19 recruits inked for football

By Matt Stacionis

Picking a single player as NIU’s biggest football recruit may be a bit difficult.

Of the 19 players head coach Joe Novak signed Wednesday on the first official day recruits could commit, all could make an impact on the program.

California junior-college transfer Kyle Padia may be the most proven commodity. The sophomore quarterback amassed nearly 2,500 yards in two seasons at West Valley College, and will back up starter Chris Finlen, with current backup Dan Urban joining the NIU baseball team and third-stringer Craig Harmon transferring.

“I think it’s a good group. Last year’s group really complemented each other. I’m excited about the kids coming in,” Novak said. “When you win a little bit, the kids are always looking for a chance to do that. It’s an upward trend.”

Novak credits his previous success with regional players as a key component for luring 11 Illinois recruits. But the fifth-year head coach also was given some pre-singing-day problems. Oral commit Kyle Kleckner broke his promise to the Huskies and signed instead with Illinois, forcing Novak to pick up offensive tackle Shea Fitzgerald in his place.

“The local kids are doing well, and I think they see themselves in that spot,” Novak said. “From that aspect, it’s been easier.”

When recruits come to campus, they are hosted by team members, who can influence a player’s decision to commit.

“Our players do a good job. They are a key part of the recruiting,” Novak said. “We had three to four players up every weekend, and they were hosted by players. That’s a big part of our visit. I think our players do a great job of selling our program.”