“I love playing center,” Russell said. “That’s where I wanted to play.”
Russell, 6-2 and 280, also got an offer from Drake, and he considered Winona State, Gustavus Adolphus and Dakota Wesleyan.
“Jake is a big, athletic kid,” Esch said. “He’s big and strong, and he has a lot of potential to play at Division II.
Last fall, Claussen committed to playing at Winona State. Claussen led the team with 41 catches for 732 yards and 11 touchdowns, averaging 17.9 yards per catch with a long of 92 yards. He also played defensive back, but he’ll be used exclusively on offense, both as an inside and outside receiver.
“I talked to a lot of coaches, but by far, (Winona State) seemed like the right fit,” said Claussen, who avoided some of the recruiting hassle by committing early. “I didn’t want to lead on any other program.”
Claussen said he will have surgery on his labrum later this week but should be healed in time to compete in track, where he does sprints.
“He has all the skill needed to play at that level,” Esch said. “He really liked Winona right away, and he’s a good fit for them.”
The signing period for high-school football players begins Wednesday, Feb. 5. Coaches can’t talk about recruits until they’ve received a signed letter of intent from the athletes.
“The recruiting process is long, and it really drags out,” Russell said. “I’m glad it’s over, and I can move on to the next step of my life.”