The Huskies withstood a rocky ordeal in early December by doing the unexpected, crushing Fresno State 40-17 in the Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, Idaho. The Huskies finished with a school-record 11th win of the season, concluding one of the best seasons in school history in fitting fashion.
The Huskies weren't expected to put on such a dominating performance after a painful first week in December. Northern Illinois entered the Mid-American Conference Championship game as big favorites over Miami-Ohio. The Huskies entered the title game riding a nine-game winning streak and were undefeated in conference play, but Miami-Ohio shocked the Huskies with a 26-21 victory.
A few days later, NIU coach Jerry Kill announced that he was leaving the program to take the head position at Minnesota. After several assistants left the program to join Kill at Minnesota, linebackers coach Tom Matukewicz was announced as the interim head coach. Prior to the bowl game, the Huskies named Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Doeren to become the next head coach.
The bowl victory capped a memorable season and built the momentum for the recruiting season. Doeren, just like Kill three years ago, had just over a month to assemble a coaching staff and get working on his first recruiting class.
Doeren immediately pinpointed Chicago as the main area of concentration for his first class.
"Being in the Chicagoland area, (NIU) is a great place for parents to send their sons and watch them play and have a great career," Doeren said. "We know a lot of them have ambitions of playing in the Big Ten or at Notre Dame, but not everyone gets to go there. This gives them an outlet, and hopefully we provide the resources to make them aware of what we have to offer."
Doeren has had little time to rest during the last six weeks, assembling a staff was a big priority and assigning regions for the new members to capitalize on NIU's historic 2010 season was a big selling point.
"I thought the assistant coaches did a good job working together on short notice," Doeren said. "We didn't recruit by area, we recruited together. They crossed over by position. Guys recruited all over. We bounced in and out of houses. We tried to get as many members of our staff into living rooms and in schools as possible to make the kids feel as comfortable as they could with all of us because of the short window of time. It was a collaborative effort."
The Huskies signed 22 players, with six of the recruits having already committed to the previous staff. That number showed the amount of work put in by Doeren's staff to bring in a certain type of player to continue the momentum established from last year.
"We found some guys that really fit our profile of NIU football players," Doeren said. "They are tough, hard-nosed, physical, dependable guys. We found guys from winning programs, guys who have won state championships. I am very pleased with this class. I don't think anyone got signed because we needed a name on the list. These are guys that we feel are good enough to play and be here at Northern Illinois. We are adding these guys to our family and I'm not going to take a guy just to take him. I feel really excited and very proud of this group of men that are joining our team, our family."
TOP OF THE CLASS
RB Jamal Womble (Hutchinson Community College, Newton, Kan.) -- The 5-foot-11, 235-pounder is a big back who was ranked as the No. 13 running back in the country as a high school senior before grades made him ineligible to play at North Carolina. He can help soothe over the loss of standout tailback Chad Spann.
TE Devonte Majors (Fort Zumwait West HS, O'Fallon, MO) -- Majors is a rare player with college size at 6-foot-2 and 221 pounds. He will add a few more pounds and the coaching staff expects the three-star Rivals.com recruit to become a major part of the offense in upcoming years.
LB Jason Meehan (Webster Grove HS, St. Louis, MO) -- The three-star Rivals.com signee was a standout in high school, recording 177 tackles and five interceptions last year and guided his team to a state title in his junior year.
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