Football focuses on defense with recruiting class

By Brian Earle

In football’s recruiting class, defense was the name of the game for the Huskies and head coach Rod Carey.

NIU’s defense took a big hit losing safety Jimmie Ward along with three other defensive backs. The Huskies also lost defensive tackle Ken Bishop and five more defensive linemen.

The Huskies made a big splash on the defensive side of the ball, signing 15 defensive players. They added seven defensive linemen and defensive backs each while signing one linebacker.

“There were three real positions that we really felt we had a big time need on,” Carey said. “And that was defensive back, wide receivers, quarterback and defensive line is in there, as well … And really in my estimation, [we] hit home runs in all three of those areas, along with the defensive line.”

The Huskies once again looked to rebuild and reload on athleticism and skill by going out and signing five potential play makers at the wide receiver position to go along with the seven defensive backs.

“We kind of saw this coming two years out, we kind of knew our skill would be leaving us in a few years,” Carey said. “Now we’re fortunate. Offensively we didn’t have a ton of skill leave us this year, in fact none left us, obviously except for Jordan [Lynch], at the skill positions.

“So we wanted to get ahead of that with the wide receivers, but we knew if you look at last year’s class with the defensive backs we brought in and then this year again with the defensive backs, that we’re addressing that need before it really came to fruition.”

With the departure of Lynch, the Huskies brought in two more quarterbacks: Landon Root from Wichita, Kan., and Ryan Graham from Wheaton. They will compete with Drew Hare and Matt McIntosh for the starting position.

“Listen, we lost our quarterback so I think the competition is wide open,” Carey said. “Now, obviously [Root and Graham are] going to be behind a little bit because they won’t be here for spring ball, but listen, spring ball doesn’t determine everything either, so they’re going to have an open competition at that position, and I think those two are right in the mix.”

The Huskies stayed true to their Midwest roots, recruiting nine players from Illinois and seven from Wisconsin. But a year after the Orange Bowl, recruiting started paying dividends as the Huskies were able to reach out and recruit in other areas. Most notably, the Huskies signed five players from Florida.

“It is exactly how we do recruiting when you look at the breakdown about areas,” Carey said. “We’re always going to take care of the Midwest here and Illinois and what we consider our backyard…. We’re reaching out into the national stage, with our play on the field and with our recruiting and that shows up in this class, as well.”