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Northern Illinois has DT Ken Bishop a big part of plans

Defensive tackle Ken Bishop recruited by NIU out junior college said he chose Huskies because he “felt like I fit

Defensive tackle Ken Bishop, recruited by NIU out of junior college, said he chose the Huskies because he “felt like I fit right in.” | Shaw Media

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Updated: October 21, 2012 3:00PM

DeKALB, Ill. — Ever since Dave Doeren and his coaching staff arrived, Ken Bishop was a ­recruiting target they wanted.

Bishop, a 6-1, 308-pound junior defensive tackle, had been recruited by former NIU linebackers coach Tom Matukewicz, now the defensive coordinator at Toledo, out of high school in Sunrise, Fla.

Matukewicz continued to recruit Bishop when he was at Ellsworth Community College in Iowa, and the defensive lineman ended up taking a visit to DeKalb last fall. Huskies co-defensive coordinator/defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen went to Ellsworth in December.

To Nielsen and the coaching staff, Bishop was a player they had to have. The junior has started every game for the Huskies, and he has eight tackles along with a half-tackle for loss and a half-sack.

“We knew we really wanted him,” Nielsen said. “We needed him.”

Three other schools offered Bishop a scholarship — Toledo, Tennessee State and Kansas, a team that will visit Huskie Stadium on Saturday.

The Jayhawks recruited Bishop hard. He took a visit to Lawrence, where he saw Baylor and Robert Griffin III beat Kansas 31-30.

After former head coach Turner Gill was fired, the Jayhawks were still on Bishop. But in the end, he said Kansas just wasn’t the right fit.

“Just the environment, maybe. It didn’t feel as comfortable. It didn’t feel like somewhere I could fit in,” Bishop said. “I know I had the opportunity to play, but it was more than just playing.”

Bishop said there was a family environment at NIU. He knew Jamaal Bass and Devon Butler, who was dismissed from the team in July, from competing against them in high school. He and cornerback Jhony Faustin were teammates at Ellsworth in 2010.

Bishop also said Tyrone Clark, who hosted his visit, made him feel at home.

“I felt comfortable coming out here,” Bishop said. “I felt like I fit right in with the guys.”

The coaching staff wanted Bishop for the final two years of his college career for a number of reasons. There’s his obvious size and speed at the defensive-tackle spot. Doeren and Nielsen also raved about his personality.

“He’s a great kid,” Doeren said. “Nobody ever had anything bad to say about his character, and obviously he can play.”

The way Nielsen puts it, coaches never know exactly what type of player they have until he gets on campus. In Bishop’s case, the staff knew they had a good get when they saw Bishop’s first workout.

“When he got here, from the first workout he had we knew he was going to be a good player,” Nielsen said.

However, Bishop wasn’t just an athlete who was going to come in and dominate with size, something that’s much easier at the junior-college level.

He had to improve his technique and his pass-rushing ability while learning how to beat blocks when going up against more talented offensive linemen.

In recruiting, sometimes coaching staffs hit, sometimes they miss, as Nielsen puts it. To Nielsen, Bishop is a guy the staff was right about, and the second-year Huskies coach has seen Bishop’s play evolve since the start of the ­season.

“Ken’s a really smart guy, he’s improved every game. That’s all you want,” Nielsen said. “You want the guys who improve from one game to the next. He’s done a good job with that.”

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