Battle of Mutual Recruits

In the past the biggest recruiting battles for Western Michigan football were for in-state recruits against CMU, EMU and Toledo. Taken for granted were the MAC level recruits out of the Chicago area, but with the recent success of NIU and newly formed recruiting wars with the Huskies this weekends game will be as much of a rivalry game as any this season.

A quick glance at the WMU roster will reveal a number of players from the Chicago area and other parts of Illinois right in heart of Northern Illinois recruiting territory. "We recruit Chicago as a primary area for us," said WMU head coach Gary Darnell.

Standing out are players like freshman starting safety Scooter McIntosh from McHenry, Ill just minutes from the NIU campus. Other players like junior running back Trovon Riley and senior safety Mark Hardy hail from the area but choose to be Broncos instead.

There are even more players like back-up defensive tackle Joe Alvarez, starting center Robbie Krutilla and Antwain Allen who recently converted from receiver to safety. They all hail from Illinois and were ‘on the radar' of NIU recruiters prior to attending WMU.

"They've got guys on their roster that we didn't recruit and we've got guys playing for us that they didn't recruit," said Darnell adding, "we got guys that we offered [a scholarship too] that are playing there and we've got guys that they offered and went here as opposed to there."

There is even Cory Flom – a defensive tackle being redshirted out of Prior Lake, Minn. – who was the subject of a heated recruiting battle between the two schools.

Then there is the other side of the coin with the Huskies invading west Michigan to go after recruits that would have traditionally been in a battle between WMU and archrival CMU.

The player that jumps out of the NIU roster is Zach Osburn – a defensive tackle out of West Ottawa High School in Holland, MI – who was highly desired by the Bronco coaching staff. "They got him and I almost couldn't believe it," said Darnell.

The meat of the Huskie roster remains the Chicago-land recruits, many of whom both the Broncos and Huskies were very aggressive in recruiting.

"We signed four players to national letters of intent… and they wound up playing at Northern Illinois and two of them went on to the NFL and are still there," lamented Darnell on the troubles of recruiting against NIU recently.

"They have an open door as far as academics over there. If a guy doesn't make his grades he can just go there and become eligible," Darnell added about NIU's admission standards for athletes which he added are much more lenient then most schools including WMU. "We're out of state too. If a guy wants to walk-on between here or there… [Here] it's out of state here so it's a moot point."

Junior tailback A.J. Harris – 6'1" 221lbs. out of Wheaton North – is second in rushing for NIU – was at one time a target of the Broncos. There is also Brian Atkinson – a linebacker out of Chicago Fenger – who was a target of both schools before he decided to stay in state and play with the Huskies.

The most notable out of state recruit for NIU that was a target of both schools would be freshman quarterback Chris Carr who played high school at St. Thomas Aquinas in Florida. That would be the same school as WMU's Brandon Ledbetter and rival school to Joe Chapple, Justin LeMay, Ernest Osborne and Mike Jones.

Needless to say all these players know of each other and the recruiting battles that went on. There is much more invested in the upcoming game then just another MAC opponent. This game is turning – at least for the players – into a rivalry on similar terms with CMU, EMU and Toledo.

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