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NIU lands prized Ohio running back

(MCT) — Taking advantage of Northern Illinois' historic appearance in the Orange Bowl last month, Huskies coach Rod Carey welcomed his first signing class Wednesday.

And at least two of his prized recruits are coming to DeKalb after coaching changes at schools where they had committed previously.

For instance, NIU landed prize running back Aregeros "Ducee" Turner from Copley, Ohio, who reportedly changed his mind about Cincinnati after coach Butch Jones left for Tennessee.

The 5-foot-9, 180-pound Turner also had been recruited by Illinois, Michigan State, Purdue, Tennessee, Toledo, Washington and West Virginia.

"Part of this (recruiting) deal today is a little overrated," Carey said. "It gets hyped up to a point where you talk about maneuvering pieces (when it's) about people.

"We got on some guys later in the process, but we aren't going to take anybody that we didn't know."

Carey said most of the recruits committed before the Orange Bowl and their quality reflects the success the Huskies have had winning the Mid-American Conference the last two seasons./

"When you look at our later commitments (such as Turner, Ryan) Stendler and Malik Mitchell), the talent level they have is right on par with what we've been getting. We feel good about that."

Turner is a four-time all-area and all-conference player who was his team's MVP in each of his four seasons. As a senior he ran for 1,378 yards on 208 carries (6.6-yard avg.) and scored 19 touchdowns. He also had 17 catches for 249 yards and two touchdowns last season.

NIU's signed 12 offensive players, 10 defensive, one "athlete" and one specialist.

"We have seven state champions in this class," Carey said. "And that is a big deal to me. And we have one state runner-up. Guys who know how to win are a big asset."

Jordan Huff is a 5-11, 205-pound back from Mobile, Ala., who will join NIU incumbents Jimmie Ward and Marlon Moore from that home town.

As a senior at St. Paul's Episcopal School Huff rushed for 967 yards and 16 touchdowns despite coming off a knee injury.

Jamaal Payton from Proviso West, is a two-time all-state linebacker who had 375 tackles, 16 forced fumbles, 13 pass breakups, seven interceptions, four blocked kicks and two fumble recoveries in three seasons. He was named player of the year in the West Suburban Conference's Silver Division. Payton also played running back and gained 1,002 yards and scored 25 touchdowns as a senior.

"You look at last year's class, we had big guys," Carey said. "This year we had to get more skill and we had to get more defensive backs. (We got) six in this class and the next is three for any one position. We had to get going with some skill."

Coaching assignments: Carey announced the following coaching changes: Bob Cole is the new offensive coordinator; tight ends and fullbacks coach Kevin Kane adds duties as special teams coordinator; Joe Tripodi is the full-time offensive line coach; Brett Diersen will serve as NIU's recruiting coordinator in addition to his defensive line duties; Roy Manning and Thad Ward will work with running backs and wide receivers, respectively.

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