Feb. 6, 2008
NORTHERN ILLINOIS HEAD COACH JERRY KILL
"We are very excited about this class. I've been around coaching for 24 years and you are always excited on signing day. We feel good about our class. It's very small, but we think we filled some needs, specifically, we feel like we have some speed that will fit in with what we are trying to do here at Northern Illinois. We had to do some unique things in the recruiting process because we got started so late. The Chicago area was difficult because a lot of those kids had already committed. Coach [P.J.] Fleck [NIU recruiting coordinator] did a tremendous job in getting us jump-started, not only for this class, but we got a head start on the juniors as well. We look forward to working with this group, as well as with the players that we have here already. We continue to recruit the kids that we have here on campus to help them adapt to the coaching staff."
On any surprise signings:
"They were two or three youngsters that we were going down to the wire with last night. A couple of the young men down south, like Meco [Brown] we didn't know about, but he committed to us. I can't believe he was still hanging around. He had a tremendous career and for us to have an opportunity to land him late is great. You just never know until signing day sometimes.
"Brian Lawson from Park Forest, Illinois is another one that we are excited about. He was a good wrestler and ran track. He looks like [NIU defensive end and 2007 MAC Player of the Year] Larry English and that's always good when you look like Larry. Maurice Coon went back and forth. He tricked me last night and said he changed his mind and was going to commit to South Florida. I told him that he didn't want to do that and then he goes, `I'm just messing with you,' after he dragged it on for about five minutes. That was tough, but in the south they generally don't commit early so the recruiting wars end up going to the last minute.
"We were very surprised with Brandon Rogers, our quarterback. The great thing about that is that it goes back to my coaching connection and the guy that [when we were at Southern Illinois] sent us Brandon Jacobs, who played in the Super Bowl. He called me and said, `I've got one of those guys," and when you get sent a Brandon Jacobs, you tend to listen to those guys."
On the effect of the coaching transition:
"The tough situation was that we came in in December and had to put a recruiting class together in a short amount of time and most of the players had already committed. Coach Fleck and [Jeff] Phelps did a great job telling us what we needed to do and where to go and that's why we hired them. The advantage we had is that I have coached in five different states and I have connections in each."
On whether he was recruiting any of these players at SIU:
"No, not really. It's a different group of kids. I knew a couple, but we didn't think we could get those type of kids at Southern Illinois."
On the challenge of getting Kevin Sabock without his father being a coach anymore:
"It went great. Coach Sabock is a great man and has been in this profession for a long time. He was very professional and he has a great family. It worked out well. Everybody felt comfortable with the situation and it worked out great. It actually helps us out in recruiting."
On his excitement for this class:
"It's actually a much smaller class than normal. I've never had a class this small, but I feel good about it. We are going to lose three cornerbacks next year and I feel we have a couple coming in this class. We are going to lose three defensive linemen and we have those types of bodies in this class too. Larry English has helped NIU win a lot of football games and that's the type of players we are trying to bring in."
On what position Tommy Davis will start out:
"We will start him out at cornerback, but we feel he could be an inside receiver as well. He has a 38-inch vertical jump and is a great punt returner as well. He was recruited by Stanford and Air Force. He is a very smart individual. His dad played at Iowa State, so there is a very good bloodline there."
On whether he plans to play the recruits early:
"It's always hard to say. I never guarantee a player playing time. They will have the opportunity and we figure that out during camp. Do they have the ability? Sure, there are some kids who could play right now. Do they have the maturity? College football is a different thing. Can they handle it? A lot of kids can't and we will redshirt them. Some of them can and they certainly will have the opportunity to play. College football is a whole different thing. Some kids come from high schools that run similar programs and some do not. A lot of it is where you come from and how mature you are as a freshman."
On any de-commitments with the coaching changes:
"We really had just a couple situations in the nature, but not bad. We had to re-recruit the players that were already here. We have to hit the Chicago area hard and we have been recruiting a lot of juniors because of the late start that we had. It's important for us to go after the juniors because we will have a big class next year."
On the type of players that they focused on besides speed:
"We've had to make some tough decisions, but the thing that I like about it is that we got the kids that wanted to come to Northern Illinois. That's important. We brought in a kid from Mississippi that sees the snow and still wants to come here because he had heard of Garrett Wolfe and Michael Turner. With speed, you have a chance. We are looking for athletic kids with character and that want to be at NIU. You have to get kids that want to be here and that's the most important thing in recruiting."
On whether any of the kids will be in spring camp:
"We have two kids that will be with us. Darnell [Bolding] and Chase [Mejia] will be in camp and they are in school right now. Chase graduated high school early so they will be working out and going to school."
On whether or not they lost recruits with the coaching change:
"I'm sure we did, but I think Coach Novak did a great job and communicated with the recruits about the situation. I feel it went as smooth as it possibly could have."
On how it might be easier to have a solid base of kids and not having to bring in a large class:
"It's one of those things that no matter what, you get after it [in recruiting]. We are always recruiting. The problem with our base is that some of the kids will not be with us in the offseason because of the injuries that remain from last year and some of those are starters. 15 or 16 of them will not play spring ball. The injury bug drove Coach Novak crazy and now it's starting to drive me crazy because we haven't gotten healthy yet and that's a concern, but we have to concentrate on the ones that we do have healthy."
On how keeping Fleck and Phelps [from Novak's staff] has helped:
"We would not be where we are today with our program if it wasn't for them. I can't say enough about Coach Fleck and the job he has done. I put a lot of pressure on him and told him that we needed him and as the recruiting coordinator he has done a great job. Without both of those guys here we would have been in trouble. I'm just so glad that they decided to stay with Coach Kill."
On who the best recruit is:
"I've never been a guy who has said, `this guy is the best recruit." We have a very good class. I can't say this guy is better than the other. You just don't know until they make that transition. We were very careful, we only had 10 scholarships so we weren't just giving them out. I feel we brought in a good group of players."
On how junior college players could impact the team sooner than freshman:
"They do have a little bit of experience, but the thing about the junior college players that we recruited is that they all have three years left and one even has a redshirt year left, which is highly unusual. They will have a little bit more experience, but at the same time we have brought in players before that came from good programs and can have an immediate impact because of it."
On any sleepers in the class:
"It's always hard for me to say. I don't think Maurice Coon is a sleeper, but for us to get him out of the state of Florida for a guy who is 238 pounds and can play tailback, defensive end, return punts and kicks. He ran a 4.51 40-yard dash at the combine. We are very, very fortunate to get him out of the state of Florida. He was injured his junior year and sometimes that takes a recruit off of the radar, but we are fortunate to have him."
On how the Yordon Center has helped with recruiting:
"There's no question about that. Anytime you can bring a youngster into a facility of this caliber, it's going to help. It's a great selling point. Kids visit from all over the country and they want that glitter. There's no question that the Yordon Center has that and I think we will see more of an impact in the future when we have bigger classes come in, but there is no question that it was a factor."
-- NIU --