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Northern Illinois hires Steve Crutchley as wide receivers coach

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Northern Illinois has hired Steve Crutchley as its wide receivers coach, the program announced Tuesday.

The majority of Crutchley’s collegiate coaching experience came in the Land of Lincoln; he was the running backs coach at Southern Illinois from 2008-12 and an assistant at Western Illinois from 2013-15. He spent the 2016 season as the head coach at Eau Claire Memorial High School in Wisconsin.

“I’m really excited about bringing Steve to NIU as part of our coaching staff,” NIU head coach Rod Carey said in a statement.  “I’ve known him for 17 years.  I respected him as a player first and have watched his coaching career closely.  I know he’s going to bring a lot to us – from knowledge about the state of Illinois from his time at Southern Illinois and Western Illinois, to on-field coaching and recruiting. As a person, he’s as good as they come; he’s a quality individual who will relate to our players and to recruits really well.”

Crutchley arrives at a crucial time for the Carey and the Huskies. A program that ascended to the Orange Bowl upon Carey’s promotion to head coach has dipped from 12-2 in 2013, to 11-3 in ’14, to 8-6 in ’15 and finally to 5-7 last fall.

“NIU Football has been a great program, it has great tradition and I’m excited to be a part of it,” Crutchley said. “It’s a program I’ve followed throughout my coaching career.  I’ve known Coach Carey for a long time from his days at Wisconsin-Stout when I was at Eau Claire. I’m a Midwest guy, and this is close to home in Wisconsin so it’s a good fit for me and I’m looking forward to getting started.”

Northern Illinois finished 73rd nationally in passing last season, averaging 224 yards per game through the air. Christian Blake, a rising senior, stands as the team’s leading returning wideout with 34 grabs for 457 yards and two touchdowns.

Jordan Lynch returns to NIU as running backs coach

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Arguably the best player in school history is on his way back to the Northern Illinois football program. On Wednesday, the school announced the hiring of former quarterback Jordan Lynch. Lynch will serve the program as a running backs coach. Given Lynch’s production running the football during his time with the Huskies, he should be able to offer a few tips and suggestions to Huskies running backs.

Lynch played quarterback for Northern Illinois from 2010 through 2013 and was instrumental in leading the program to a pair of MAC championships (2011 and 2012) and two additional MAC West championships (2010, 1013). Lynch was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2013 and led the Huskies to its first and only BCS bowl berth in the same season, ending with a 31-10 loss to Florida State in the Orange Bowl.

“Obviously, with Jordan, the name speaks for itself,” NIU head coach Rod Carey said in a released statement. “Heisman Trophy finalist, got us to the Orange Bowl, got us to the cusp of a Fiesta Bowl, and set all sorts of records. He’s probably one of the most beloved players that have come through here in recent history. When you are talking about the greats of Huskie Football, our tradition, you can’t do that without saying the name Jordan Lynch.”

Before graduating from the NIU program, Lynch set a handful of new NCAA records; moist rushing yards by a quarterback in a season (1,920 rushing yards in 2013), most rushing yards by a quarterback in a single game (321 yards vs. Western Michigan in 2013), most 100-yard rushing games by a quarterback in a season (12 in 2012) and most rushing yards per game by a quarterback in a season (137.1 ypg in 2013). Lynch was undrafted in 2014 but signed as a free agent by the Chicago Bears as a running back. He was released before the start of the season and was signed by the Edmonton Eskimos of the CFL in January 2015. He was on Edmonton’s Grey Cup championship team in 2015 and scored the game-winning touchdown in the CFL’s championship game.

“I always knew when I got done playing football, I wanted to get into coaching,” Lynch said. “I just love being around the players and being back at NIU. When [Coach Carey] started talking to me about the possibility of a position opening up here, I took some time and thought about it. I felt it was a great opportunity for me and I couldn’t pass it up.”

Former Wisconsin offensive coach returning… as defensive assistant

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Paul Chryst is certainly taking a unique approach in reconstituting his Wisconsin coaching staff.

Earlier this month, Chryst hired Jim Leonhard as his new defensive coordinator despite the latter having just one year of experience as a coach at any level. Now, reports have surfaced that Chryst is bringing Bob Bostad back to Madison to fill a vacancy on the staff.

While Bostad was an offensive assistant during his first tour of duty with the Badgers, he’ll be a defensive coach in this latest stint. Specifically, he’ll serve as UW’s inside linebackers coach.

Bostad would technically replace Justin Wilcox, the coordinator Leonhard replaced after Wilcox took the head-coaching job at Cal last month.

From 2006-11, Bostad was an assistant for the Badgers — the first two seasons as tight ends coach, the last four as offensive line coach. After spending four seasons as the line coach for two NFL franchises — Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2012-13), Tennessee Titans (2014-15) — Bostad spent the 2016 season as tight ends coach at Northern Illinois.

In a coaching career that spans 27 seasons, this would be Bostad’s first job on the defensive side of the ball.

UPDATED 12:59 p.m. ET: Wisconsin has confirmed the hiring of Bostad.

Independents and Group of Five National Signing Day Recap: Irish bounce back, Memphis tops AAC

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Outside of the Power Five conferences, recruiting went about as expected in 2017.

Notre Dame continued to pound the national trail and landed a top 12 class full of players who will be expected to play early. BYU managed another impressive group that was one of the most diverse out there. The schools with a talent-rich backyard to draw on did well in the AAC.  Boise State was once again tops in the Mountain West and did better than a few peers in the region. And yes, Lane Kiffin earned that recruiting reputation by pulling in the best class of Conference USA.

Though there wasn’t much drama outside the top schools, there nevertheless was plenty of action for many programs on National Signing Day.

Top recruits (all rankings via 247Sports Composite): No. 67 overall Brock Wright (TE, Notre Dame), No. 154 overall Chaz Ah You (DB, BYU), Aisa Kelemete (DE, Boise State), Nick Robinson (TE, Memphis), Nicholas Sims (RB, Toledo)

Top classes: Notre Dame (No. 11 overall), Memphis (No. 58 overall), Boise State (No. 60 overall), BYU (No. 65 overall), Florida Atlantic (No. 71 overall), Toledo (No. 74 overall), Texas State (No. 87 overall)

Biggest storyline: Irish still land solid recruiting class

Despite the worst season in South Bend since Charlie Weis and a nearly brand new coaching staff, Notre Dame still managed to cobble together a top 12 class on Signing Day. Tight end Brock Wright was the highest rated player and should see early playing time but the number of quality offensive linemen was really evident in the group Brian Kelly signed. Will it be enough to help with a big turnaround? We’ll see.

Biggest surprise: Memphis runs away with things in the AAC but new coaches still fared well

Given all the turnover in the American this year, it should probably come as no surprise that the Tigers pulled the top recruiting class in the conference. That’s a testament to what Mike Norvell is building with the program and the fact that they don’t have to go far for players. Many of the same factors played a role in Scott Frost landing the second-best class at UCF. It was also pretty impressive what Luke Fickell did on the recruiting trail at Cincinnati and Charlie Strong did at USF given those two didn’t have a ton of time to get things lined up.

Don’t sleep on: Boise State, Colorado State

The Broncos were once again the class of the Mountain West on the recruiting trail and fended off several Pac-12 schools for prospects. That will put them firmly in the mix to win the league again in 2017 but don’t overlook another good job by Mike Bobo and staff at Colorado State in landing 17 three-star players.

We’ll see about: Everybody else

Report says it would be difficult for Northern Illinois to replace Minnesota in Holiday Bowl

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The Holiday Bowl is in a bit of a pickle with less than two weeks until kickoff.

Minnesota’s players called for a boycott of team activities this week as the result of the administration suspending 10 players. As a result, the Gophers heading to San Diego to play in the game has come into serious question.

Holiday Bowl officials have said they are monitoring the situation but just about everybody is curious as to if the game will continue on as scheduled. If Minnesota opts to skip the postseason trip, Northern Illinois would be the team next in line as a result of their APR score and spot in the pecking order.

However, CBS Sports is reporting that the Huskies may not be able to fill the spot logistically on such short notice. That makes plenty of sense with most players out of school and kickoff less than 11 days away.

If Northern Illinois would decline the bowl invitation, it’s possible that the next two teams on the list — Cal and Arizona State — also decline the trip since they both have already played Washington State and wouldn’t be able to take advantage of many extra practices.

All of which is to say that the Holiday Bowl may wind up having a much different look at the end of the month than it did at the beginning.