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Football’s 31-man class includes 16 in-staters

February 1, 2012
Dave Doeren

Dave Doeren

Dave Doeren’s second signing day as Northern Illinois University head coach went a little smoother than the first.

While the 2011 Signing Day got off to a slow start due to a blizzard that hit the region, closing schools and closing roads, by 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Northern Illinois had received all the necessary paperwork on 30 of its 31 2012 recruits, with the final NLI coming across the fax machine just before noon.

Doeren and his staff announced the addition of 31 players for 2012, including 16 from the state of Illinois and 10 from Chicagoland.

The list includes Ken Bishop, a defensive tackle from Lauderhill, Fla. and Ellsworth Community College in Kansas, who enrolled at NIU in January and will participate in 2012 spring practices.

The Huskies loaded up on linemen on both sides of the ball, with seven offensive linemen and six defensive linemen accounting for 13 of the 31 roster spots. Overall, Northern Illinois’ announced the addition of 14 defenders, 16 offensive players and punter Mark Strbjak out of Munster, Ind.

Doeren said the class is a result of a year of hard work by the Huskie coaching staff.

“I am very excited to see a year of hard work come to fruition today,” Doeren said. “We definitely improved our football team in every area that we targeted. We felt it was extremely important to build a fence around as many in-state players as we could and we did that with 16 Illinois players joining our football team. Part of the emphasis of this class was the offensive and defensive lines and we feel like we made a great impact on those two position groups.”

In addition to the offensive and defensive lines, the complete position breakdown includes four defensive backs and four linebackers, three quarterbacks, two tight ends, two running backs and two receivers.

The Huskies’ 16 Illinois recruits are joined by four from Wisconsin, three from Florida, two from Michigan and one each from Missouri, Kansas, Indiana, Minnesota, Alabama and North Dakota. Doeren said the NIU staff put a lot of hard work into developing relationships with the players and families in Illinois and that they found a large number of high school coaches in the state with ties to NIU.

Coach Nielsen, Coach McNutt and Coach Cole did a great job as our Chicagoland recruiters making those players and families feel a part of the NIU football family,” Doeren said. “We did a nice job of getting those players and parents on our campus multiple times early on, which helped us in educating not only them, but some of their teammates and friends, on what NIU has to offer.

“We also benefitted from the large population of NIU alums working as high school coaches in the area that we were able to reach out to and build relationships with. They have helped us. The exposure we gained during our nine-game winning streak, with each of the last eight games on TV, made an impact as well.”

NIU Huskies celebrate MAC championship

Doeren said he and his staff had many positives to use on the recruiting trail in 2011-12 and those attributes helped Northern Illinois put together its 31-man class for 2012.

“Back-to-back 11-win seasons opened doors for us with many of the kids we recruited,” Doeren said.

“We were able to compete against BCS level schools for many of our signees. There were definitely doors open this year that weren’t the year before. Recruits took notice that we have had the Player of the Year in the MAC in five of the last six years and we were also able to use the excitement over the new Chessick Practice Center in our recruiting. Our APR and graduation rates were important to the people we talked to.”

With another Signing Day in the books, Doeren and his staff turn their attention toward February conditioning and spring practice. Spring football practices will begin March 28 and conclude April 21 with the Annual Spring Game at Huskie Stadium.

For more information on NIU football and Huskie athletics, visit