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Craig Bagnell's first recruiting class at the University of Mary turned out to be a bumper crop.

Hired in December to lead his alma mater's football program, Bagnell was hoping to land 25 players. On Wednesday, that number had ballooned to 42, with even a few more likely still to come.

Bagnell and his staff signed players from 11 states with the most coming locally -- 10 from North Dakota. A large group of Floridians (9) will make their way north.

Of the 42 players announced on Wednesday, 41 will be freshmen in the fall. The notable exception -- quarterback Jordan Velarde -- is pegged to run Bagnell's up-tempo offense.

"He'll have to earn it," Bagnell said of the 6-foot-6, 230-pound Velarde, who is already on campus. "He's run a similar system to what we'll be doing. I think he has the potential to fit in really well."

Velarde hails from Blythe, Calif., but has a direct tie to Bismarck. His grandparents live in the Capital City.

"They were pretty pumped about him coming here," Bagnell said of Velarde's grandparents.

Ideally, Bagnell and his staff would like to redshirt a large chunk of the incoming freshmen. Immediate contributors could be Floridians Maxwell Askew of Fern Park and Bryan Isom of Mascotte. Both are linebackers, a position Bagnell said they targeted.

Six players from Bismarck, including four from Legacy, signed to stay home. Among the four is two-time all-state quarterback Jason Hoekstra. Legacy head coach Chris Clements played and coached for the Marauders.

Devin Beck, another Saber, is following in the footsteps of his father Dennis, a former player at U-Mary. Devin is a linebacker.

Other Legacy products joining the program are defensive linemen Taylor Morrison and Kyle Niemeyer.

Century all-state performer Kade Lynch (wide receiver) and Jonah Krebs (linebacker) of St. Mary's also will be staying home. Jonah's brother Noah was one of the Marauders' top tacklers last season.

U-Mary alum Todd Sheldon, head coach at Mandan, had one of his players sign in wide receiver Skyler Bossert.

"We want to get as many of the best players from this city as possible," Bagnell said. "No question that is a priority for us."

Cody Mehlhoff of nearby Wing, N.D., signed on as did Wahpeton's Christopher Thiel, another second generation Marauder after his father Kevin played for U-Mary.

Geographically, the class broke down as so: North Dakota (10), Florida (9), Arizona (5), South Dakota (4), Nevada (4), Montana (2), Texas (2), California (2), Minneota (2), Nebraska and Wisconsin one each.

The No. 1 area targeted was clear.

"We want athletes. Just because a player is listed a certain position, doesn't mean he's going to end up there," Bagnell said. "It's all about competition. We need to have guys competing for every spot on the field ... and the best guy will play."


Mandan all-state quarterback Kaden Krause signed with Valley City State. ... Legacy had one player (Jake Hurt) sign to play at Dickinson State. ... NDSU added four players, while UND signed eight, including preferred walk-ons Zack Murphy of Grand Forks Central and Victor Isaak from Fargo South. Both schools announced the bulk of their recruiting classes during the early signing period in December including Shiloh Christian's Batholomew Ogbu, who signed as a defensive end with the Bison. Mandan's Trae Steckler, a wide receiver/tight end, is headed for Grand Forks.

Reach Tribune sports editor Dave Selvig at (701) 250-8246 or


Sports Editor