Shortly after wrapping up his duties as Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator in the Rose Bowl loss to TCU on New Year’s Day, first-year NIU head coach Dave Doeren started his recruiting blitz across the eastern part of the United States.
In addition to spending “a lot” of time in Illinois, Doeren traveled to Missouri, Kansas, Tennessee and Florida to help corral the 22-man recruiting class that he unveiled Wednesday at Yordan Center. That Florida trip was a three-day extravaganza that hit several hotspots Doeren recruited while at Wisconsin and Kansas.
Here’s a look at the class:
ALREADY IN SCHOOL:
RB Jamal Womble (Sierra Vista, AZ/Hutch JC)
Four-star prep recruit played as a redshirt freshman at North Carolina, where he carried 6 times for 41 yards before breaking his wrist. Academic issues led him to Hutchinson (Kan.) Junior College last fall, where he posted 126 carries, 741 yards and 8 TDs. He’s a 245-pound bruiser who’ll compete immediately with Jasmin Hopkins and Cameron Bell for carries….and the next guy on the list will be a factor, too.
RB Leighton Settle (Madison, WI/Fresno CC)
The 5-foot-10, 190-pound son of John Settle -- Dave Doeren’s coaching colleague at Wisconsin -- is a slasher rushed for 1,714 yards and 23 TDs in 2009 during his senior year at Madison West. The academic qualifier spent last fall at Fresno Community College, but he’ll have four years to play three seasons at NIU.
S Tre’ Moore (Huber Heights, OH)
This 5-foot-11, 195-pound safety left Wayne High School a semester early in order to take part in spring practice. Moore, a potential high-major recruit before an injury kept him off the field for the first part of his senior year, helped unranked Wayne HS get all the way to the Div. I state championship game in December.
SIGNED ON WEDNESDAY:
QB Matt McIntosh (Evansville, IN Reitz HS)
Dual-threat quarterback committed to Jerry Kill during the summer and stuck with the Huskies, in part due to his familiarity with former Indiana offensive coordinator Matt Canada. McIntosh won Indiana’s Gatorade Player of the Year award after completing 131 of 208 passes (63 percent) for 2,202 yards, 29 TDs and 7 INTs. He also rushed for 1,183 yards and 14 TDs for a 13-1 team. A dual-threat QB who fits the Huskies’ style.
TE Devonte’ Majors (O’Fallon, MO/Fort Zumwalt West HS)
One of several recruits Doeren really liked after seeing him at Wisconsin’s summer camps. Viewed as an H-back in the mold of former Wisconsin great Travis Beckum -- he has the ability to line up wide as well -- Majors spent more than three seasons on Fort Zumwalt’s varsity and piled up 153 catches for 1,963 yards and 16 TDs.
WR Tommylee Lewis (Palm Beach Gardens, FL Dwyer HS)
Doeren recruited north Florida hard during his Wisconsin tenure and he hit that spot again for this 5-foot-8, 170-pound acrobat. He caught 31 passes for 595 yards and 7 TDs as a senior. One TD catch that didn’t count made ESPN’s Top 10 countdown for play of the day.
WR A.J. Sebastiano (Coconut Creek, FL/North Broward Prep)
A three-star recruit according to Rivals.com, the 6-foot Sebastiano was one of Florida’s most prolific receivers. He snagged 59 passes for 1,075 yards and 9 TDs as a junior, then backed it up with 60 catches for 1,110 yards and 16 TDs as a senior. He’s also a return specialist and served as his team’s holder on placements. Doeren says Sebastiano even drop-kicked a field goal in a game when the kicker failed to come on the field. “Again, one of my favorite kids in (Wisconsin summer) camp,” Doeren said. “He tore it up now. He was big-time. You go down there and ask anybody who one of the best players is. It’s him.”
TE Kevin Tennenbaum (Buffalo Grove HS)
NIU has a history of hitting the Daily Herald area hard, but this invited walk-on is the only player from the northwest suburbs in this class. Doeren likes his three-sport versatility (football, basketball, baseball) and the Huskies are relatively thin at tight end. Plus, they have a history of recruiting walk-ons at tight end who become scholarship players. Jason Schepler and Jack Marks are current examples.
OT Matt Killian 3-star (St. Charles, MO/Howell HS)
This 6-foot-6, 300-pound left tackle attended summer camps at Wisconsin and Northern Illinois. According to Doeren, he was on the verge of being offered by Jerry Kill in December. Killian committed to Tulane, but switched to NIU when the Huskies came calling.
OL Aidan Conlon Homewood-Flossmoor HS
Once again, NIU plucked a player from another MAC school’s commitment list. Conlon, who helped lead H-F to the Class 8A semifinals, jumped from Western Michigan to the Huskies. “He’s really physical, aggressive,” Doeren said.
C Andrew Ness (St. Louis, MO Christian Brothers HS)
Another lineman from Doeren’s former recruiting grounds that was flipped during the final month. The 6-foot-4, 285-pound Ness was committed to Ball State, but made the switch. He was voted second-team all-Metro in the St. Louis area.
DT Mason Fuller (Chicago/Urban Prep)
Targeted in January when Doeren had seven assistants swarm the Chicago area, this 3-star prospect per Rivals.com also received offers from Kansas and Memphis. Reportedly recorded 18 sacks during his junior year.
DE Cameron Clinton-Earl (Sussex, WI Hamilton HS)
One of the first players in this class to commit to NIU, this Milwaukee resident was voted to the all-state team. Clearly an all-around athlete as he earned all-state honors in the 110 meter high hurdles last year in addition to qualifying for state in the shot put.
MLB Jason Meehan (Webster Groves MO/Webster Groves HS)
Doeren couldn’t stop raving about this two-time St. Louis Post-Dispatch defensive player of the year. Loves his leadership, loves that he went to the Class 5A state title game twice and loves his production (177 tackles, 10 sacks, 5 INT as a senior). He was available because he didn’t run great 40-yard dash times at the camps. “Then you turn the film and he’s running dudes down,” Doeren said. “He’s making tackles. He’s intercepting passes and returning them for touchdowns. The dude plays fast. And he’s big and his leadership skills are phenomenal.”
MLB/snapper Boomer Mays (Eudora, KS Eudora HS)
NIU needs a long snapper immediately because Nolan Owen’s four years of eligibility are up. Mays ranked among the nation’s long snappers on the summer-time kicking circuit. As an added bonus, Mays set Eudora’s career tackles record and also won Max Emfinger All-American Bowl defensive MVP with 13 tackles.
OLB Videl Nelson (Kansas City, MO/Staley HS)
On sheer numbers, this last-minute recruit ranks with the nation’s finest. Nelson stacked up 178 tackles and 16.5 sacks as a senior while earning first-team all-state honors. The Huskies like his quick feet and ability to change direction. Tight ends coach Kevin Kane, who played for Doeren at Kansas and coached for him at Wisconsin, identified Nelson.
CB Jhony Faustin (Naples, FL/Ellsworth CC)
A Purdue recruit following his senior year at Lely High School in 2009, Faustin qualified late and headed to a junior college. He’ll have four years to play three at NIU and could jump right into the mix at corner, where the Huskies lost three seniors.
CB Paris Logan (Columbia, MO/Rock Bridge HS)
Doeren has been long-time friends with Rock Bridge’s coach and initially inquired about Logan while with Wisconsin. When NIU hired Doeren, that coach called him and said Logan’s academic profile had improved. Doeren saw him doing backflips on the Rock Bridge practice field.
CB Michael Neal (Fort Lauderdale, FL/Ely HS)
One of the last recruits to the class, Neal was injured for a good chunk of his senior year. Another tribute to the connections Doeren and linebackers coach Tom Matukewicz have forged in Florida.
S Khambrel Garland (Fort Lauderdale, FL/Aquinas HS)
Doeren’s long-term relationship with Aquinas coach George Smith, as well as lots from work from assistant Tom Matukewicz, enabled the Huskies to snag this player from the 2010 high school national champs. He produced 18 PBUs and 2 INTs in 15 games this year.
S Rasheen Lemon (Proviso West HS)
Lemon committed to NIU shortly before Jerry Kill left for Minnesota and he stayed the course with the new staff. The three-sport standout finished fifth last year at 189 pounds in the Class 3A individual wrestling tournament.
P/ATH Tyler Wedel (McFarland, WI/McFarland HS)
Doeren loves the audacity of this young man. He drove to Doeren’s house shortly after his hiring at NIU, knocked on the door and gave his wife a copy of his highlights DVD. Wedel did everything at McFarland (QB, DB, P, K, KR, PR), but the Huskies need a punter to compete with walk-on Ryan Neir for the job left open by Josh Wilber’s graduation.
NIU also thought it had Sandburg K Tyler Zalewski, but he de-committed extremely late in the game. There's a rumor that one of the local Big Ten teams picked him up as an invited walk-on.