DeKalb senior Danielle Dlabal was on the fence a couple weeks ago about continuing her running career in college. But after seeing the Northern Illinois cross country team running together through a rain storm recently, Dlabal decided to give it a go.
On Wednesday, Dlabal sent her national letter of intent to NIU and will join the Huskies’ cross country and track programs as a freshman walk-on next year.
“The team, they just seem like a family,” Dlabal said. “I just liked that whole aspect of being together as a team and having to go through the same things.”
Dlabal visited campus a couple weeks ago and met the team and coaching staff, noting that NIU coach Greg Hipp reminded her of DeKalb coach Mike Wolf.
Dlabal ran a personal-best 18:35 for three miles in the Class 3A St. Charles East Sectional last fall as a senior and has a career-best time of 2:20 in the 800 going into her final track season of high school.
“For a walk-on, [2:20] is actually really strong,” Hipp said. “Three years ago, with where the program was here, that’s a pretty good scholarship, and things have come a long way. She’s going to be one of the better walk-ons I have ever had coming in the door at anywhere I’ve been.”
Dlabal, who also played soccer for DeKalb, will run both cross country and track for NIU. Hipp said Dlabal has potential to be a solid contributor in the middle distances.
“I am really excited. After cross country season this year I was really sad to think I wouldn’t be running another cross country race,” Dlabal said. “This gives me another opportunity to keep getting better.”
Cole named offensive coordinator, other coaching changes: NIU quarterbacks coach Bob Cole has been promoted to offensive coordinator, and will continue to work with the quarterbacks, while defensive line coach Brett Diersen will serve as the Huskies’ recruiting coordinator. Diersen came to NIU from Florida Atlantic, where he served as the Owls’ defensive line coach and special teams coordinator.
Linebackers coach Kevin Kane has added special teams coordinator to his duties, while tight ends/fullbacks coach Joe Tripodi will coach the offensive line, a group he worked with during Orange Bowl preparation.
NIU announced Tim Polasek as the new tight ends/fullbacks coach back in January.
Any instant impact? An obvious question on any recruiting class is how many players can get on the field right away.
Out of last year’s signees, linebacker Mike Cotton, running back Perez Ford, running back Keith Harris Jr., tight end Desroy Maxwell and cornerback Marlon Moore played as true freshmen. Walk-on wideout Jacob Brinlee also received playing time.
Carey said incoming freshmen should be ready to get on the field immediately.
“We tell them all that you’ve got to expect to play,” he said. “With the way numbers are in college football with 85 scholarships now, every young man that you recruit and you get to know, tell them, expect to play, train to play. And then from there, we adjust.
“Used to be when I was going through it (at Indiana), coach (Bill) Mallory told me, ‘You’re going to redshirt.’ Right now, I’m not telling these guys [to plan on redshirting]. I’m saying expect to play.”
Carey says coaching change has positive impact: One would think the coaching switch from Dave Doeren to Carey would hurt NIU’s recruiting class.
Carey thought the change ended up being positive. Two of the Huskies’ new coaches — running backs coach Roy Manning and wide receivers coach Thad Ward, played a big part in bringing in two key recruits.
Manning recruited Aregeros Turner, who NIU lists as an athlete, while he was at Cincinnati. Turner ran for 1,378 yards and 19 touchdowns for Copley (Ohio) High School his senior year, and had 17 catches for 249 yards and two touchdowns.
Turner originally committed to Cincinnati but backed out when Butch Jones took the Tennessee job, and Manning’s relationship with the Rivals.com three-star recruit helped bring Turner to DeKalb.
Ward recruited wide receiver 6-4, 181-pound wide receiver Malik Mitchell when he was at Western Michigan, and Ward helped the Huskies land the Alpharetta, Ga. product.
“Aregeros is not here if the coaching change doesn’t happen. Malik Mitchell is not here if the coaching change doesn’t happen. Are those positives? You bet,” Carey said. “Way bigger positive than any negative we encountered."
Soccer programs bring in new classes: NIU’s men’s soccer program added seven signees Wednesday, while the women’s program brought in six.
Eric Luzzi’s men’s class includes two Illinois products — goalkeeper Michael Pavliga (Naperville) and defender Cody Witkowski (Batavia).
Second-year women’s soccer coach John Ross brought in a class that includes players from six different states. The lone Illinois product is defender Margaret Rivera (Lake in the Hills).