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Daily Herald on 2004 Football Recruits
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DiehardHuskie Offline

Posts: 9,495
Joined: Jan 2004
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I Root For: The Hard Way
Location: Oswego, IL
Post: #1
Huskies succeed out of state, as well

By Adam Rittenberg Daily Herald Sports Writer
Posted February 05, 2004

Northern Illinois didn't need a 10-2 record and wins over Maryland and Alabama to resonate with top local prep players.

See, Huskies coach Joe Novak has become somewhat of a czar in regional recruiting. In eight seasons, Novak and his staff have pillaged Chicago and its surrounding suburbs for players like Justin McCareins and Michael Turner.

To no surprise, Wednesday's newest recruiting class featured homegrown talent such as Riverside-Brookfield's Britt Davis and Naperville Central's Chris Nendick. The Huskies' success - and the national recognition that came with it - held more weight with out-of-state studs like Evans Adonis, a second-team all-state wideout from Miami.

"Those kids knew all about us," Novak said. "They'd seen the Maryland game on TV. They knew we beat Alabama. Being able to walk into a school far away and talk to kids that think a lot of your program, that sure makes things easier."

Novak nabbed eight players from within a one-hour radius of campus and also had strong success in Wisconsin, where he found five defenders and an offensive tackle.

The Huskies added depth at tight end with Ryan Tuggle, a 6-foot-4, 255-pound tank from Bartlett. Rivals.com rated Tuggle the state's No. 23 prospect.

"He's a kid who will only get bigger," Novak said of Tuggle. "He's very athletic and I think he could really play on either side of the ball very well."

Arguably Novak's best pickup was Davis, who amassed more than 7,700 yards of total offense in two seasons as a starter. A speedster who runs a 4.35 in the 40, Davis reunites with his older brother, Brandon, a redshirt freshman tight end for the Huskies.

Senior quarterback Josh Haldi's job is safe, Novak said, but Davis and Dan Nicholson, a signal-caller from Chicago's Brother Rice, will be names to watch.

"I'm excited about both of those kids," Novak said. "They're excellent prospects and they'll both have a chance to compete the year after Josh graduates."

The departure of All-American kicker Steve Azar makes Nendick the new class' top candidate to play this fall. Nendick nailed 29 of 30 extra points in his prep career and last season blasted 85 percent of his kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks.

Meanwhile, Novak added another section to the pipeline from Wheaton North to DeKalb with running back T.J. Griffin, who joins former teammates A.J. Harris, Zach Ullrich and Bob McClearen.

Griffin recovered form two torn ACLs during his junior year and rushed for 720 yards and 4 touchdowns as a senior.

"His best football is still in front of him, without question," Wheaton North coach Matt Foster said. "A lot of kids don't respond from those surgeries. He's a warrior on the field and one of the most competitive kids I've ever worked with."
02-05-2004 11:40 AM
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