FARGO (AP) - The champions of the Football Championship Subdivision calmed their fears of a late recruiting start by bolstering one of their few thin positions on signing day.
Bison head coach Craig Bohl announced that receivers Demitrius Gray of Aurora, Ill., DeSean Warren of Overland Park, Kan., and Carey Woods of Bemidji, Minn., were among 17 recruits signed to national letters of intent Wednesday.
"We felt like it needed to be fortified," Bohl said of the wide receiver position. "What we also like about it is within that makeup of the three guys they're all pretty different. Demitrius is a big, tall guy that's got great leaping ability, Carey's a really athletic guy and you've got a burner like DeSean."
Harvey-Wells County quarterback M.J. Stumpf calls a signal in an August game against Rugby. Stumpf signed to play outside linebacker for North Dakota State on Wednesday.
Receiving is typically a position where athletes can play as true freshmen, Bohl said. Warren didn't play his senior season because he was recovering from a knee injury.
The Bison are coming off the school's first NCAA Division I championship after beating Sam Houston State in early January. While it might have enhanced the school's reputation, Bohl said it left coaches scrambling to wrap up commitments.
"It's more nerve-wracking," Bohl said. "You're not sleeping very much and you're in a lot of different cities and a lot of different homes. It was a great effort by our coaching staff."
The Bison signed nine players on defense and eight on offense. They inked four from Minnesota, three from North Dakota, three from Nebraska, three from Arizona, two from Kansas, one from South Dakota and one from Illinois.
Among the signees from North Dakota are two offensive linemen, 6-foot-7, 250-pound Landon Lechler of Beach, and 6-7, 290-pound Jack Plankers from Leonard. They join 6-2, 200-pound linebacker MJ Stumpf of Harvey.
"I think there must be something in the water in North Dakota," Bohl said. "It's been a long time since we've had this many guys in our state with this kind of size."
The Minnesota players are offensive lineman Zack Johnson of Apple Valley, defensive tackle Brett Pierce of Bloomington, linebacker Zach Riopelle from Warren, and Woods. The 6-4, 260-pound Pierce also plays goaltender for the Academy of Holy Angels.
"I don't know a lot about hockey, but he's got to be one of the biggest goalkeepers I've ever seen," Bohl said.
The lone South Dakota recruit, Andrew Smith of Sioux Falls, is a free safety who blocked six punts this past season.
The Bison signed one quarterback, Derek McGinnis, the son of a football coach from Crete, Neb. NDSU starting quarterback Brock Jensen will be a junior and Bison coaches feel they already have capable backups.
Bohl did not sign a running back. NDSU returns its leading rusher, Sam Ojuri, and is looking for highly-touted running back John Crockett, a 2010 recruit, to become academically eligible.
Bohl was in Lincoln, Neb., earlier Wednesday to watch his son, Aaron, sign with Minnesota State University Moorhead. Aaron is slated to play linebacker for the Moorhead school, located across the river from Fargo.
"It was one proud moment for me, I can tell you that," coach Bohl said.
Nordby signs with UND
Like teammate M.J. Stumpf, Harvey-Wells County's Tucker Nordby also signed with a Division I school on Wednesday's National Signing Day.
The 6-foot-4, 245-pound tight end inked with the University of North Dakota after two all-state seasons with the Hornets including first-team honors as a senior. He caught 16 passes for 350 yards for the run-heavy Hornets.
"We have had Tucker in our camps for the past couple years and it was pretty evident after his sophomore year that he would be one of the top players in the state by the time he was a senior," UND coach Chris Mussman said in a press release. "He has the size and athleticism to play a couple of positions, but we see him being a tight end for us. He runs well and is a physical blocker at the point of attack."
- Daily News Staff
Mary signs six area standouts
The University of Mary signed six area athletes to its football team Wednesday. The Marauders mined six area schools to bolster a class of 27 high school athletes and one junior college transfer.
- Shawn Fulwider (Watford City), a two-time all-state winner, will play defensive end. Fulwider is listed at 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds. He was all-region in 2011 as a linebacker and tight end. Fulwider played for Fred Fridley Sr. at Watford City. Fridley Sr. is the father of Mary women's basketball coach Fred Fridley.
- Josh Haugen (North Star), a 6-3, 209-pound athlete, will play tight end. Haugen was an all-region performer and also played on the defensive line. He was a member of the 2011 state title team in basketball.
- Morgan Jacobs (Divide County), a 6-2, 200-pound all-state second team selection, will play defensive end. Jacobs recorded 40 tackles - nine for loss - and seven sacks in 2011. He holds the school's career records for tackles for loss (27) and fumble recoveries (12).
- Zach Podoll (Velva), a 6-2, 205-pound first-team all-state selection, will play tight end. Podoll is an all-district basketball player and was all-region in baseball twice. He helped the Aggies to a 2010 state title in baseball and football.
- Colton Razo (Minot High), a 6-1, 285-pound offensive lineman, never allowed a sack in high school. Razo also competed in track and wrestling.
- Landon Smith (Stanley), a 6-1, 195-pound first-team all-state selection, will play outside linebacker. Smith was a member of the 2011 state champions (12-0) and rushed for 890 yards and 16 touchdowns. Smith also competed in basketball, baseball and track.
- Daily News Staff