Reporting Jeff Wald
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Every football coach will tell you they are excited about a new class of incoming players, it’s up to everyone else to determine how legitimate that excitement is.
Glenn Caruso was downright giddy when talking about his 2013 recruiting class that will arrive on the St. Thomas campus this fall. In five-plus seasons as Tommies head coach, that’s not an easy task when you’ve had as much success as St. Thomas and expect as much as the program does. Caruso has led the program to three straight MIAC titles, four straight NCAA Playoff appearances and a run to the national championship game last year.
The Tommies have had three straight 10-0 regular seasons, and Caruso is now 57-8 in five seasons. That mark includes a current 27-game MIAC win streak and 34-game regular season win streak.
Numbers are nice for the record books, but none of that really matters when the regular season starts in September. Caruso announced late last week the addition of 42 in-state players and 16 out-of-state players to the St. Thomas program, including 55 incoming freshman.
Caruso said the program has stockpiled offensive and defensive linemen. He said the group coming in on the front line on both sides of the ball is the best he’s had since he became the St. Thomas head coach. It’s something St. Thomas alumni and fans won’t take lightly as last year’s team had one of the top offenses in the country and one of the top rushing defenses.
“It was a huge class for us in terms of linemen, offensive and defensive,” Caruso said. “It’s where the attitude of your team emanates from, and it’s the best class we’ve ever had.”
Caruso said it’s difficult at this time to comment on specific players, but that it’s certainly possible for a few of the incoming freshman to make an immediate impact.
The Tommies will also have plenty of players back from last year’s run to Salem, Va. Of the 60 players St. Thomas had on that roster, 36 were freshman and sophomores. St. Thomas will return its starting quarterback, which will be junior Matt O’Connell, who was one of the top quarterbacks in the MIAC when he was healthy.
Recruiting might be most difficult for football coaches, especially at the Division III level where there are no athletic scholarships. There are plenty of positions to fill every year, and a lot of times players receive what turn out to be empty promises.
That’s where Caruso said it’s key not to guarantee any incoming player anything. Everyone is equal going into the season, and almost every spot is up for grabs.
“The most important thing in recruiting is not overpromising. They understand they’ll be given an opportunity,” Caruso said. “It’s refreshing to know the players we got and how they’re recruited. They don’t get caught up in the salesmanship that other schools imply. It’s irrational to guarantee anything.”
Caruso has brought in plenty of what he terms “athletes,” meaning players who could play at multiple positions in college on either side of the ball.
One of the most impressive names coming in is Nick Waldvogel of St. Thomas Academy. His older brother, Fritz, left St. Thomas as one of the most prolific wide receivers and kick returners in St. Thomas football history. Look for Nick to have a similar type of roll with the Tommies, although to expect as much as Fritz accomplished would at this point be unrealistic.
“He’s a really dynamic athlete. You want to draw comparisons to Fritz, but he’s got a different body style that’s a little thicker. He is certainly is as elusive, which makes me smile,” Caruso said. We’ve had a lot of success recruiting the brothers of kids we’ve had. It makes me feel great because we’re associated with some ridiculously blessed families.”
One of the more talented all-around players in the class is Holy Family’s Derek Ogren. He finished his senior season there with more than 400 yards receiving and four touchdowns on offense, while collecting 78 tackles at linebacker. Wide receiver Michael Alada of Hill-Murray is another athlete in Caruso’s class. He averaged about 46 rushing yards per game as a senior for the Pioneers while also catching 41 passes for 630 yards and seven touchdowns.
St. Thomas will also have some top talent from outside Minnesota coming in. Jordan Millis of Black River Falls, Wis., was the Most Outstanding Receiver in Wisconsin last year. He comes to St. Paul after a senior season of 47 catches for 1,132 yards and 18 touchdowns. They also have a top quarterback coming in from Illinois in Darby Goodwin.
The future appears to be bright for the Tommies. Caruso said he’s already recruiting Minnesota’s junior class. Listed below is the entire 2013 St. Thomas recruiting class, including their potential position.
Jesse Addo – Wayzata (Secondary)
Michael Alada – Hill-Murray (Athlete)
Ryan Anderson – Champlin Park (K)
Dylan Andrew – Neuqua Valley, Ill. (QB)
Michael Backus – Eastview (OL)
Michael Blume – Big Lake (FB)
Sebastian Borges – Stillwater (DL)
Josh Botten – Shakopee (DB, Athlete)
Steven Braschayko – Coon Rapids (OL) 10 tackles
Alex Burback – Stillwater (WR/TE)
Stuart Burns – Hudson, Wis. (LB)
Bennett Celichowski – Minnetonka (DB)
Alex Chadwick – Farmington (DB)
Mike Coldagelli – New Prague (FB)
Alexander Daniel – Andover (WR/TE)
Nick Eliason – Belle Plaine (WR, Athlete)
Tyler Fish – Warroad (OL)
Darby Goodwin (DL) – Loyola Academy (Ill.)
Micah Hausman – Eagan (DL)
Luke Hermann – Cretin-Derham Hall (LB)
Will Hilbert – Marquette University High (Wis.) (OL)
Sam Hodnefield – Stillwater (LB)
Joel Hylton – North Shore School (ILL.) (OL/DL)
Moise Igeno – Centennial (LB) 41 tackles
Jonah Koski – Bend, Ore. (QB)
Brady Kurtz – Becker (OL)
Matt Lally – Marmion Academy (Ill.) (TE/LB)
Chandler Lamke – Gale-Ettrick-Trempeleau (Wis.)
Noah Larson – Bloomington Jefferson (DL)
Makael Lunning – Albert Lea (RB, Athlete)
Zach Merie – Hopkins (FS, athlete)
Jordan Millis – Black River Falls, Wis. (WR)
Brendan Murphy – Loyola Academy (Ill.)
Jack Newell – Minnetonka (DL)
Derek Ogren – Holy Family (MLB/TE)
Ayo Okesanya – North Shore School (Ill.)
Chris Pierson – Wayzata (DB)
Joey Puk – Eden Prairie (DL)
Mike Redmond – Minnetonka (LB)
Joe Reed – Cretin-Derham Hall (DB, Athlete)
Chris Rozek – Hopkins (LB)
Turner Sagat – New Berlin Eisenhower (Wis.)
Sean Scharlau – St. Michael-Albertville (DL/OL)
Kyle Schmidt – Woodbury (DL)
Adam Schnobrich – New Ulm Cathderal (RB)
Derek Soderberg – Eden Prairie (DB)
Joe Southern – Ashwaubenon (Wis.)
Alexander Stevson – St. Thomas Academy (DB)
Jarrod Thill – Green Bay Southwest (Wis.)
Josh Vedane – Dowling Catholic (Iowa)
Nick Waldvogel – St. Thomas Academy (WR)
Steven Wilson – Apple Valley (WR)
Ryan Winter – Woodbury (DL)
Michael Witschen – Monticello (LB)
Evan Zeller – DePere, Ws.
Zach Burrington (MSU-Mankato, Maple Grove)
Nathan Howard (U of M, Jefferson)
Zach Martens (Missouri S&T/Apple Valley)