Signees may be NIU’s best ever

By Wes Swietek

The NIU football team, coming off a 2-9 campaign last season, obviously had some holes to fill.

Those holes appear less ominous with the release of the names of 24 Letter of Intent signees. Ten of the signees are junior college transfers, including one of the top JUCO quarterbacks in the nation last year.

“(Some) have said that this is probably the best recruiting class Northern has ever had,” said NIU head coach Charlie Sadler.

Sadler said the Huskie signees were recruited to fill NIU’s most glaring needs.

“Obviously, our team was not big enough in areas last year, particularly on the offensive and defensive lines. From a numbers standpoint, our offensive and defensive lineman situation had to be addressed,” Sadler said. “That’s why we looked at the junior colleges.”

Sadler said the signing of ten JUCO recruits will not be the norm for the NIU program.

“I’m of the opinion that we should recruit through the high schools, (but) obviously we had some numbers that we needed to address (by going the JUCO route),” Sadler said.

Of the 14 high school recruits, six are from Canada and two are from Illinois.

“We were able to identify some players in Canada who, from a quality standpoint, were very good players. If they were in the Chicago area, we wouldn’t have had much of a chance of signing them,” Sadler explained.

“We recruited Illinois no differently than we ever have. We had only one coach (recruiting) in Canada—we had six coaches in Illinois. We recruited against the schools we’ll be playing. Quite honestly, going against Iowa State and the Big Ten schools … we lost some recruits.

“We’re going to recruit Illinois hard every year,” Sadler said. “(But) we can’t get locked in to where we’re recruiting against the I-AAs and the MAC schools because their level is not the level of our competition.”

The biggest “name” signee for NIU is Northeastern Oklahoma A & M quarterback Scott Crabtree.

Northeastern finished 9-1 and rated No. 1 in the nation at the end of last year. Crabtree set school records for passing yardage in a season (1,931 in 1991) and career-passing yardage (2,968 in 1990-91). Last season he hit 103-of-187 attempts for 16 touchdowns.