INFORUM.com | WDAZ.com

WDAY: The News Leader

Published February 03, 2012, 10:49 AM

Illinois a new recruiting ground for UND football

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) — Chicago St. Rita High School senior Kenny Golladay says the University of North Dakota was the only football program that showed interest in his ability, yet his prep coach Todd Kuska calls him a steal and UND coach Chris Mussman feels fortunate to land him.

By: TOM MILLER, Associated Press

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) — Chicago St. Rita High School senior Kenny Golladay says the University of North Dakota was the only football program that showed interest in his ability, yet his prep coach Todd Kuska calls him a steal and UND coach Chris Mussman feels fortunate to land him.

Kuska can explain.

"There are a lot of great football players in this area and lots of people get wrapped up in the Big Ten," Kuska said. "So lots of guys get overlooked. North Dakota came down here to steal a lot of guys. They stole Kenny. All of the Dakota schools are in Illinois, working and stealing kids from the other Illinois schools."

Golladay, a 6-foot-4, 185-pound wide receiver, was one of five Illinois recruits UND announced on national signing day Wednesday.

It's new territory for North Dakota, which didn't have a single Illinois native on its roster last season. Coaches even struggled to pinpoint the last player in the program that hailed from the state.

Other Illinois products on the 2012 UND class include quarterback Ryan Bartels, fullback Kevin Bayer, transfer linebacker Derrick Goard and tight end Luke Mathewson.

Illinois became a new recruiting ground for UND thanks to assistant coach Luke Schleusner, who spent time as an assistant at Western Illinois from 2002-04.

"I think it was an untapped resource," said Schleusner, who also recruits southern Wisconsin. "A few of the guys I coached at Western Illinois are now high school coaches in Chicago. They helped make some inroads on guys. Chicago is so big that it helped to know who to attack and what programs were better. After that, it was just a grind to get into schools and evaluate."

UND was successful in the state despite Illinois having seven NCAA Division I college football programs.

"We feel like we're very different with what we're selling," Schleusner said. "The big thing is if you can get them on campus, it's an easy sell. The Alerus is one of the best (arenas) in all of the FCS. Lots of guys come up here and fall in love with the people and the place."

That salesmanship helped land Golladay, who caught 44 passes for 640 yards and nine touchdowns as a high school senior. His team went 10-3, advancing to the Class 7A state semifinals.

In Golladay's last three playoff games, he caught six touchdown passes — two in each game.

"He's not afraid of big moments," Kuska said. "I wouldn't say he's a speedster, but he's not slow. He just has great body control. He can go up and use his height to his advantage. He comes down with tough catches."

Golladay was off some teams' radar because his original ACT score didn't qualify him for Division I athletics. However, Golladay retook the test in December and qualified.

"Kenny was a guy that was under the radar that I hung with," Schleusner said. "He really stands out with his size and ability to adjust to the ball. He's got the physical ability to do it."

Golladay might be a candidate to have his redshirt removed.

"They told me I have the ability to play as a true freshman, but I've got to prove myself first," said Golladay, who grew 2 -3 inches between his junior and senior seasons.

Kuska likes Golladay's potential.

"I think he can be a great football player," Kuska said. "He works hard and gets after it in practice. He wants to thrive in the big moments. He'll make those catches that a lot of guys can't."

Tags: