Quality over quantity: Dickinson State football team signs 31 high-profile athletes for upcoming season
Last season, the Dickinson State football team faced a tough predicament -- low numbers heading into the spring semester. With 50 kids in the program and a serious lack of depth on the offensive and defensive lines, first-year head coach Pete Sta...
Last season, the Dickinson State football team faced a tough predicament - low numbers heading into the spring semester.
With 50 kids in the program and a serious lack of depth on the offensive and defensive lines, first-year head coach Pete Stanton had his work cut out for him.
“Last year, we focused on a couple things: improving our depth in several areas, particularly the offensive and defensive line, and we just needed to get a lot more numbers a year ago,” he said. “We started spring ball with 50-plus guys and we knew with last year’s class we had to come in and provide that depth.”
The Blue Hawks bolstered a 2014 recruiting class of 32 high school signees and 12 semester transfers that catered the depth issues and made a strong impact in the regular season.
After finishing 7-4 for its first winning season in four years and returning a wealth of talent for 2015, Stanton and his coaching staff could focus on quality instead of quantity this season.
DSU has brought in 24 high school signees and seven transfers who Stanton thinks will make a significant impact.
“The one thing that stands out right away is we have a lot of kids that are well-rounded athletes, good in all the other sports and that’s what we really look at when we were recruiting,” Stanton said “that they’re multi-sport athletes, guys that are good students, play a variety of sports and are winners on the field.”
Depth is something teams will always look at filling no matter the situation. This year’s main target areas for the Blue Hawks were the secondary as well as the running back position.
Last season, DSU’s rushing game was highlighted by two star running backs, Jesse Carney and Myren Moore. Carney finished with 1,049 yards, 10 touchdowns and was DSU’s first 1,000-yard rusher in nine years. Moore was close behind with 902 yards and nine touchdowns.
With both players out of eligibility, Stanton made it a priority to find another standout athlete and could have it with one of his high school signees.
Lewis Dobitz from Killdeer is a top recruit for the Blue Hawks and had plenty of success on the football field as well as on the track. Dobitz helped lead the Cowboys to a Class 1A state title appearance this season and finished the year with 946 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns.
“Definitely, (Dobitz was) one of our main focuses in the recruiting process,” Stanton said. “Just an outstanding area athlete who does a lot of things well both in football and in track and we feel he has the ability to play both running back and defensive back.”
Defensively, he finished with 80 tackles - including 41 solo - 10 pass breakups and one interception.
Dobitz - who won a state title in track and field - will also be competing in track for DSU.
“I’m going to be really familiar with the area, the field and track,” Dobitz said in a Press interview on Dec. 24. “That’s nice.”
Dobitz isn’t the only Cowboy to make his way to Dickinson. Defensive back Trenton Rohr and lineman T.J. Moore also signed with the Blue Hawks.
This year, DSU’s secondary will be filled mostly with upperclassmen and seniors so Stanton had to plan ahead.
The Blue Hawks recruited some of the best at the position from North Dakota and Montana to fill in. Rohr, Dobitz, Bismarck St. Mary’s Dillon Reiner and Cain Boschee from Glacier High School in Kalispell, Mont., all have either won or played in a state championship game.
The key to players like Rohr or Reiner - who could potentially see time at running back - is their versatility. Rohr saw time at quarterback, running back, cornerback and wide receiver. He did just as much damage as a return specialist.
“I really emphasized to myself over the summer that I was going to do whatever it took to win games,” Rohr said in a Press interview on Dec. 28. “I wasn’t going to be set on having a lot of it be about me. I didn’t want to be in the spotlight. I wanted my team to be in the spotlight.”
Stanton added: “With Dillon and Boschee and two Killdeer guys, we really feel we got the guys in western North Dakota that we wanted to get in the secondary and we’re excited about that.”
DSU stayed true to its recruiting zone that ranges from Bismarck to Billings, Mont. Six are from North Dakota, nine are from Montana and four are from Wyoming. Three hail from Miles City, Mont., where DSU already has a number of players from there.
Brett Keith, a wide receiver/tight end, is following in his family’s footsteps and becoming a Blue Hawk. He is the younger brother of JT Keith, who was a preseason North Star Athletic Association all-conference player last season.
“When I went on my recruiting trip, the team was really friendly and made me feel like I was already part of it,” Brett Keith said. “Their facilities are really nice and plus my brother being there made my decision a lot easier. It was mostly Dickinson from the beginning.”
While all the recruits will bring a high level of competition to the field, the biggest local signee who could make an immediate impact is Bismarck High quarterback Hayden Gibson.
Gibson was one of the top quarterbacks in the state as a two-time Class 3A all-state and two-time all-West Region selection. He also earned West Region senior athlete of the year.
“He was an awful good young man to add to our team,” Stanton said. “... Unselfish player who just has a really great arm, accurate and really good leadership skills. He was a guy who was highly recruited and we were fortunate to have him.”
Because of the influx of players from the previous season and number of returners, Stanton didn’t feel the need to bring in a lot of transfers. Because of that, the coach feels the Blue Hawks can groom younger players for when their time comes.
However, the seven players who transferred to DSU for the spring semester will compete with returners for starting spots.
To continue to build depth at the offensive line, DSU signed Andrew Alt, a transfer from FCS school Montana State. Alt wanted to see more time on the field.
“We visited him at Christmas time and he’s fit in real well with our program and feel he’s a guy who can play a number of positions for us on the offensive line,” Stanton said.
Both Deondre Mitchell and Fan Ah Kiong have former junior college teammates already on DSU’s team, giving them familiar faces when they arrive on campus. Mitchell, from Glendale (Calif.) Community College, is expected to be a force on the outside of the defensive line. Ah Kiong, from Mt. San Antonio Community College (Calif.), will also see time on the defensive line.
DSU’s successful and seamless transition to a new head coach and a different offensive scheme hasn’t gone unnoticed and has turned heads around the area, recruits said.
“DSU is going in the right direction right now and that’s what sparked my interest,” Gibson said in a Press interview on Jan. 2. “I like the coaches and guys at DSU. The facilities and everything about it felt right. It was big relief (when I made my decision).”
Rohr added: “I know that years before this year DSU kind of struggled, but when I watched some of the games this year, I could feel the rebuilding process happening. I thought being a part of that process would be awesome.”
The Blue Hawks are just a few months away from taking the field and getting spring practice underway.
“I’m really excited and can’t wait to see how I compete at the next level,” Brett Keith said.
Transfers HT WT POS. SCHOOL
Andrew Alt 6-5 290 OL Montana State University
Nate Howell 6-1 180 WR
Deondre Mitchell 6-3 265 DL Glendale Community College
Brandon Foley 5-9 200 RB Glendale Community College
Fank Ah Kiong 5-11 290 DL Mt. San Antonio College
Cedric Stokes 5-8 180 RB Tallahassee Community College
Luke Olson 6-0 200 DB
High school HT WT POS. SCHOOL
Avery Whelan 5-11 280 OL Belgrade High School
Brandon Shelstad 5-11 220 DL Campbell County High School
Brett Keith 6-3 200 WR/TE Custer County High School
Cain Boschee 6-2 175 DB Glacier High School
Casey Seidler 6-3 200 DE Custer High School
Chase Andersen 5-11 160 WR Natrona County High School
Connor Warner 5-8 170 WR/DB Worland High School
Dillon Reiner 5-11 170 WR/DB Bismarck St. Mary’s
Haize Weber 6-1 190 QB Douglas High School
Hayden Gibson 6-3 220 QB Bismarck High School
Hunter Saltzman 6-2 200 RB Roundup High School
Jayd Rice 5-10 235 FB Stanley-Powers Lake High School
Jed Fike 5-11 175 RB/DB Whitehall-Harrison High School
John Haraldson 6-3 250 OL/DL Sidney High School
Kass Dvorak 5-9 180 RB/LB Dickinson High School
Lane Voiles 6-0 250 OL/DL Campbell County High School
Lewis Dobitz 6-0 170 RB/DB Killdeer High School
Morgan Bishop 6-1 250 OL/DL Custer County High School
Seth Barkley 6-1 180 LB Baker High School
Spencer Johnson 6-0 220 DL Billings West High School
Steven Granillo 6-4 280 OL East Los Angeles College
T.J. Moore 6-1 290 OL/DL Killdeer High School
Tobin O’Brien 6-1 285 OL/DL Billings Senior High School
Trenton Rohr 5-10 170 DB Killdeer High School