Okay, I couldn’t help myself. After going over every signing from NSD that I could find for these last two PrepRedzoneMN features, I couldn’t get the idea out of my head to do an article listing my favorite Minnesota signing to every NSIC program, so here we are. Now, I just wanted to begin things by saying my "favorite" signing means that for many different reasons, I think the signing and the program fit just excites me. This doesn’t mean that I am not excited by the other Minnesotans signed in the class, and in-fact that couldn’t be further from the truth. Whether it’s just because I am really excited to see the kid play for that team, the area/signing is a good fit or geographically special, the player fits into that programs culture well, I like the kids film a lot, the kid is adding to a pipeline, a combination of these things, or something different altogether, I just really like the commitment, and I am hoping our subscribers will think it’s interesting too. Without any more introduction necessary, check out who was my favorite Minnesotan signed to every NSIC program that landed a commitment from our great state. Thanks for reading!
Favorite Signing: Logan Leonard (Mound Westonka) DB. 6’3, 180 lbs. Also reported offers from University of Sioux Falls, St. Olaf, St. Johns. An extremely versatile player who has a ton of experience over his career for Mound Westonka, I thought Leonard was still somewhat under-recruited throughout the NSIC and MIAC, especially when considering some of the talent the Whitehawks have put into those conferences over the years (Isaiah Cherrier, Kris KurtzKrisKurtzLBMound Westonka | 2019StateMN
, Austin Kincade, etc.) Additionally, the Augustana Vikings have a wide casting net in-terms of recruitment, so when they recruit kids in the Metro they make sure to go after really dynamic athletes. Leonard is long, rangy, and physical safety who can run the alley and finish hits with authority. He’s strong enough to knock ball-carriers backwards even when tackling on the higher end of players, and is athletic and instinctive enough to make an impact on special teams as well as on offense, where he displayed a nice ability to high-point the football and make some big catches in traffic.
Runner-Up: Isaiah HuberIsaiahHuber5'10" | RBRochester Century | 2021StateMN
Favorite Signing: Cameron Anderson (Blue Earth) WR. 6’2, 175 lbs. This one really got me going when I saw it and still excites me to this day! Anderson had a phenomenal senior season in 2020, one of the best of any senior in the state in-fact, and was named a Mr. Football Finalist and a MN Vikings All-State selection for his efforts. There are a few things that I really liked about this commitment. To start, Bemidji State does an awesome job year to year of landing a diverse and talented class of Minnesota commits, with future All-NSIC picks coming from the Twin Cities, surround Metro suburbs, and the outstate Northern and Southern Minnesota prospects who get overlooked year after year. They do a great job of developing raw, natural, Minnesota prospects into All-NSIC talent, and Anderson checks all of the boxes you’d want in-terms of production, size, and natural ability. Additionally, Blue Earth puts out some really exciting football players, with the first two coming to mind for me being Carter Hanson (SJU) and Trevor Oppedahl (Winona State), so I’m pumped to have another kid from deep Southern Minnesota possibly find some more success at the local collegiate level. Anderson made impacts on offense, defense, and special teams in 2020, and made some especially phenomenal punt returns this past Fall that showed off vision, elusiveness with quickness and strength, and some nice speed to boot. He’s got long strides, can cut off his routes efficiently, and can play the ball really well in it’s in the air. There’s a lot to like here.
Runner-Up: Darnell McCreaDarnellMcCreaDLBenilde-St. Margaret's | 2021StateMN
(MPLS North) DT.
Favorite Signing: Carter OttoCarterOtto6'0" | RBElk River | 2021StateMN
(Elk River) LB. One of the biggest surprise signings of National Signing Day came out of Elk River and the accomplished and experienced RB/LB Carter OttoCarterOtto6'0" | RBElk River | 2021StateMN
. The All-State, All-Metro, District MVP, and 3x All-District athlete finished his career with 3,770 total yards, 51 TDs, 160 tackles, 9 TFLs, and 4 FFs throughout his career, and also was responsible for two different last second, go-ahead, game-winning TDs for Elk River, something not a lot of recruits get to brag about. With a strong and powerful lower-body that we are becoming accustomed to from Elk River ball-carriers, Otto broke a ton of tackles as a RB though his career thanks to a strong jump-cut, good vision, a lower-body that not a lot of tacklers wanted a piece of, and some really deceptive speed that helped him run by would-be tacklers without them seeming to realize he was by them. He can also hit you, and is aggressive in his pursuit of ball-carriers and strong enough to run through blocks. He’s dangerous off the edge as a blitzer as well, and has the lower-body strength to run through weaker tackle attempts. Watching his film as a RB it’s easy to see the athleticism is there, so the potential as a NSIC linebacker (where I’m assuming he’ll play in college) is kind of through the roof. One of the big reasons I’m so pumped to see this signing is because it kind of came off of the radar, as he had only reported offers from St. Thomas, Southwest Minnesota State, and UMary, but I was also excited because we haven’t seen an Elk River player head to CSP. Traditionally, Elk River is a POWERHOUSE MIAC feeder, with recent studs like Joe Nordstrom, Seth Hopkins, Sam Gibas, Cody Newhouse, Jake Cunningham, Nick Rice, and many more opting to join the MIAC, but in-truth there haven’t been a lot of DII signings, so it’s cool to see Otto forge his own path in the Northern Sun and in St. Paul.
Runner-Up: Trent Langowski (Winona) DB or Jack Savre (Hermantown) OL
University of Mary
Favorite Signing: Isaac AskIsaacAskWRFarmington | 2021StateMN
(Farmington) WR. The University of Mary built on a solid 2020 commitment class from MN by signing a really nice batch of talent from the Land of 10,000 Lakes in 2021. It was tough to pick a favorite, but I ended up finding myself most excited by the signing of Farmington Tiger WR and three-sport stud Isaac AskIsaacAskWRFarmington | 2021StateMN
. The first thing that got me excited about this signing was UMary’s growing tendency to land stud pass-catchers from the Metro, such as Champlin Park’s Brock Johnson in the 2020 class. The Marauders, who used to run a triple-option offense, have been needing to sign WRs to support their new offense, and their signings from MN should make a nice impact in that goal going forward. I also liked this pick because of Farmington’s growing pipeline into scholarship programs in the Midwest such as Brock Morgenson (South Dakota), Darby Grengs (MSU-Moorhead), Luke WeierkeLukeWeierkeDBFarmington | 2020StateMN
(MSU-Mankato), Alijah Moe (Bemidji State), Hunter Siegler (Bemidji State), and Tanner Sundt (NDSU). It’s cool to see another Tiger join the Northern Sun, and Ask is also joining teammate Kyle NewhamKyleNewham6'2" | ATHFarmington | 2021StateMN
in the UMary 2021 class, which is another bonus. Last but not least, Ask initially caught my eye back in 2019 during his junior season when I saw the Rosemount Irish take on the Farmington Tigers in Farmington. Ask had glue on his hands and got open all night long against a talented Rosemount defensive backfield, and he also made some really tough, contested catches in traffic for a pair of TDs, so by the end of the night I was really excited about him as a prospect. Glad to see he’s playing some scholarship football, I think it’s well deserved.
Runner-Up: Michael McIntyre (Osseo) DL
University of Minnesota-Duluth
Favorite Signing: Jake RainesJakeRaines6'2" | OLWoodbury | 2021StateMN
(Woodbury) OL. This was probably the toughest program to pick a favorite signing from, as the UMD Bulldogs signed a loaded 2021 class with an immense amount of talent from both Minnesota and Wisconsin. Although I had a bunch of favorites from this class, I had to end up deciding on Woodbury’s mauling offensive lineman Jake RainesJakeRaines6'2" | OLWoodbury | 2021StateMN
. Along with STA’s Garrison SollidayGarrisonSolliday6'0" | DLSt. Thomas Academy | 2021StateMN
, Raines was one of the top-2 most accomplished senior football players in the state, and was a 2x All-Metro pick on the OL who played his best football against the top competition in the Metro and was one of the first super talented 2021 OL prospects I heard about when I started working for NorthstarFootballNews. My coworker Brian Jerzak was and still is a big fan, and with his experience on a top Metro offensive line, as well as his size and prowess as a run/pass blocker, a lot of us thought he’d possibly end up at a Missouri Valley program. It was hard to contain my excitement when I saw Raines joined a massively talented ’21 Bulldog class, and I’m mostly pumped because I think he’s going to play a lot of snaps for UMD and that we’ll see him on the All-NSIC lists in only a couple years.
Runner-Up: Cade KramerCadeKramer6'2" | WREden Prairie | 2021StateMN
(Eden Prairie) or Luke HumbertLukeHumbertATHRocori | 2021StateMN
(Rocori) or Gavin Skelton (Mesabi East)
Favorite Signing: Cole Zwiefel (Chaska) 6’3, 305 lbs. The only Minnesotan signed to the Mankato 2021 class, Zwiefel is a powerful as well as massive OL/DL prospect who throws opponents to the side with ease and has a really powerful initial pump. There are two main reasons for my excitement over this commit: 1) the Mavericks know how to recruit and develop offensive and defensive lineman. Additionally, the fact that I wasn’t really aware of his recruitment makes me excited for what I miss and also tells me that the Mavs really took a good look at Zwiefel and didn’t offer off size or hype alone. 2) Chaska is a loaded pipeline to the Mavs and a lot of the Hawks who sign with MSU-Mankato have great success for the Mavericks, so I want to see the tradition continue!
Runner-Up: Only one Minnesotan signed!
Minnesota State University-Moorhead
Favorite Signing: Logan FreeburgLoganFreeburg5'9" | RBLakeville North | 2021StateMN
(Lakeville North) RB. 5’9, 195 lbs. Another tough decision here for my favorite MSUM Dragon signing from MN, I couldn’t end up matching the the excitement I felt when I initially saw that the experienced Lakeville North Panther RB committed to Moorhead. To preface things, I had a good buddy named Jimmy Roth who I graduated from high school with who walked-on to the Dragons and had a helluva career as a DB/OLB up in Moorhead, so I’m a big fan of the Dragons for giving an undersized MPLS city conference CB like him a chance to play some high-level DII ball. It was also hard to ignore the experience and reps that Freeburg has earned in his Lakeville North career. It’s is very hard to earn reps as a RB for the Panthers, and Freeburg was tasked to fill the shoes left by former Lakeville North RBs such as Wade Sullivan, Raja NelsonRajaNelsonDBLakeville North | 2020StateMN
, and Ryan Dalrymple, all prep stars who left a lot of production on the table upon their graduations. Freeburg had an elongated recruiting process that saw him earn offers from UMary, UW-River Falls, St. John’s, Grand View, Concordia-Moorhead, Bemidji State, Simpson College, Hamline University, Morningside, Dordt, St. Olaf, Benedictine, Bethel, Crown College, Minot State, Augsburg, Puget Sound, Cornell College, and MSUM. You don’t see the Dragons reach into the Metro area too often either, and when they do they make sure it’s worth their time and effort, and Freeburg is a no-brainer as he’s got great size for the position who recorded 98 carries for 787 yards and 12 TDs in 2020 and is a speedy back with good burst and awesome balance through contact. If he sees daylight he’s gone, but he’s also tough enough to get you tough carries between the tackles and bounce off weaker tackle attempts. He’s an awesome combo back who will be an exciting NSIC running-back.
Runner-Up: Gunner Martinek (Wheaton Area) FB/HB
Northern State University
Favorite Signing: Kaleb SkellyKalebSkelly6'4" | WRSpring Lake Park | 2021StateMN
(Spring Lake Park) WR. 6’4, 190 lbs. The two-sport basketball and football standout from the Spring Lake Park Panthers has been on my radar since his junior season when I saw him and SLP play twice in 2019. Skelly was hard to miss then, as his height and athleticism helped him make splash plays as both a WR and a SS. In one of the games I saw, I saw SLP run back-to-back goal line fades to Skelly to get them the lead, and on the following possession I saw him get targeted twice one-on-one in consecutive plays as a FS. On offense, he ended up snagging the pass over the DB, and when he was playing safety he broke up both passes to shut down a potential 7 points by their opponent. Basically, I saw that SLP trusted him to make a catch when they needed it most and believed in his athletic ability enough to leave him on an island as a safety, not to mention he wasn’t worried about any of this pressure. He built on that impressive junior campaign by earning offers from St. Thomas, Southwest Minnesota State, Northern State, Bemidji State, and UMary that offseason, and capped things off with an exciting senior season that saw him improve on his route-running and build on his natural ability to high-point the football and make tough catches fully extended. It was also obvious that he was in the weight room, and his senior tape showed a big jump in YAC ability as well as tackling. He was a lot more physical of a player as a senior, and the big reason I loved this signing is due to the new-look, fresh start coaching staff at Northern State led by former UW-La Crosse head coach Mike Schmidt. The Wolves have a brand new, state-of-the-art athletic complex and have a lot of momentum building after this stellar 2021 class finishes up, so I think the versatility, athletic ability, and natural size are very complimentary to the new-look Wolves at Northern State. He can do a lot of things on the football field and the Wolves will need that dynamic ability to lay a strong foundation of their new program.
Runner-Up: Jaden ReedJadenReedWRMinneapolis Southwest | 2021StateMN
(MPLS Southwest) or DB/Luke Gunderson (Buffalo) DB
University of Sioux Falls
Favorite Signing: Tristan HoppeTristanHoppe6'2" | LBHutchinson | 2021StateMN
(Hutchinson) LB. 6’2, 225 lbs. When I think of the Sioux Falls Cougars, I think of an aggressive, fly-around, hard-hitting defense, and I especially think of their linebackers. They utilize their LBs well, and those guys have to be able to cover ground, fill a gap with authority, and of course, lay the wood at the point of contact. I think Hoppe has all of that ability and more, as he was one of my favorite LB prospects in the state coming from a competitive and accomplished Hutchinson Tigers program. He’s also one of the hardest hitters in the state, and for his size can go sideline-to-sideline and tackle, blitz, and cover like it’s no ones business, all making for a great match with USF and what they want out of their LBs. He was also under-recruited, so I think the fact that one of the NSIC’s most competitive programs landing his ability is a big get for both the Coo as well as Hoppe. Both the Hutchinson and USF programs are blue-collar, hard-working, hard-hitting football teams who use their LBs in both the contemporary evolution at the position while channeling the hard-nosed, tough LB aesthetic. Hoppe is all of that and more, and I also think he’s going to look great in black and purple to boot.
Runner-Up: Colton Douglas (Byron) DL
Upper Iowa University
Trey Johnson (Apple Valley/RCTC/SMSU) WR. Has had a crazy football post high school, so I am excited to see him find a home to finish out his eligibility. I’m a big fan of the coaching staff at UIU and I think they will be able to utilize Johnson’s football experience and size to their advantage.
Southwest Minnesota State University
Favorite Signing: Tyler Nebelung (Anoka) OL. 6’5, 240 lbs. The Southwest Minnesota State Mustangs have for a long time been nabbing Minnesota talent from all over the state, and landed a diverse and talented class of Minnesota talent from all around the state in 2021. Nebelung was one of the first commitments for the Mustangs this recruiting cycle, committing in September, and I was pumped to see it as he’s a really accomplished three-sport athlete who stars as a heavyweight on Anoka’s accomplished AAA wrestling team. His athletic background, understanding of leverage, and quickness for a big man are impressive to see, and his use of his hands and ability to keep them active make me hopeful that he can be a really effective NSIC offensive lineman if he can add some weight. I also loved to see this commitment because 1) SMSU was Nebelung’s first offer, and 2) Anoka has had no shortage of talent the last few years but have struggled in the wins and loss column, so having a lineman join the NSIC is a definite cementing of the talent the Tornadoes possess.
Runner-Up: Grant LouwagieGrantLouwagieLBMarshall | 2021StateMN
Favorite Signing: Ethan TorgrimsonEthanTorgrimson6'0" | RBSartell-St. Stephen | 2021StateMN
(Sartell-St. Stephen) ATH. 6’1, 205 lbs. Held offers from UW-River Falls, Bemidji State, Concordia-Moorhead, UMary, MSUM, Concordia-St. Paul, and Winona State before committing to WSU. At 6’1, 205 lbs. Torgrimson was an incredibly versatile athlete who made plays wherever Sartell stuck him, and in six games in 2020 he tallied 13 TDs, 41 tackles, 4 sacks, 880 rushing yards, and 110 receiving yards. He’s a powerful and natural football player with great acceleration and can run, block, catch, tackle, rush the passer, hold the edge, and run down ball-carriers like it’s all in a days work. The first defensive play of his senior Hudl is very impressive, as he sets the edge on an option sweep by beating the blocker, then tackling the QB, then kept the QB in his grasp and tackled the RB. It was pretty nuts, and it’s easy to see that he’s a well-built, strong kid who is a great combination of speed and power and will head South to play for the Winona State Warriors, about a 3 and a half hour drive. I love the signing because one could make the argument that his talent is more suitable for the D1 level, and Winona State develops their MN talent into productive and successful NSIC ballers. Torgrimson should be seeing the field early and often!
Runner-Up: Sam McenellySamMcenellyLBWaconia | 2021StateMN
Didn’t Sign a Minnesotan
Wayne State College
Minot State University