to recruits.
While that's true for a program coming off an 11-win season, a Mid-American Conference West Division title and a bowl victory, the sales job was notable for its volume alone.
Six of the 22 recruits in NIU's class, unveiled Wednesday, committed to the previous coaching staff. The rest belonged to Doeren and his staff. Doeren hit the areas he personally knew best: Florida, St. Louis and Kansas City, some of which he has recruited for the past 10-plus years. As a group, the coaches planned to sit down in as many recruits' homes as possible before signing day.
"Several of these guys were guys that I knew about," Doeren said.
Other staff members had players they worked on recruiting at previous spots or, in linebackers coach Tom Matukewicz's case, at NIU.
Make no mistake, some first-year coaches will say the first class isn't really theirs because they don't have the full year or two to get established on the recruiting trail for their school. By the numbers alone, that isn't the case under Doeren. This is his class, which is impressive for a guy hired less than two months ago.
The level of preparedness Doeren entered this job with looks like his biggest strength and the reason why this isn't a recruiting class held together by duct tape. As we learn more about the NIU head coach, it appears preparation is what he prides himself on – executing his vision without a lot of bluster.
"(Wisconsin) coaches came down (to Florida) in May, and they really liked me," wide receiver A.J. Sebastiano said. "Once coach Doeren got the head job at NIU, they asked if I was still available, and I was. I had the opportunity to go up there for my official visit, and that’s what really sold it. I just believe in the direction he and the coaching staff are going."
So far, this is about as smooth of a transition as there is in college football. Doeren came ready for this job. He had his list of assistants he wanted, his recruits, his contacts and, for the most part, hit those targets.
Doeren's fingerprints are all over this program before the Huskies have played a snap with him at the helm.
“With coach Doeren, once I found out that he got the job, it was like a perfect fit," tight end Devonte' Majors said. "He called me the next day (after he was named head coach) and offered me a scholarship. Getting to meet all the new coaches and everything was a good experience. They all wanted me, and that felt really good.”
It's a well-done rollout of the start of a head coach's career. Doeren comes across as professional, informed and most important, appears ready to be a head coach at the FBS level. At this point, that's all that matters for the Huskies.
How any of this translates to the field, wins and losses and how this class ultimately pans out, nobody really knows with any sort of certainty. That's what makes signing day one of the more ridiculous days in college football. It could be a total disaster, or NIU could find itself as a consistent member of the Top 25 or even as BCS busters. It's all unknown right now.
But, in playing to his strengths, Doeren has made sure this program – starting with this class – is shaped how he wants it.
• John Sahly is the sports editor of the Daily Chronicle. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Along with revealing the recruiting class for 2011, Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren introduced his completed coaching staff on Wednesday and what areas they are responsible for in recruiting.
Here is the breakdown of primary recruiting areas by NIU assistant coach.
Matt Canada Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Primary recruiting territory: Central Illinois, also will lead recruiting of all quarterbacks from this point forward
Jay Niemann Defensive coordinator/safeties coach Primary recruiting territory: Iowa, northwestern part of Illinois and the DeKalb/local areas
Rod Carey Offensive line coach Primary recruiting territory: Wisconsin and Minnesota, also in charge of walk-on program
Bob Cole Wide receivers coach Primary recruiting territory: Florida panhandle, Chicago Catholic League liaison
Eddie Faulkner Running backs coach/Special teams coordinator Primary recruiting territory: Indiana and Detroit
Kevin Kane Tight ends and fullbacks coach Primary recruiting territory: I-70 belt from Kansas City to St. Louis and southern Illinois
Tom Matukewicz Linebackers coach Primary recruiting territory: Florida, also in-charge of junior college transfers and will be the life skills director for NIU players
Richard McNutt Cornerbacks coach Primary recruiting territory: Chicago and Ohio
Ryan Nielsen Defensive line coach/Recruiting coordinator Primary recruiting territory: Chicago and NW suburbs