With just seven weeks from his hiring date to Signing Day — not including the two-plus weeks he devoted to Wisconsin’s Rose Bowl exploits — Dave Doeren didn’t have quite enough time to snag every recruit he wanted.
“There were some kids in Chicago that were committed elsewhere that I think, if we had been here longer, we would have gotten,” Doeren said.
“You’re like, ‘Aw, I wish we could get in on that guy,’ and I know if he was there a year from now, I would have been in on him.”
This time around, Doeren and his staff more than made up for the local shortfall by piling up riches from Florida, Missouri and other places that he recruited during his five years as Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator.
Doeren, introduced on Dec. 13 as Jerry Kill’s successor, unveiled a 22-man recruiting class Wednesday that features five Florida speedsters and six hard-nosed Missouri preps.
In several instances, Doeren tapped talented players he evaluated at Wisconsin’s summer camps.
“That was one of the first things I did (after being hired) was make a list of players that weren’t going to be at Wisconsin that I thought were good enough to be here,” Doeren said. “Some of them were good enough to be there; we just didn’t have enough room for them because we filled up pretty early.”
To replenish NIU’s graduation-ravaged secondary, the Huskies signed Fort Lauderdale safety Khambrel Garland, Fort Lauderdale cornerback Michael Neal, Naples cornerback Jhony Faustin, Proviso West safety Rasheen Lemon and Ohio safety Tre Moore.
Faustin, who committed to Purdue in 2009, spent last season at Ellsworth (Iowa) C.C. and has four years to play three seasons.
To rebuild at receiver, NIU snagged Missouri tight end Devonte’ Majors (whom Doeren sees in the mold of ex-Wisconsin all-American Travis Beckum) and Florida duo Tommylee Lewis and A.J. Sebastiano.
Perhaps most important to NIU’s desire to equal or exceed last year’s 11-3 record, Doeren mined the junior colleges to find a pair of tailbacks to make up for the losses of Chad Spann and Ricky Crider.
Jamal Womble, a former four-star recruit who began his career at North Carolina, and Leighton Settle, the son of Wisconsin running backs coach John Settle, already are attending classes at NIU.
Linebackers coach Tom Matukewicz, the lone holdover from Kill’s staff, worked his connections at Hutchinson (Kan.) Junior College to bring in the powerful Womble, who left UNC after an injury led to academic issues.
“He’s a guy that on a normal day, NIU might not have been recruiting him out of high school because he was being recruited by everybody,” Doeren said. “(Settle) is more of a slasher; really can accelerate. Has got really good hands. Jamal is a pounder. Not that he can’t run by people — he can — but he’s a 245-pound kid.”
Doeren also needed to find immediate help with specialists as the Huskies graduated their kicker, punter and long snapper.
Wisconsin’s Tyler Wedel, who hand-delivered his DVD to the Doerens’ suburban Madison, Wis., home shortly after his hiring, will handle the punting and potentially the kicking as well.
Boomer Mays (Eudora, Kan.) not only ranked among the nation’s top long snappers, he earned all-state honors at linebacker.
“I think we met a lot of needs,” Doeren said. “We got a lot of good in-state kids that we battled our butts off to get. I think that’s important. We want to build around what’s here first.”
Ÿ For more on all 22 NIU recruits, check Lindsey Willhite’s “Joe Sports” blog at dailyherald.com.Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.