Bemidji State football team puts focus on running backs, wide receivers and defensive secondary on National Signing Day

Perham offensive lineman Jese Hein signs his National Letter of Intent to play football at Bemidji State with his mother, Tracy Hein, and Perham football coach Mike Jordahl Wednesday afternoon. Photo via Bob Williams/East Otter Tail Focus

The Bemidji State football team restocked its roster with a priority on running backs, wide receiver and the defensive backs in the 2012 recruiting class announced by head coach Jeff Tesch on Wednesday.

The Beavers added 34 players to the team on National Signing Day. There are 32 high school seniors and two transfer students in the class. The players come from six states, with 17 from Minnesota and nine from Wisconsin leading the way.

The offensive additions may help the BSU offense become a more explosive group in the future. BSU in recent years has played an effective hard-running, possession-style game but has lacked a breakout element.

Tesch is hoping running backs SaVaughn Alexander (Joliet, Ill.) and Derrick Dunn (San Diego, Calif.) can help change that.

“When he’s (Alexander) healthy, he’s more of a dynamic back or safety. He can play either one and he’s more of a home run threat than what we’ve had in the past. That’s something that we’re excited about.”

Alexander rushed for 400 yards in four games before missing the rest of his senior season to injury. Dunn rushed for 1,200 yards on 161 carries and had 16 touchdowns as a senior.

“We just wanted to get more of a home run back that could make a great play,” Tesch said of Dunn. “If you turn on his highlights, you’re going to say ‘wow, I can’t believe he didn’t sign Division I.’ He has that type of abilities.”

(Here’s a highlight video of Dunn)

Matthew Summers (Isle), Dexter Taylor, Jr. (Lockport, Ill.) and Austin Goettlicher (Cleveland) were the wide receivers inked on signing day. Goettlicher is the nephew of Patrick O’Connor, Tesch’s first quarterback at Bemidji State.

The Beavers put a recruiting focus on Arizona this year where defensive coordinator Rich Jahner spent a significant amount of time.

Kameel Al-Khouri, a defensive back from Glendale, Ariz., is expected to help bolster the defensive backfield and be a special teams return threat. He had 109 tackles and scored five punt return touchdowns as a senior.

BSU needed to find some new faces to fill the secondary after losing NSIC Defensive Player of the Year in safety Brody Scheff, safety Dusty Sluzewicz and captain Jake Schmidt.

Al-Khouri is joined by defensive back Josh Tismer (White Bear Lake), and transfers Jordan Abaroa (Scottsdale Community College, Arizona) and Julian Burroughs (Nebraska-Omaha). Abaroa is a safety and Burroughs is a defensive back.

Tesch said the running backs and the defensive backs have the best chance at making an immediate impact next year because of BSU’s lack of roster depth in those areas.

“We’re going to try and redshirt as many guys as we can, but if they are going to make us better then we are going to play them,” he said.

The Beavers also added size with NLI signees in outside linebacker Max Fuller, defensive lineman Mitchell Elbe, defensive lineman Adam Shavlick, offensive lineman Matthew Valentine, offensive lineman Jesse Hein and tight end Nick Moore.

Elbe (6-foot-3, 275 pounds) is from Sayner, Wisconsin.  Perham’s Hein (6-foot-1, 280 pounds) and Shavlick (6-foot-6, 230 pounds) of Mantiwoc, Wis. are accomplished high school wrestlers.

Little Falls’ Valentine (6-foot-5, 260 pounds) was the offensive lineman of the year on the All-Granite Ridge Conference team.

At 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds, Tesch envisions Fuller (Stoughton, Wis.) helping out against some of the formations Minnesota-Duluth and St. Cloud State run.

Moore of Osseo, Wis. (6-foot-5, 240 pounds) is looked to help replace standout senior Brian Leonhardt in the coming years.

Quarterback Nathan Koziol of Lodi, Wis. was the lone quarterback among the signees and was a target with Lance Rongstad entering his senior season.

There were 16 who accepted written offers of admission, highlighted by Bemidji High School wide receiver Zach Declusin and linebacker Andrew Street.

The Beavers finished the 2011 season 8-3 overall and in a three-way tie for fourth place at 7-3 in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Standings. BSU cracked the national polls and had signature victories over nationally ranked Augustana and St. Cloud State.

Though the Beavers ultimate goal of a national playoff appearance was dashed by back-to-back road losses late in the season, Tesch said last season’s success helped on the recruiting trail.

“I said we were one dropped punt from being in the national playoffs and that’s how I felt,” he said. “We definitely got in on some better kids and helped get us some better kids. It certainly opened the door. Before you could just say we’re getting close and now we’re saying we’re beating those types of teams.”

2012 BSU Football Signing Class
Name (position, hometown)
National Letter of Intent Signees

SaVaughn Alexander (RB, Joliet, Ill.), Kameel Al-Khouri (DB, Glendale, Ariz.), Max Dibble (ILB/DL, Fulda), Derrick Dunn (RB, San Diego, Calif.), Mitchell Elbe (DL, Sayner, Wis.), Max Fuller (OLB, Stoughton, Wis.), Austin Goettlicher (WR, Cleveland), Jesse Hein (OL, Perham), Nathan Koziol (QB, Lodi, Wis.), Nick Moore (TE, Osseo, Wis.), Ross Pflum (OLB, Appleton, Wis.), Adam Shavlick (DL, Mantiwoc, Wis.), Matthew Summers (WR, Isle), Dexter Taylor, Jr. (WR, Lockport, Ill.), Josh Tismer (DB, White Bear Lake), Matthew Valentine (OL, Little Falls).

Transfer Commitments

Jordan Abaroa (S, Gilbert, Ariz, Scottsdale Community College), Julian Burroughs (DB, Nebraska-Omaha).

BSU Offer of Admission Signees

Damon Benham (RB, Deer River), Zach Declusin (WR, Bemdji), Tyler Dustman (P/K St. Francis), David Erickson (OL, Thief River Falls),  Brett Gehring (DL, Bismarck, N.D.), Sam Graff (ILB, Rothschild, Wis.), Reed Hendrickson (OLB, Bismarck, N.D.), Andrew Kryshak (FB, Menomonie, Wis.), Adam Langan (OL, Thief River Falls), Josh Malone (WR, Gordan, Wis.), Logan McAllister (ILB, Brainerd), Nam Nguyen (RB, St. Cloud), Zach Rynning (QB/S Kennedy), Andrew Street (LB, Bemidji), Ethan Supler (ILB, Elbow Lake), Kaleb Torgerson (FB, Thief River Falls).

Follow Eric Stromgren on Twitter at @estromgren and on Facebook.

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