Feb. 1, 2012
DEKALB, Ill.- Northern Illinois head football coach Dave Doeren spoke at NIU's 2012 Signing Day press conference at the Jeffrey and Kimberly Yordon Center to announce his second signing class. Below are excerpts from the press conference.
NIU Head Coach Dave Doeren
"When you sign 23 guys to scholarships and you add a bunch of guys who want to join your program as preferred walk-ons, it takes a lot of different people to be a part of this process. It started 12 months ago when we finished last year's class and maybe even before that on some of these kids. It's a good class. We're extremely proud of it in a lot of ways.
"A lot of work went into it. A lot of phone calls; a lot of driving; a lot of flying and obviously, emails. The product we put on the field [this year] was a big part of what we did, as well as the product in the classroom. The fundraising efforts to create the buzz about the Chessick Practice Facility, all the things that are going on at NIU with the new dorms, it all came into play as we put this class together.
"There are 16 players in this class from the state of Illinois. I think that's a drastic change from a year ago. I think that's something we took a lot of pride in. We wanted to put a fence around as many players as we could and make this an Illinois-laden team. We also took the state of Wisconsin and coach [Rod] Carey did a nice job in Wisconsin getting some big guys for us.
"We got some Florida guys, Michigan and took a guy from Mobile [Ala.] which was fun. We got a corner from down in Mobile. Ten different states were represented. We touched almost every position, including a punter.
"It was really a recruiting class that started with getting bigger up front and providing depth on the offense and defensive line, which we did with seven offensive linemen and six defensive linemen in this class. We needed to add two quarterbacks, which we did. The top two guys that we sought after early, we got. We're excited about that. The tight end position, running back position, wide receiver, defensive back, linebacker, you name it, we hit on all of them.
"Coach Nielsen, our recruiting coordinator, did a phenomenal job organizing our coaches. How much different stuff goes into putting together a class like this from all over the country. I can't tell you how many conversations we have as a staff day in and day out that fit NIU, not just athletically, but socially and academically, guys that fit my personality as a head coach, guys that are going to understand what it's all about to do things the hard way and do things the right way. That's what this class was."
On the size of the class
"We could sign 25 scholarship players. We didn't do that. There's a couple guys that will be delayed enrollees. A number of these guys will be walk-ons. We knew we had 22-23 guys we were going to have on scholarship. We wanted to add some walk-on guys that could help us. This program was built, in a lot of ways on walk-ons. Chad Spann was a walk-on. Willie Clark was a walk-on. Joe Pawlak was a walk-on. You can go do the list of players in that capacity that are not just good players, but great players. We wanted to make sure we did a great job of identifying players that maybe we didn't have money for right away.
"In the one year I've been here, I've put seven of our walk-on kids on scholarship. That's something I truly believe in. The 31 represents, not how many scholarships we've given out, but how many players we've chosen to try and get into our family."
On if some signees will make an impact this year
"I hope so. Tommylee Lewis made an impact. Tyler Wedel made an impact. Rob Sterling, as a walk-on, made an impact. Jason Meehan played. Those four guys played as true freshmen. The guys we redshirted made huge impacts from a work team standpoint. It's hard to pinpoint who it will be. There will be several of them. I would expect five to seven of these guys to play for us."
On how much the success of last year's team had on recruiting
"It opens doors for sure. There's only six teams in Division I football with back-to-back winning seasons and we're one of them. We have the nation's longest winning streak right now. We're third in the nation in APR out of 120 schools in Division I football. All those things open doors. The new indoor facility, the national television exposure in eight of our last nine games, those are all things that matter in the process. Obviously, the 48 hours they had on our campus was huge as well."
On the importance of the 13 linemen signed
"It was big. One of the things I felt, when I first got here, was we had a great senior class obviously, from an offensive line standpoint. There wasn't a whole lot behind it. We'd like to have 16 offensive linemen on scholarship, and we were way behind that number when we got here. We'd like to have a three-deep, so that you're travelling a two-deep on scholarship and having a scout team that way. We worked hard to get to that number. We play nine of 10 defensive linemen per game with our defensive packages, so we wanted to have more depth. We accomplished both of those goals this year."
On signing players that could have gone to bigger schools
"They were all different. Some of them were guys that had been with us and we'd been with them the entire process and they just felt they didn't want to be somebody's back up plan. They wanted to go where we had a plan for them and they understood everything that was going into this decision. A couple of the other guys, it was just the way it worked out. Michael Cotton, he anticipated not changing his mind then when the staff changed, he definitely wanted to look around. Our staff was a great fit for him. Being ranked 26th in country and all the things that went on during our season, I know Charlie Miller came here because he saw our offense score points eight weeks in a row. I talked to him over the phone and he talked about our offense."
On if he got the sense on the recruiting trail NIU is a nationally relevant program
"Yeah, I definitely believe it's a nationally relevant program. We're excited to open up at Soldier Field. I know our players have already started talking about that game. Obviously winning 11 games in back to back seasons, we've set the bar high. We also know we left some things on the field we can improve on. That's where we're going. This program, along with this recruiting class, has extremely high goals for our football team in every facet you can. From GPA goals, how many games we want to win, what kind of bowl games we can get into, to the relevancy of the MAC and where we fit into the bowl picture."
On the impact of the upcoming Chessick Practice Center
"It's a big deal, because people have used it against us in the past. I know last year it was used against us on the road, they way we practice, under certain conditions. They can't talk about that now. By the spring of this class' freshman year, that facility is going to be close to wrapping up its construction. To be able to show those pictures and talk about it in the homes with those recruits and for it to be a reality and not just a dream is a huge deal."
On the consistent success of the program helping recruiting
"That's a big deal. Six bowls in seven years, the ability to talk about playing at Soldier Field against Iowa, games to come. I know Jeff Compher and I have talked about games to come in the future. I would like to have a marquee game like Iowa game or the Wisconsin game last year in a big place, big setting for our guys. Whether it's Nebraska, Ohio State, Illinois, however, that shakes out in the end it's going to be a game our players are going to be super excited about playing and a chance for them to show that school where they fit in the grand scheme of things.
"That's a big deal. I want to be that team that those teams do not want to play. I want to be that team that they're nervous about all offseason long, but we've got to prove it. We have to prove when we get in that stadium with them. I know that's something we look forward to."
On the 16 signees from Illinois
"I didn't put a magic number on it. We just said let's get after every kid we can in the state. Let's make sure we don't lose a kid to another school without putting our best foot forward. Sixteen was great. There was no magic number. It's more about finding the right fit. They closer the were, the easier it was to get them around us."
On recruiting Chicago
"We focused hard on Chicago. It's the closest biggest city. Coach McNutt, coach Nielsen and coach Cole all had a piece of that city and all the other position coaches rolled through it to crossover. We tried to make that our backyard as much as we could. When we were allowed down there we went. When we couldn't go, we asked them to come to us. It was a partnership that started early. We tried to get people up here as much as we could to educate them on how great this place is. The dorms that are being built on campus, the indoor we're building, where we are, what we're doing all those things that get lost. As close as we are, there's still a huge education process that has to happen between us and that area of the country and I think it's happening. So many good former players from here that are now coaching at schools in Chicago and the Chicagoland area."