DeKALB – Northern Illinois linebackers coach Kevin Kane started recruiting south Florida in the spring.
Kane doesn’t go into Miami too often, but recruits Broward County, including Fort Lauderdale, all the way up the coast to the Vero Beach area.
When it comes to recruiting south Florida, which is widely known as the biggest hotbed of college football talent in the country, Kane describes it as a “meat market.”
“Everybody’s down there,” Kane said. “You definitely have to separate yourself.”
Eleven players on NIU’s roster hail from the Sunshine State. Five are from the Miami area – defensive tackle Ken Bishop (Sunrise), receiver Angelo Sebastiano (Coconut Creek), safety Demetrius Stone (Miami), as well as linebackers Jamaal Bass (Miramar) and Victor Jacques (Miami).
Receiver Tommylee Lewis, who played high school football about 90 minutes north of Miami in Riviera Beach, said he was playing against a Division I prospect almost every game. Lewis said there were 11 players in his Dwyer High School senior class alone who went on to sign with FBS teams. One of Lewis’ teammates was Florida State tight end Nick O’Leary.
In places like south Florida, the talent is so deep that certain players are bound to be overlooked. Lewis’ only major offer came from NIU.
“You’ve got to come to play every week. Every week you’ve got to come to play,” Lewis said. “Because you’ve got people on the other team that are just as fast as you, just as athletic and have the same capabilities as you. It’s fun though, very competitive.
“If you’re balling down there, you just can ball period,” Lewis added.
NIU already has one commit from the Miami area for the class of 2012, linebacker Robert Jones out of Opa Locka. Jones lives just a few miles from Sun Life Stadium, and will be attending the Orange Bowl. He said he’s already talked to six or seven players he knows from the area who have wanted to get in touch with NIU.
“A lot of people have been asking about [NIU], seeing if they can get in contact with them,” Jones said. “[Playing in the Orange Bowl] will help them with the recruiting down here. That will be big.”
Being in a BCS game should help NIU in recruiting nationwide. Huskies coach Rod Carey said the added exposure and prestige are already paying dividends.
“The recruits call back. It’s good,” Carey said. “They’re really fired up about it, all the guys we are talking to and they should be. We’re a BCS bowl team this year.
“If you’re 18 (and) you’re looking at some schools, I think we would be at the top of your list and we should be. That’s been a positive. How will it translate? I will let you know on signing day.”
With NIU spending a week in Miami, Kane is certainly hoping the experience will be useful in recruiting the Sunshine State. Kane and other members of the coaching staff won’t be able to speak to recruits, as the bowl week comes during the NCAA’s dead period, but Kane had been trying to get as many kids as possible to watch NIU’s practices.
Having recruits be able to watch NIU front in center is just one of many positive things which will come out of the Orange Bowl experience.
“That’s huge,” Kane said. “Right now, you’re walking around there with a Huskie on your shirt...it’s a big deal.”