UND add 22 recruits including 9 from IllinoisGRAND FORKS — Approaching its first season in the Big Sky Conference, the University of North Dakota focused its recruiting efforts on speed. UND did get faster in 2012 — and it showed as North Dakota produced one of the best passing games in the league.
By: Wayne Nelson, Forum News Service
GRAND FORKS — Approaching its first season in the Big Sky Conference, the University of North Dakota focused its recruiting efforts on speed. UND did get faster in 2012 — and it showed as North Dakota produced one of the best passing games in the league.
But UND discovered strength was just as important. North Dakota’s 2013 class, unveiled Wednesday, targeted size and strength — especially on the defensive side of the football.
UND signed 22 players, including two transfers, as the Green and White prepare for its second season in the Big Sky.
There is another aspect to the class — UND’s connection to Illinois. Nine of the 22 players that signed are from Illinois.
“We had to get bigger,” UND coach Chris Mussman said. “That was the emphasis across the board. Where we got beat pretty good last year. at Montana State and Eastern Washington, it was more of a physical matchup at certain positions. At safety and up front defensively, we needed to be more physical. Size was our No. 1 focus in this class.”
Of the 22, Mussman said it’s possible a handful may see the field as true freshmen.
“If they can help us, they’ll play,” Mussman said. “That’s college football.”
It’s rare when true freshmen see the field as offensive or defensive linemen. But Mussman said two defensive line recruits — Garrett Cary and Marcus Cheatom — may be on the fast track at UND.
“That’s the immediate need,” Mussman said of the defensive line. Cary and Cheatom are two guys that could be in the mix earl one.”
The same holds true for offensive lineman A.J. Stockwell of Burnsville, Minn., perhaps one of the program’s top overall recruits.
UND also addressed linebacker needs.
On Sunday, Mussman received word from Kyle Norberg, a 6-1, 215-pound linebacker from Cary, Ill., that he will play for North Dakota.
Earlier in the day, Norberg had breakfast with Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz. “They were making a hard sell for him to be a preferred walk-on,” Mussman said.
In breaking down the recruiting list, UND signed three defensive backs, three defensive linemen, three linebackers and five offensive linemen — another need.
UND addressed nearly every position, including wide receiver — a position that could be the team’s strength in 2013.
Illinois transfer J.J. Robertson gives UND even more depth at wide receiver next season. And the team’s receiving future could be in the hands of 5-foot-10, 170-pound Aeron Carr of Mesa, Ariz.
Carr, who ran the 40 in 4.6 seconds as a junior, turned down a scholarship offer from Ole Miss to run track. Carr, the son of former major leaguer Chuck Carr, also hold his school’s record in the long jump (24 feet, 1½ inches).
When UND launched its Division I program, it first targeted the West Coast in its recruiting, particularly northern California.
UND did sign two California recruits. Both, however, were from southern California.
Illinois, however, garnered most of UND’s attention this season, especially after the program had success in the Chicago area last year.
“We spent a lot of time there,” Mussman said. “A lot of time distance becomes a factor. It’s not as big a factor to those kids. And it’s pretty easy when you bring there here and show them what we have and we’re going.”
Mussman said recruiting is not over. It’s possible, he said, that Division I transfers may yet join the program. But that likely won’t be decided until after the completion of spring ball.