Feb. 4, 2009
Remarks from Northern Illinois University head coach Jerry Kill regarding the 2009 Huskie football signees.
"I wanted to first of all thank everyone that was involved in the recruiting process. Sometimes, when you think about recruiting, you think about the head coach and the assistant coaches. In our case, our faculty, administration, the people within this building, did a great job in our recruiting process. We were fortunate that most of our class has been here on campus, we've had them in camps, we've had deans talk to our youngsters, and I really think we did a great job as a team in recruiting this class. We've had a lot of input so I want to thank our team for the recruiting process.
"We feel like we've got some commitments from some outstanding young men. We know a lot about them because we've seen them and spent time with them. That doesn't guarantee success, but you do cut down on mistakes. It's also a very athletic class. We've got some kids that can run, kids with some length, strength, and we feel good character. Of course you'll never know how they'll make that transition into college football, but that's where we come in.
"At this point in time it may be the first time in the history of my recruiting that I told them we had to have everything in by 9:30 a.m. because we were on a tight schedule. Our recruiting coordinator, P.J. Fleck, has done a great job. We had them all by 9:30 this morning so they listen well. We are off to a good start. Ms. Francine St. Clair [Senior Associate AD/Academic Support] feels very good about that because that's important in the learning process here. Again, I can't emphasize the importance of the people that helped in the recruiting process, and the Yordon Center. I thank Jeff [Yordon] and all the people who contributed to this place. This was our first time to recruit to the Yordon Center, and it helped us. It jump-started us, and the bowl game jump-started us. We're very fortunate that we have had all these people pitch in. Hopefully the class will perform like we think they should. Our expectations are certainly high for them."
On Recruiting Strategy
"First of all, you have to see if they are going to fit in with what you are going to do, and that's the great thing about this class. We had over 700 kids on campus over summer through our camps. When you get to work with a youngster, you get to see how they learn, how they react to the coaches, how they are going to fit here. It's important to the coaches that they fit. I think that we did a good job in evaluating that.
"You don't want to recruit characters. You want to recruit character. I think we did a good job of that.
"Again, you go into athleticism and you want athletic youngsters. The first guy, as I just looked at the list, Zach Anderson a 6-2, 280-pound defensive lineman from Ladysmith, Wisconsin. He was here in our camp. He can dunk a basketball and was third in the nation in Greco wrestling, so you know he knows how to use his hands. He's got great feet, great explosion, and he's a good listener. We had him here in camp and we got to visualize that. We got to see it, and we knew he would fit with our style of coaching.
"Again, the guys we recruit, they have to get by the position coach and the coordinator. If those guys don't feel comfortable, I'm not going to force them on our coaches because that's a bad thing. If you force a player on one of your coaches, they're never going to coach them. They're going to coach them if they feel comfortable with those kids. So we put an emphasis on their visits, and those kinds of things. I think kids that early commit, and don't go to visits, get caught up in the big picture. You want to make sure it's a good situation and a good fit."
Can you talk about the six players from Florida; it looks like you were able to use your contacts from Miami to get some key players from there.
"I will tell you a great thing about the Chicagoland area [is that] four of those six recruits [from Florida] have family in Chicago. You would never think that, and it's amazing. That helps us when we go to those places. Coach Reeves, Coach Tuke [Matukewicz] and Coach Sawvel we've been together a long time, and we've recruited those areas, so there's a base there. There's a connection there; we know the coaches. If you look at our recruiting class, we know somebody or we have connections with the schools that we trust. When you talk about APR and all those things you have to really look at the big picture, so we're excited about that. Those guys [in Florida] did a nice job and actually one of those youngsters went to Joliet Junior College, which was a good fit for us and an easy transition for him."
What kind of impact did the bowl game have on the recruiting process?
"Well I think there's no question that it had an impact. It was on national TV, we were the only game in town, and even though we lost the game, we played very well. I think people saw that. I get phone calls from throughout the country, so you can't put a price on what exposure does to you. That's the expectation of where we want to go and I think we need some playmakers, and I think that helps."
Did you notice any commitments soon after the bowl game or soon after the announcement of the bowl game?
"I don't think that you really look at it that way. What happened was, some of those kids that were trying to pick which school they were going to go to and they said hey this is where we're going to go. It kind of helped us.
"Some of them had a Big Ten school, Big 12 school come back on them late, and they held on to their commitment [to NIU]. But that again goes back to the relationships. If you have coaches that trust you, once a kid makes a commitment they say that's it. If you don't have that relationship, then it's an open door deal and you get into all the de-commitment things, and to my knowledge we did not have anyone de-commit. Well, there were a couple we didn't get toward the end, I didn't get it done - so to speak - and that still burns me a little bit, but I'm a pretty competitive guy. But other than that, we didn't have anyone de-commit which is unusual also."
How would you say this class rates, compared to last year's?
"Well I think you have to understand, it's a year-long process in recruiting. We're already off looking at juniors. I've been in Chicagoland for a week last week going around to high schools, meeting and finding out who is going to be on the list, we're watching film, it's a year-long process.
"When we got here [in December 2007], recruiting was pretty much done and I will tell you that Coach Novak and his staff had six or seven commitments and those kids are all going to be good players. They did a good job. We added three or four into the mix, and that was our recruiting class.
"So this year is really, as far as our staff and the yearly process, our first baby. I think that this is a much larger class and we've been able to be much more thorough. We feel very good about the off-season right now. We are a totally different looking team for the off-season. I've been on the road for three weeks and last year we had 24 guys working out that were injured; this year, we have one. Our team looks entirely different and that credit goes to Coach [Eric] Klein and the strength staff, [athletic trainer] Kammy [Powell], our team doctors, that whole group has done a great job. So we are much farther along, I feel much more comfortable about where we are as a football program and as a team then a year ago at this time."
Coach, you mentioned the other day exhaustion as a factor at this time of year, what do you do to keep the enthusiasm going?
"The [assistant] coaches are a lot more exhausted, but they are very competitive people and if one of them is going to get me to eight schools, another one is going to get me to nine. They don't even let Coach Kill eat lunch half the time. It's a process when you're out on the road and you drive out to Ladysmith, Wisconsin and that's about six hours in the car. You go, and they feed you good food, and you eat all that food, and then two hours later you get back in the car and you drive another six hours. Coach Fleck comes by at five in the morning, because he's got 20 schools for me [to visit] so it's going to wear you out a little bit. But my enthusiasm takes me about two cups of coffee and maybe eight or 10 hours of getting away from it, and I'm ready to go, because we've got a lot to look forward to right now, and a lot of work to get done."
Any Me'co Browns in this class, any guys that can make an immediate impact on the team this year?
"I'm going to go out and say in honor of my old coach they are all paper tigers until they get adjusted to college life and play. But I will say that there isn't anybody on this list that I don't feel isn't going to make an impact on this football team at one time or another. There is some athleticism in this class, there is no question. But are they going to be able to handle going to study hall, going to school, and then practice and then you go to the weight room and do all that. I think that's yet to be seen. We talk about [2008 freshman running back] Me'co and he's still going through the college adjustment, and I think it's a process for those college freshman.
"But I will tell you I hope to redshirt some of these kids. We're trying to sustain a program that wins year in and year out. We did that at Southern [Illinois]. I left there and they were 10-2 or 9-3 and in the play-offs [this yeaer]. And they get 10 out of 11 back on defense and they are going to win again next year. That's where we want to be, we want to make it where the expectation is `hey we're going to the Independence Bowl, gosh that's great.' We need to make it the expectation that we are going to do that every year, and the only way to do that is you've got to get those classes where you've got 15 to 20 seniors every single year.
"We've got a lot to do, we need to balance it out. A lot of it has to do with how our kids do in the off-season, because there is somebody working out right now that we don't expect to play that [will] turn around and do great things for us. Marcus Perez, look what that kid did for us this year, we weren't expecting that, shoot I sat him out the first game, I don't know if that was good or bad, but he still had a pretty good year.
"In our coaching staff meeting this morning, I'm going `I think we should take so-and-so and they go `Coach, Coach, Coach we're fine, we know the kids we recruited. We're in great shape, leave it alone.' Those last second decisions sometimes cost you for four or five years. We feel very good about the kids on this list right now."
Coach NIU has a lot of positives you can bring out when you're recruiting. Is there one major selling point you and your staff pitched to these kids?
"Well I think that the biggest thing, in my opinion, is that when we get kids on campus, we have a great chance to get them. I'll tell you why, our players do a great job. It's not something that I do, it's something that Coach Fleck and Coach Novak have done. I don't know who started it. Our players sit there and talk to them, and I don't know what they say, but they are going to ask those kids what they think of the coaches and the school. I think our players have had great experience; they do a great job selling the school.
"Academically, the school sells itself. The leadership of our school with our president, when you put a video on of the fight song, and the president is right in the middle singing it, there isn't any other president doing that. We have so many things like that to sell, but the number one thing is when we get them on campus, when they get in contact with the coaches, the players, the administration, I think they leave here thinking, man these people are genuine. There are people out there that sell you and they drill you, and then they turn around and they are a whole different person. I think [recruits] understand that our staff is genuine, what you see is what you get.
"I will tell you, sometimes I de-recruit them, I tell them - I'm hard-nosed, it's tough, you miss study hall and you're going to be in a yellow shirt. I doubt anybody else in the country is going to tell them that. I don't want them transferring out of here and our APR going down the tubes. I want them to know this is not easy and we've got great examples. When you can talk about a guy like Larry English, or Ryan Diem, or PJ Fleck that's played here and coaching here, and their experiences, I think it's a pretty good sell."
Two of these guys -- AJ Hill and Ryan Salerno -- obviously had the help that you coached their brothers.
"Well I think there's no question about that, [NIU kicker] Mike [Salerno] had a tremendous year for us and did a great job, and I put Mike on scholarship. He was a walk on and a very good kid so I took care of him. A.J. is a youngster I'm excited about because, first off, his brother coached him this past year so he knows a lot of things. He used to come to practice so he knows our coaching staff. Another thing is Nick, who played very well for us at Southern, his passion was basketball. He played AAU he went to Western Kentucky on a basketball scholarship, but then things didn't work out and he turned to football whereas AJ's been a football youngster his entire life. We are excited about the opportunity to coach him, and like I said, his folks know what we're about so that's important."
-- NIU --