These were the two classes that made up most of the seniors for Coach Kill's first two seasons at the helm of Northern Illinois.
All though recruiting rankings are overblown a lot of the time, if you look close enough there is a distinct trend between success in recruiting and success on the field. There are exceptions because some coaches severely lack in either in developing players or in-game playcalling. Or both (see: Ron Zook, Charlie Weis).
Every year in recruiting, you have to accept the fact that half these kids won't make it. You have to recruit a good quality kid who won't flunk out of school or get in trouble with the law. Just assessing the heart that a kid has is a tough thing to do. The uncontrollable fact is that nobody knows who will sustain a severe injury and who won't.
You can't completely whiff on a recruiting class and expect to be successful four years into the future. This is what happened to the 2003 class. Just go through that list and try and identify some of those players. Maybe 3 or 4 of the 20 kids recruited that year made it through their senior year. None of them were captains. A lot of the kids washed out due to any one of the reasons I mentioned above. The result was a 2-10 season in 2007 that I would like to forget.
The 2004 class was a bit better in that it achieved a 6-6 record their senior season and an appearance in the Independence Bowl in Jerry Kill's 1st year. Remember that these players were recruited for a completely different system on both sides of the ball. And also remember that the 2004 class was recruited after the 2003 season and so on.
The 2004 Class: Rivals #2 Class in the MAC (next to Marshall)
All-MAC (4/24) 17%
- RT John Brost (2x 3rd Team)
- DE Larry English
- MLB Tim McCarthy (3rd Team)
- K Chris Nendick (2x HM, Didn't redshirt)
Starters (5/24) 21% + 17% = 38%
- WR Britt Davis (Starter from 2006-07)
- RG Dan Keller
- DT Alex Krutsch (Walk-on)
- DE Craig Rusch (Missed 2007 season to knee injury)
- WR Matt Simon (Starter in 2007)
Role-players (6/24) 25%
- WR Evans Adonis
- TE Brandon Beal
- RB Montell Clanton (ACL injuries in 2006 & 2007)
- MLB T.J. Griffin
- QB Dan Nicholson (Always injured)
- WR Marcus Perez (Late Signee, always injured)
Early Exits (9/24) 38%
- QB Chris Carr (Greyshirted then transferred to UCF)
- DL Bryan Holicek (Career-ending Knee injuries, DNP 2005 season)
- SS Bill Ikegwuonu (X-Box incident during 2006 season)
- DB Justin Johnson (DNP 2005 season)
- TE David Koronkiewicz (Career-ending elbow injuries in 2007)
- DL Mike Matar (DNP 2005 season)
- CB Vincent Matthew (Quit before 2008 season to focus on academics)
- DE Zach Osburn (Transferred to Hope to play basketball after 2005 season)
- OL Ryan Tuggle (Career-ending injury, DNP 2006 season)
The 2005 Class: Rivals #1 Class in the MAC (tied with Akron)
All-MAC (3/25) 12%
Starters (6/25) 24% + 12% = 36%
- OLB Josh Allen (Didn't redshirt)
- TE Reed Cunningham
- P Andy Dittbenner (Didn't redshirt)
- OLB Cory Hanson
- CB Melvin Rice Jr. (Didn't redshirt)
- CB Bradley Pruitt (Didn't redshirt)
Role-players (6/25) 24%
- MLB Phil Brown (2006 knee injury hampered his production)
- FS David Bryant (Plagued 2009 season with ankle/knee injuries)
- OL Kevin Skatrud (ACL injury before 2009 season)
- WR Greg Turner (Greyshirted)
- WR Preston Williams
- OLB Spencer Williamson
Early Exits (10/25) 40%
- FB Anthony Antonacci (Career-ending knee injury, DNP 2009 season)
- FS Jeff Fontana (Missed 2008 season due to injury in Spring game)
- OL Ethan Gill (DNP 2007 season)
- DL Adam Grimm (Career-ending back injury, DNP 2007 season)
- RT Tony Holmes (DNP 2009 season)
- LB Zach Larsen (DNP 2009 season)
- OL Tim Mayerbock (Career-ending injury, DNP 2008 season)
- WR Orlando Moore (DNP 2007 season, academics)
- OL Jake Wertz (DNP 2009 season)
- WR Justin Williams (DNP 2006 season)
2004 Class: 17% All-MAC, 38% Starters, 25% Role-players, 38% Early Exits
2008 Record: 6-7, Independence Bowl Loss to La Tech
2005 Class: 12% All-MAC, 36% Starters, 24% Role-players, 40% Early Exits
2009 Record: 7-6, International Bowl Loss to USF
Ideally, you probably want over 40% of the class becoming starters and less than 30% of players leaving the program early. The star power just isn't there. Out of two classes, your best players by far are Larry English and Eddie Adamski. Nobody else comes even close. And where are the skill players?
Both of these classes are a mixed bag of surprisingly similar results. It's amazing that even due to the increased turnover because of the coaching change that these players were able to churn out two straight bowl appearances. There could have been a lot more players leaving after Kill took charge, but credit Larry English for keeping this team together throughout the 2008 transition year. I just have that much more respect for #51 for leading this team.
The amount of careers ended or affected by injuries is ridiculous. These past couple years haven't been nearly as bad the few seasons before. It also just goes to show you that success on the football field (from 2003-04) doesn't necessarily equal the same success in recruiting. Rankings are silly when you're looking at mid-major classes and you can completely throw them out when a new head coach has to work with leftover players.
Like I said, these classes could have been a lot worse. But what these (sub) mediocre type of classes bring you is ho hum 6-6 or 7-5 records playing in the MAC and losses in bowl games to superior opponents. And I don't believe Novak could have done any better than Kill did these past couple years. That's not a knock or anything on 'ol Joe, but rather a commending of what success the new NIU coaches did have with a relatively shallow talent pool.
I could head way back and check out how the 2002 and before classes did, but that's for sometime else during this off-season.
OMG STAR RANKINGS!!! These 3-star players had good talent, but most failed to live up to the hype for whatever reason:
- QB Britt Davis: Switched to WR, but never really took grasp of the position.
- ATH Justin Anderson: Had a great year in 2007, but fell victim to coaching change in 2008
- LB Phil Brown: Severe knee injury in 2006 really hurt his career
WR Orlando Moore: Flunked out
CB Melvin Rice Jr: Solid if unspectacular 3-year starter for the Huskies
There's been some rumblings about some players leaving from the 2006 class, so we'll take a look at what 5th year guys are still around and how much of an impact that will have on the 2010 season in the next couple days leading up to signing day on Wednesday.