During his four years at Minnesota-Duluth, coach Curt Wiese has made recruiting Minnesota a priority.
Bolstered by the 2016 Mr. Football and a trio of talented offensive lineman, Minnesota-Duluth again earned commitments from some of the state’s best high school football players in the senior class. The group earned NFN’s No. 1 ranking in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, the second-straight season the Bulldogs grabbed the top spot.
“We feel good about the type of athlete we got, but also the true student-athletes we were able to sign this year,” said Wiese, who led UMD to the NSIC North Division title last season.
Wiese has signed at least 11 Minnesota preps, including a baker's dozen this year, in all his recruiting classes since being named the head coach in Duluth after the 2013 season. He said he believes the university’s academic reputation is the foundation for his staff’s recruiting success.
He added that relationships with high school coaches have played an important role in landing some of Minnesota’s best talent.
“We feel like we have a great relationship with the high school coaches around the state,” Wiese said. “A lot of those coaches trust our staff with their kids, and that’s a key to getting those guys.”
The crown jewel to the Bulldogs’ class of 2017 is Lakeville North’s Wade Sullivan, who was named MFCA Mr. Football last season. He rushed for more than 3,300 career yards for the Panthers, with 49 touchdowns, helping lead them to state tournament appearances the past two seasons.
“He’s a guy that we will find a way to get him the football,” Wiese said. “A natural tailback, but his athleticism will allow us to move him and that ability to be versatile in our offensive is exciting thing for us.”
The 5-foot-8, 170-pound running back was the first Mr. Football winner who didn’t sign with a Division I program (FCS or FBS) since the honor was first awarded in 2003. One of Sullivan’s teammates at North, Brent Liang, also signed with UMD last week.
Liang was one of six offensive linemen – three from Minnesota — who inked their National Letter of Intent for the Bulldogs. Eden Prairie’s Adam Ryski and Spring Lake Park’s Josh Ojile will also join the program after successful high school careers.
“Our offensive line was a priority in this class,” Wiese said. “These guys [Liang, Ryski, Ojile] have a winning tradition. Their combined record in high school was something unbelievable the past two years.”
Ojile’s twin brother Zach, NFN No. 59 in 2017, will move from an option quarterback to tight end at the next level. The Bulldogs also landed recruits from Brainerd (Seth Desrocher), Two Harbors (Tyler Keech) and Cold Spring (Nathan Thorpe), continuing their ability to bring players to Duluth from northern Minnesota high schools.
“They are high character kids with great work ethics,” Wiese said. “Northern Minnesota and northern Wisconsin kids have been the foundation of this program for 85 years.”