DeKALB – When Northern Illinois' earned its Orange Bowl berth in December of 2012, it was impossible not to think about the recruiting impact.
Most members of the Class of 2013 had already committed. But looking ahead to 2014, that's where NIU had a chance to make a name for itself. When NIU head coach Rod Carey announced his first recruiting class in January of 2013, he admitted it as well.
"I told you guys a year ago, I think that the Orange Bowl would really have an effect a year from now. I think you're seeing that," Carey said at Wednesday's Signing Day press conference at the Yordon Center. "Not that that was the only reason, by no means, that those guys are here. But I think that door opens for you by having that."
About 14 months after fans celebrated Mid-American Conference title game win over Kent State in Detroit, learned the team was going to Miami and bashed ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit, it's official – the Orange Bowl helped take recruiting to a new level.
On paper – I emphasize, on paper – this looks like the best class of football recruits in recent memory.
Cornerback Deion Hallmon had loads of BCS offers. He had the chance to play in front of the Golden Dome at Notre Dame, go to a tradition-rich program like Nebraska or join defending national-champion Florida State. Instead, the three-star prospect is heading to DeKalb.
National recruiting analyst Tom Lemming told me quarterback Landon Root out of Wichita, Kan. could have played for a BCS school. Instead, the three-star prospect could be the Huskies' quarterback of the future.
Wide receiver David Senior out of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., had offers from the likes of Nebraska, Washington and Wisconsin. However, he committed to NIU in July and stuck with the Huskies.
In terms of non-BCS programs, star-ratings and recruiting rankings can definitely be overrated, and Carey said he doesn't put any stock in them.
Remember, NIU was the only school that recruited Jordan Lynch to play quarterback. Jimmie Ward, who should be selected in this spring's NFL Draft, had only three FBS offers, according to Rivals. Former cornerback Rashaan Melvin went from a walk-on to the NFL.
At the same time, signing a highly-rated class like this shows the lengths the program has come. Rivals has the Huskies second in the MAC behind Western Michigan, 247sports has NIU fourth behind the Broncos, Toledo and Buffalo. Carey said that although Illinois will always be NIU's main recruiting ground, being on the national stage has helped the school recruit nationally as well.
On the surface, this is a very good class by MAC standards, though we'll see what it looks like four years from now.
At the moment, Huskie fans shouldn't complain.