Should it really come as a surprise that nearly half of Minnesota State’s 25-person recruiting class was made up of offensive and defensive linemen?

This program is built on the broad shoulders of offensive linemen, and there are few places in the country were being called a “hog” is such a compliment. And a stout defensive line is imperative to accomplishing the goal of stopping the run and making the opposing offense one-dimensional, which the Mavericks have done often in the last decade.

So six offensive linemen and five defensive linemen were the highlight of the recruiting class.

The rise of football in Winona has been due, in large part, to some quality linemen, and Ethan Prodzinski is one of those. At 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds, Prodzinski has helped the Winhawks go 43-4 in the last four seasons, with a trip to the state championship game in 2016 and twice advancing to the state semifinals since then.

Trevor Masten of Huntley, Illinois, is already 6-5 and 305 pounds, and there are others who are close to that size. Even though nine of the top 10 offensive linemen will return next season, there are seven who will be seniors, but it looks like the Mavericks are preparing well for the future.

With a good offensive line, Wayzata’s Christian Vasser could be a future star. If you watched the state championship game in November, you saw Vasser set a Prep Bowl record with 49 carries that produced 285 yards and a record-tying five touchdowns. It was a very Maverick-like performance.

The Mavericks have Justin Taormina and Kaleb Sleezer returning at tailback, with other younger running backs in the mix, so the emphasis on the rushing attack isn’t likely to change, even with losing Nate Gunn, the best running back in team history.

If you attended Mankato West’s playoff game at Chaska, you saw lineman Max Lommel completely dominate the Scarlets’ offensive line. He was big, fast and physical, and he seemed to play with a little nasty side, too.

Lommel and Oliver Andersen of Austin both were coveted by Division I programs, but they should both could be mainstays in the Mavericks’ defensive line, starting in 2021.

If you didn’t know anything about Blooming Prairie tight end Gabe Hagen before yesterday, you can find one of his catches in the ESPN Top-10 archives. In the state-championship game, he made eight receptions for 125 yards and two touchdowns. During the third quarter, he caught a short touchdown pass in which he had to out-jump the defensive back, and after his back hit the turf and the ball popped loose, he reached out with one hand to snag the ball before it hit the ground.

It’s probably no coincidence that Vasser, Lommel and Hagen played on state-championship teams, as did defensive lineman Colby Hartig of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. Being a winner should always be considered in the recruiting process

No doubt there are more gems in this recruiting class; hopefully, there’s another Shane Zylstra or Alex Goettl in the group.

But we won’t see any of them until the fall of 2021, at the earliest. Minnesota State has built its program to the point where playing true freshmen is about as rare as a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference loss.

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

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