The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports

February 7, 2013

Courrier column: Depth allows MSU football team to recruit for future

MANKATO — The Minnesota State football team has had a lot of playmakers, offensively and defensively, the last couple of years, helping the program to achieve unprecedented success.

Adam Thielen is one of the best receivers to ever play at Minnesota State, and Jon Wolf is a tremendous athlete who has learned how to be an effective quarterback. Running backs Andy Pfeiffer and Connor Thomas could put up huge numbers by themselves, but as a duo, the Mavericks’ rushing game is tough to stop.

Defensively, linebacker Marcus Hall-Oliver was the equal of any athlete at his position to wear purple and gold, and there are a bunch of ball-hawking defensive backs who seem to step in front of a lot of passes.

But the real movers of this latest success is the offensive and defensive lines, two groups that have made their more-hyped teammates look awfully good for the last two seasons.

You see that reflected in the latest recruiting class that was released Wednesday. The Mavericks have five of their top six offensive linemen back for next year, with four of those still having two seasons of eligibility remaining.

Yet, coach Aaron Keen and his staff felt strongly in signing four high-schoolers Wednesday, with two ticketed at tackle and two likely headed elsewhere in the front five. Tackle Jake Bush of Minnetonka might be the only one of this group you’ve heard of, but Keen was awfully high on tackle Alex Matheson, too.

These players will not have to be rushed into action before they’re ready, given how much talent and depth the program has there. The ground game seems in good shape for the future.

The Mavericks also signed five defensive linemen, with two tackles and three ends. Minnesota State used an effective rotation of three ends and three tackles this season, all of which will be back next season.

But in preparing for the future, Keen sees a real steal in Logan Neitzke, who may be able to replace Chris Schaudt in another year.

The Mavericks didn’t have a lot of scholarship money available, and nine of the 20 newcomers play in the offensive or defensive line. It might not be the most sexy class, but as we’ve seen, strength in the trenches can produce some pretty exciting seasons.

There was a quarterback, running back and receiver in this class, but those players have a better chance of succeeding at Minnesota State if the proper attention is paid to the lines. And it appears that the Mavericks’ coaching staff has done that.

Chad Courrier is a Free Press staff writer. To contact him, call 507-344-6353, email at ccourrier@mankatofreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChadCourrier.

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