EDGY's Huskies grade: B-
How have the Huskies gotten it done on the recruiting trail? Northern Illinois works their recruiting list as hard and as well as anyone. They do a terrific job early on of identifying the top names in the state. But even more importantly, they identify talent regardless of what is stated on their recruiting profile. The Huskies also utilize their campus and satellite camps as well as anyone. They have a knack of getting under the radar types to visit their one day camps, and then swoop in once they see kids who fit their profile. What is that profile? It's based on speed and seeking out the overall athlete, regardless of position. And sure, everybody recruits speed and athletes. But Northern Illinois is willing to project on a kid that is, for instance, an inch or two shorter or 20-30 pounds lighter than the Power Five programs prefer.
Headliner of the in-state class?
Loyola Academy defensive tackle Ben LeRoy (6-foot-3, 255 pounds) is a prime example of a Northern Illinois kid. LeRoy, who quietly dominated in the Chicago Catholic Conference, was so good on film that the Huskies offered him before seeing him in camp. LeRoy is one of those recruits who is an inch or two shorter than many at his spot. But he has the quickness, power and leverage to become a very disruptive force for their defense for years to come. Also: Oswego offensive linemen Austin Warner (6-foot-4, 265 pounds) is another under the radar type who plays with a motor that never stops and always brings a high level of intensity.
The one who got away?
West Aurora safety Drake Spears (6-foot-1, 215 pounds), a full NCAA academic qualifier who recently decommitted from Illinois, showed a lot of early interest in the Huskies, including several unofficial visits before pledging to Illinois. Spears has yet to sign a letter of intent. So never say never?
[MORE PREPS: 2016 National Signing Day - Recruiting tracker]
Final thoughts on Northern Illinois' recruiting efforts:
You can't help but respect and admire "The Hard Way." Northern Illinois has simply gone out and racked up wins, and they always get it done with a combination of projects, under the radar kids, good old fashioned hard work, coaching and developing. And that kind of winning is done on the recruiting trail as well. I don't see them moving away from that formula any time soon. At this stage, my biggest question regarding the Huskies recruiting: when do they break through and land some of those higher profile/highly ranked recruits? Look, I get it ... NIU doesn't want kids who don't want NIU. The university was (for too many years) known locally as a "Fallback U." But that's not the case any longer. They have worked hard to get rid of that reputation and has established themselves as a steady winner. They offer a strong education, a winning football program and arguably the state's best college football program. However, even the staff would admit, that despite the added headaches and personalities of the "higher profile" names, some serious talent and potential "difference makers" can be found in some those names as well.