Jacks land 30 recruits in 2011 class

Drue Aman

Drue AmanSports Editor

Wednesday, Feb. 2 marked the official addition of 30 prep high schoolers around the nation to SDSU and Brookings.

The names include players of the year, numerous two-star recruits, and familiar names from around the Upper Midwest in what may be the most diverse and wide-ranging group of newcomers in program history.

Like every recruiting year, SDSU’s success rate did not reach 100 percent. Several recruits decided on FBS or FCS schools, with notable in-state Argus Leader Elite 45 captain Matt Hermanson committing to Montana. That withstanding, the Jacks experienced greater success than expected in Danny Batten’s home state of Arizona and in the Twin Cities.

“I think we won more head-to-head battles with bigger schools or comparative schools than we have in the past,” said SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier. “We think we got guys that really do fit, which is a huge deal for us.”

Seven of those guys were labeled two-star recruits on a five-star system determining player potential, three received Player of the Year honors from their respective states while others had looks from FBS schools.

Four of the 30 recruits came from Arizona, a greater point of emphasis after the successes with Danny Batten and Jimmy Rogers, among others.

SDSU also found greater success in the Twin Cities region than in previous years, acquiring Reggie Gandy, voted Minnesota Player of the Year by the Associated Press and Eric Kline, voted Player of the Year in the same state by the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

All of this comes after a 5-6 season in which the Jacks were ranked No. 9 in the preseason polls and failed to make the playoffs for a consecutive season. That was something that slightly altered Stiegelmeier and the SDSU coaching staff’s approach, who instead dwelled upon the program’s recent playoff berth and steady upclimb at the FCS level, Stiegelmeier said.

Accruing players away from FBS schools was a steady theme this recruiting season, as well. Je Ryan Butler, a cornerback from the Tempe, Ariz. region had an offer from bowlqualifier San Diego State before picking SDSU. Defensive players J.R. Plote and T.J. Lally also had FBS offers on the table and settled with the Jacks. All three players came from outside the five-state Upper Midwest region that the program normally thrives upon.

“I think they more-so try to find guys that fit to what it is we’re trying to do, regardless of where they’re from,” said sophomore Tyrel Kool, himself a Yankton native that committed to SDSU after his junior year of high school.

“They look at what kind of things they do in high school and that they’ll fit into our system.”

South Dakota natives like Kool are represented on this year’s batch of recruits like any other year. Washington High School standout Brandon Mohr, a hard-hitting defensive back that helped lead the Warriors to two straight state titles, heads the list. A half dozen other South Dakota kids signed on as preferred walk-ons, guaranteeing a jersey and locker for fall camp.

SDSU also rounded up a player in the Cornhusker territory lauded as Nebraska Player of the Year by Huskerland Preps Magazine in Jimmie Forsythe. He figures to play in the defensive secondary, replacing outgoing players Corey Jeske and Conrad Kjerstad, among others.

Stiegelmeier noted a higher recruiting focus in Florida, which proved instrumental in committing Joe Martinson, a 5-11, 170 pound safety who had anw offer from Missouri Valley conference opponent Illinois State.

Signings like that indicate a broader and growing recruiting base that Stiegelmeier said was a conscious decision, while simultaneously sticking to the local region to grab some of the better talent as in previous years.

The results appear strong on paper. “It’s not the fastest class or the tallest class, but that has nothing to do with how hard they work, whether they’re men of character and have a will to get better,” Stiegelmeier said. “We’re always checking those things out and we feel pretty good about that.”