You can form whatever opinion you want about recruiting, but with out a shadow of a doubt is a vital component of having a good football team. Any scheme you could have possibly come up with would not have beaten the South Florida Bulls in the International Bowl. We weren't big enough and we didn't have the speed to match up with the opponent that Saturday in Toronto and it showed. Kill's first real recruiting class was either a true freshman playing or redshirting, as NIU had one of the younger teams in the nation this past year.
Rivals ranks the Huskies 4th in the MAC behind #1 Toledo, #2 Temple and #3 Kent State. Northern Illinois ranks 83rd overall. So what?
We've already discussed past recruiting classes and why Kill couldn't win more games with Novak's players. Nobody goes back brags about how they beat so-in-so in recruiting 4-5 years ago. So what if we led the MAC in recruiting back then, Central Michigan won the MAC Championship and that's that. Dan LeFevour was a pedestrian player from Lisle, IL back then, just a 2-star prospect with a bunch of MAC offers. Now he's on the verge of becoming a star in the NFL. CMU ranked 6th in the MAC recruiting-wise, but that was the foundation built for 10 wins yesteryear.
Because of the reason stated above, it is important to look at recruiting in a general sense, rather than an end-all be-all. Rivals is just one media outlet. In order to even get on that site, a player must attend one of their camps and/or send gametape. It's also a business, so the teams with bigger fanbases spend more money supporting the site and therefore more attention will be paid to the bigger school's prospects. NIU doesn't even have a rivals site. The HuskiePride scout side does a great job reporting, but evaluation by scout.com itself is paltry.
The Rivals writer for Illinois, EdgyTim, does a great job of getting a lot of the Illinois prospects good exposure throughout the year if they market themselves correctly. That's the issue though, because even though there are a lot of resources out there, kids and parents just don't know that recruiting is a game that starts early in their high school careers. If you wait until your senior year, then you're simply too late to receive maximum exposure to colleges. Here is a slice of Coach Kill's recruiting philosophy:
There are football players and there are ones that like playing football. I want a football player. Not one that just likes playing and at this level I have to get a football player. You've got to get someone that's serious about being a football player and also getting a college degree.
You also have your late bloomers and those kids that simply don't too much marketing of themselves. They just go on the field and play football. This is where mid-major schools salivate and where diamonds in the rough are found. Rivals doesn't even have these guys in their database and come signing day, they just slap 2-stars on them and call it a day.
It's where the rubber meets the road, so after the jump we'll take a look at some of the guys who may have slipped through the cracks:
OT Tyler Pitt (6'6" 278 lbs), McRae, GA
"You have to work to find talent," coach Jerry Kill said. "For Tyler Pitt … I flew into Jacksonville, Fla., and then there was another four-hour drive. He's out in the middle of nowhere in south Georgia. We had to search that out. If Tyler Pitt was here in suburban Chicago, he would have been recruited — I firmly believe — by everybody in the country. The kid is 66-1 in wrestling right now. But you have to search for him to find him now. We have always had a knack as a coaching staff to find those diamonds in the rough. You have to go out and hunt 'em.
No video video evidence, but there is one grainy image to prove this player exists. A photographer died by bear attack trying getting this photo:
DE Joe Windsor (6'1" 225 lbs), Kearney, MO
Another blurb from Kill's press conference:
The 6-foot-1, 225-pound Windsor, who posted 15.5 sacks as a senior and 32.5 for his career, won MaxPreps' Missouri defensive player of the year honor while leading his team to the Class 4A state title.
"This kid hang-cleans 385 pounds, which is unbelievable," Kill said. "He's got great power. He's got the same dip that Larry has. I'm not saying he's Larry English, but he's a younger version of that type of guy. Great explosion. I can't believe we're getting him."
He also has a 38-40" vertical jump and was a 2x All-Stater.
Video evidence: Here's Joe chasing a a running back like a wildabeast and then putting the hammer down as he forces a fumble
QB Casey Weston (6'2" 215 lbs), Prattville, AL
Led the JUCO ranks in passing this past year and has accumulated 4,943 yds and 42 TDs in 2 years at Northwest Mississippi C.C. Won a State Championship as a senior and always had an eye out to play for an SEC school. Coach Kill adds this little story about where they heard of this kid:
"We're driving down the road in Alabama and we're talking about Chandler's situation with the knee and his health situation and we're worried about it right now," Kill said. "Do we take another quarterback? [One of our coaches] texts the head coach from Mississippi State (Dan Mullen) and five minutes later he texted him back and said, 'Hey, I know a guy we were going to offer but he can't come out next semester, bar none he's the best around. If you could get him, a feather in your cap.' "
WR Jayme Wells (5'11" 185 lbs), Combined Locks, WI
Ridiculous athlete from Kimberly HS that played on the NIU baseball team this past year. He was both All-State on offense at WR and on defense playing DB. Wisconsin AP Player of the Year. His final stats on offense: 48 rec for 1,061 yds and 23 TDs. That's INSANE!