While other metro-east football recruits had long been wearing gear from their college of choice, that wasn't the case for Belleville West senior linebacker Pierre Gee-Tucker.
Tucker, who committed to Northern Iowa earlier this week, switched gears late Tuesday evening and decided to sign with defending NCAA FCS national champion North Dakota State instead.
"I didn't go to sleep until about 4 in the morning," said Gee-Tucker, who admitted being uncomfortable with some recent coaching staff changes at Northern Iowa. "The position coach left and went to Auburn and my recruiting coach left today and went to Illinois State.
"The defensive coordinator left about a month ago, so I was more scared about the situation I'd be going to."
Gee-Tucker liked North Dakota State from the beginning and that's where he eventually will end up playing.
"North Dakota State is doing great things, they have stability and they have a lot going on," he said. "They were my No. 1 choice at first, but then I was stronger to Northern Iowa because they had come to me early and that place was a little closer to home as well."
Gee-Tucker phoned Northern Iowa to let them know his decision, then texted North Dakota State coach Craig Bohl.
"I was like Coach, I want to be a Bison," Gee-Tucker said.
Gee-Tucker was among 21 players who signed with North Dakota State, which finished 14-1 and won the national championship in January with a 39-13 victory over Sam Houston State.
Getting an early start
Recent O'Fallon High School graduate Darius Mosely was one of 10 University of Illinois football recruits -- five junior college transfers and five high school players -- who were early enrollees.
Althoff High senior defensive lineman Merrick Jackson also signed with Illinois.
"He's got good size and we think he's somebody that could be a good plug in the middle," Illini coach Tim Beckman said.
Jackson said his brother, East St. Louis linebacker Markese Jackson, will walk on at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
Mosely, who signed as a defensive back, already is attending classes at Illinois during the spring semester.
"I think it's an advantage because they get can some extra school under their belt, they can get involved in the program, they can get involved in the life of being a student,'' Beckman said.
Beckman said the Illini focused their recruiting efforts on their extended backyard, landing eight players from their home state.
"Fifteen of these 25 total recruits were from what we call Illini Nation, which is a six-hour radius that is spread around the city of Champaign,'' Beckman said. "That's the area that we feel that is crucial to the success.''
The Illini had a strong in-state presence with eight of their recruits coming from Illinois, which is the most since 2008.
"We believe in this state,'' Beckman said. "We understand that this state has very competitive and well-coached football teams.''
Beckman said this recruiting class has a good opportunity to make an early impact with the Illini.
"We brought these young men in here so they can compete and be involved," he said.
Petrino high on O'Fallon QB
O'Fallon High quarterback Todd Porter signed with Western Kentucky, where new head coach Bobby Petrino has long been known for developing signal-callers.
Porter is one of two new quarterbacks on the Hilltoppers roster. Junior DaMarcus Smith was ruled eligible for the 2013 after sitting out the 2012 season.
"We set out to get a pair of quarterbacks, and by having DaMarcus Smith eligible now is a big plus because he will be part of the competition this spring," Petrino said. "We then went out and found Todd Porter, who we believe is the style of quarterback we want and a guy that is a true pocket passer with the ability to run and make yards with his legs."