Sioux building a foundation for transition to Big SkyGRAND FORKS — The primary goal for University of North Dakota football is to compete for a Big Sky Conference championship when the Sioux enter the league in 2012.
By: Wayne Nelson, Forum Communications Co.
GRAND FORKS — The primary goal for University of North Dakota football is to compete for a Big Sky Conference championship when the Sioux enter the league in 2012.
The journey to that destination, however, requires depth.
So, it came as no surprise that depth was the focal point of the 2011 UND recruiting class announced Wednesday. The Sioux signed 17 recruits and covered nearly every position on both sides of the ball.
“I like this class in the sense that we fulfilled a need at every position,” UND coach Chris Mussman said. “It took us three years to get to a point where we’re almost comfortable depth-wise. But we still have a few things we need to shore up before fall camp begins in August. But we’re making progress.”
This is the third Division I FCS recruiting class for UND since it made the move up from Division II. The class is comprised by players from 10 states — from California to Wisconsin.
But UND’s recruiting emphasis clearly has shifted to the West.
UND’s acceptance into the Big Sky in November helped open more recruiting doors, especially in California. The Sioux signed three players from California, including Rivals’ three-star recruit Aarin Smith, an outside linebacker.
“With this class, we have expanded our recruiting area,” Mussman said. “We pulled kids from all over the country and part of that has to do with the Big Sky Conference. We’re getting a lot of positive feedback on that.”
The Sioux aren’t done recruiting and an Arizona recruit scheduled to visit the campus this weekend is interested in UND because of the school’s move to the Big Sky.
“We’re going to be playing near his house,” Mussman said. “The Big Sky arguably has the best media coverage in all of the FCS. Have we gone into the lion’s den a little bit, like northern California, UC Davis, Sacramento State? Sure, but there is competition all over the country no matter where you recruit.”
The two other California players signed by the Sioux are safety Javen Butler from Pittsburg and Brian “B.J.” Fifita, a defensive back from Lawndales. Butler’s brother, Breon, is a redshirt freshman running back for UND.
Also, UND signed junior college quarterback Joey Bradley, who threw for 3,346 yards and 31 touchdowns last season for Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, Calif.
Finding depth quarterback was a priority for the Sioux.
Bradley, who already is enrolled at UND, will compete for the starting quarterback spot along with Brent Goska, Marcus Hendrickson, Seth Nichols and redshirt freshmen Chris Comes and Trey Demler. Bradley will have three years of eligibility.
“We brought Joey here to be in the mix,” Mussman said. “And he has game experience. He’s thrown a lot of balls and completed a lot of passes. He’ll compete (for the starting job) just like the other guys.”
Ideally, UND would like to redshirt the other 16 high school recruits.
Mussman, however, said that may not be possible — especially in the secondary where depth is a concern.
“The reality is that we were a 3-8 football team last season,” Mussman said. “We need to be better. And any player that makes us better will play and will play early.”
Nelson is the Sports Editor of the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.
UND football recruits
— Jace Hellman, OL, 6-5, 260, Grand Forks Red River
— Brandon Anderson, OL, 6-6, 290, Sartell
— Rumeal Harris, DB, 6-0, 180, Eden Prairie
— Jameer Jackson, WR, 6-3, 210, Brooklyn Park
— Weslee Kavanagh, DE, 6-3 245, Maple Plain
— Will Ratelle, ILB, 5-11, 225, Edina
— Ross Windfeldt, 6-6, 310, St. Cloud
— Zach Adler, TE/HB, 6-3, 215, Omaha, Neb.
— Marco Barrientos, WR, 6-0, 180, Dallas, Texas
— Joey Bradley, QB, 6-1, 185, Issaqua, Wash.
— Javen Butler, S, 6-2, 190, Pittsburg, Calif.
— Brian “BJ” Fifita, DB, 5-11, 180, Lawnsdale, Calif.
— Jer Garman, RB, 5-9, 170, Marion, Iowa
— Sean Meehan, OL, 6-6, 290, Trevor, Wis.
— Aarin Smith, OLB, 6-1, 205, Fresno, Calif.
— Kyle Woodsmall, DE, 6-4, 215, Wildwood, Mo.
— Casey Young, WR, 6-2, 185, Aurora, Colo.