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NIU

Carter: Football class of 2020, recruiting tactics teasing the imagination

As Northern Illinois football’s first months-long recruiting period slows in July, it’s become a bit more obvious what the new coaching staff is doing better than anyone else in the Mid-American Conference.

It’s selling a vision that recruits want to see for themselves.

The frequency with which the Huskies coaching staff shares its excitement over hosting visits, meeting potential players and doing so while exuding a genuine enthusiasm is a breath of fresh air, and it’s paying dividends in how sold on the program the commits appear to be.

For every WWE reaction image, glossy graphic and Will Ferrell GIF on Twitter shared by seemingly half the coaching staff, including head coach Thomas Hammock, their ability to connect with recruits is not only doing its job by selling the program, but it’s also opening up the veil and allowing fans to look at the personality of the first-year staff.

After going nose-to-the-grindstone to hit the Chicago suburbs, Wisconsin, Florida and New Jersey hard, the Huskies picked up their two highest-rated recruits within the past two weeks of June, one from Michigan and one from Nebraska.

Quarterback Dustin Fletcher of Flint, Michigan, and running back Jeyvon Ducker of Bellevue, Nebraska, come in as far and away the highest rated recruits, with plenty of fanfare surrounding their verbal declarations.

Look back at some of the more highly-rated recruits of the last handful of Rod Carey years – Isaac Hawn, Agregeros Turner, Spencer Tears and D.J. Brown are examples – and you’ll notice players who, while having had an effect, have notblossomed into the superstar players that have fueled NIU to MAC championships.

Although Tears and Brown were playmakers in the title game last year, it’s the likes of recruits lower on the totem pole from the high school Class of 2015, including Max Scharping, Sutton Smith, Kyle Pugh, Josh Corcoran and more who were all-conference performers. Only Pugh was considered top five in the class that year according to 247Sports.com.

The way NIU is gathering athletes on the coasts, in the South, and with linemen in Wisconsin and the Chicago suburbs figures to work n the Huskies’ favor. Mark me down as sold in that department.

To have the highest-rated recruits at the quarterback and running back positions is reason enough to be excited when imaging their potential playmaking abilities in the context of offensive coordinator Eric Eidsness’s system.

All things considered, this class isn’t any more impressive across the board than was last year’s for example, but the two standouts produce an exciting outlook that has plenty of buzz.

The biggest difference going forward is likely to be Hammock’s staff playing up its connections in Wisconsin and on the coasts. Already, NIU has seven commits from Wisconsin from the 2020 high school class, compared with four in the 2019 class. Already, NIU has 2020 commits from Florida and New Jersey. The Huskies also are trying to make inroads in Georgia. Connections from New Jersey, presumably from New Jersey native Tony Sorrentino, already have helped the Huskies to land three-star recruit Mohamed Toure late in the 2019 class.

When considering the incoming transfers NIU has recruited, including Marshe Terry at safety and Ross Bowers at quarterback, it adds up to a haul that has many people excited, and deservedly so.

NIU’s new football staff likes to talk about trusting its eyes when it’s out recruiting, but the numbers and the surrounding rhetoric are starting to raise the collective excitement around the Huskies’ football program as fall camp draws near.

Although NIU has pulled in three-star athletes from the Class of 2020, the Huskies don’t have the best MAC recruiting class as far as any reputable recruiting service is concerned.

Check the 247Sports.com commits for the MAC, which lists NIU’s 2020 class as fifth-best, well behind that of Western Michigan. Rivals.com has NIU second best, behind, the Broncos. Bowling Green is bringing in the most recruits, with 247Sports.com listing the Falcons as having 20 “hard commits.”

Whatever value you place on those rankings, it will never be as important as the process undertaken when those players who decide to stick with the Huskies get to campus and start working with the team.

That being said, one could be forgiven for thinking this class is far and away more exciting than years past.

It’s all in the messaging, and people – most importantly recruits – are buying in.

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