DSU packs a punch, signs 37
The Dickinson State football team is looking for a fresh start and a step in the right direction after compiling a 3-19 record over the past two seasons.
First-year head coach Pete Stanton announced Tuesday the 37 members of the 2014 recruiting class, which he believes give the Blue Hawks an edge going into next season.
While the coaching staff had individual reasons for picking each recruit, there’s a unanimous voice among the recruits for why they picked DSU: a bright future in the North Star Athletic Association.
“I’m excited to come into the program and put in some hard work and hopefully contribute to the team next year,” Bismarck High recruit Tommy Sease said during a phone interview on Jan. 27. “I know they’re entering a new conference and I feel like it’s a bright outlook for the program and I want to be a part of that.”
Ben Herzog, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound quarterback from Miles City, Mont., agreed with Sease.
“I just really liked Dickinson and the coaches and players there,” he said. “I like that they’re headed in the right direction and that’s where I want to be.”
There were several areas Stanton and his coaching staff specifically targeted to develop this upcoming season. One of the more important goals was to increase depth on the offensive and defensive lines. Last season, DSU had only 16 total linemen and several battled season-long injuries.
There is healthy mixture of newcomers and transfers among the 12 linemen in the recruiting class.
“What we looked at the juco level was a maturity on our offensive and defensive line,” Stanton said. “We knew some of the guys in the high school area were going to help us down the road, but we needed some maturity to help us in the next year and give us depth.”
Transfer Kelii Copp from Mt. San Antonio College (Calif.) is an offensive lineman DSU had been targeting since last fall and is projected to make an impact. The 6-2, 270-pound lineman was an all-conference performer and two-year starter at the junior college. Copp brings versatility to the offense and could see time at inside spots like guard or center.
For the high school recruits, Kordell Cummins, a 6-5, 290-pound lineman from Hardin, Mont., has a good frame for the Blue Hawks. The all-state offensive lineman is a multi-sport athlete who Stanton said brings more to the team than just his game on the field.
“He is a good citizen and leader and has tremendous potential at the college level with his work ethic and ability,” Stanton said.
Tight end and overall team speed were other target areas for the Blue Hawks.
DSU recruited a few high school players who will possibly see time at tight end — Jordan Walker of Baker Mont., Gage Adams from Forsyth, Mont., and Braden Collins of Absarokee, Mont. Braden Ler, a 6-4, 215-pound transfer from Carroll College (Mont.) will have four years of eligibility remaining. He is projected to play either tight end or halfback.
A three-sport athlete at Savage (Mont.) High School, Ler brings athleticism to the offense and is eager to get DSU back on a winning track.
“While I’m here, I want to see Dickinson State get back to where they were when they played in the DAC and hopefully make the playoffs in the upcoming years and maybe … go farther in the playoffs,” he said.
Seth Ewoniuk, a University of Mary transfer and Belfield High School graduate, comes in as a wide receiver and kick returner. He is the ideal candidate for offensive speed.
Dickinson High senior wide receiver Dylan Skabo, a Class 3A all-state selection, chose DSU over the University of Jamestown. He is a Badlands Bowl selection and will play football and baseball for the Blue Hawks.
On the defense, Sease brings the added quickness Stanton desires, as well as decent size. The 6-3, 215-pound linebacker was named first-team all-West Region in 2012 and 2013. He was also named Bismarck’s Defensive Player of the Year.
Stanton wanted to heavily recruit western North Dakota and eastern Montana to build up the number of local players on the roster. He said the players from those areas are very committed and proud of what they take part in and display good work ethic, along with toughness on the field.
“The western North Dakota and eastern Montana guys are tough, hard-nosed players from those areas and certainly, on the very best teams we have had over the years, the big nucleus of players has been from Billings to Bismarck and the guys we have signed are certainly representative of that,” Stanton said.
DSU signed four players from Dickinson High — Skabo, linebacker Mitch Mehrer, offensive lineman Aaron Sayler and linebacker William Schwindt — three from Bismarck (Sease, Bismarck High defensive back Jay Liggins and Bismarck Century lineman Brady Wilz) and a number of athletes from Baker, Mont., and Plentywood, Mont.
For the local players — like Sease, Ler or Harding County senior linebacker Steven Koch from Buffalo, S.D. — it was important to play for a university that was close to home.
For Koch, playing for DSU runs in the family. He had two cousins play defense for longtime defensive coordinator Arlan Hoffland.
“I chose to go to Dickinson because it’s close to home and has proud winning tradition and I want to be a part of a legacy,” Koch said. “Coach (Biesiot) retiring was a big deal, but now they’re starting a new era there under coach Stanton and I just want to be a part of history.”
The biggest thing Stanton is emphasizing this season is an increase in competition and accountability for each player — returning or new. It’s a clean slate and every position is up for grabs and there will be no give-ins.
The competition for the starting spots begins in spring ball which starts — weather permitting — in March or April. With plenty of new talent coming in to support the returners, the recruits are eager to get started with the new chapter of their football careers.
“Starting my college career, having something new, it’s going to be a lot different from high school — a lot faster — but I’m just ready to go and win somewhere else,” Koch said.
High school recruits
1. Bryce Wigert, 5-10/250 DL/OL Anaconda, Mont. 2. Jalen Hendrickson 5-10/175 WR/DB Medicine Lake, Mont. 3. Mitch Mehrer, 6-2/215 DL Dickinson. 4. Trey Howard, 5-10/180 DB Plentywood, Mont. 5. Devin Schwanz, 6-4/280 OL Plentywood, Mont. 6. Jordan Walker, 6-2/210 TE Baker, Mont. 7. Brady Wilz 5-9/200 OL Bismarck. 8. Aaron Sayler, 6-2/270 OL/DL Dickinson. 9. Logan Buettgenback, 6-2/255 OL/DL Glenrock, Wyo. 10. Jeff Fisher, 6-2/250 OL/DL Baker, Mont. 11. Tommy Sease, 6-3/215 LB Bismarck. 12. Jay Liggins, 6-1/180 DB Bismarck. 13. Dustin Irgens, 5-10/240 OL/DL Baker, Mont. 14. Logan Wilcox, 6-5/220 TE/DE Lewiston, Mont. 15. William Schwindt, 5-9/210 LB Dickinson. 16. Steven Koch, 6-2/210 LB Buffalo, S.D. 17. Ben Herzog, 5-11/180 QB Miles City. Mont. 18. Luke Schwagler, 5-8/170 WR Forsyth, Mont. 19. Blake Schwagler, 6-2/210 Ath. Forsyth, Mont. 20. Gage Adams, 5-10/190 TE/LB Forsyth, Mont. 21. Braden Collins, 6-4/180 TE/WR Absarokee, Mont. 22. Dolan Taylor, 6-4/200 Ath. Circle, Mont. 23. Oakley Ordahl, 5-10/185 LB Plentywood, Mont. 24. Kordell Cummins, 6-5/290 OL Hardin, Mont. 25. Dylan Skabo, 5-10/160 WR Dickinson.
1. JT Harper, 6-1/190 WR/DB Black Hills State. 2. Seth Ewoniuk, 5-7/140 WR/KR University of Mary. 3. Zach Reiss, 5-9/190 RB Dakota State. 4. Kelii Copp 6-2/260 OL Mt. San Antonio College. 5. Jonathan McGinnis, 6-2/190 DB Mt. San Jacinto. 6. Ryan Hardy, 6-2/280 DL/OL Los Angeles Valley College. 7. Wayne Carter, 6-2/350 OL Merced College. 8. Guillermo Aguirre, 5-10/240 DL Monterey Peninsula College. 9. Braden Ler, 6-4/210 TE Carroll College. 10. Joshua Perry-Kruse, 5-9/180 WR Mt. Sac State. 11. John Poggi 5-8/185 DB Mt. San Antonio College. 12. Kevin Boyd, 5-10/175 DB Los Angeles Pierce College.