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Bagnell

Bagnell

Craig Bagnell's second recruiting class at the University of Mary has come together much cleaner than the first.

Bagnell and his staff had about a month to put everything in place between when he was hired and when spring ball started last season.

Another major issue entering Year 1 was having to recruit more than 50 players to fill out the roster. With increased player retention, this year's class -- which will be officially released on Wednesday -- features about half the number of the 2018 haul.

"Last year was such a whirlwind with actually getting players on campus, trying to get everybody up to speed, evaluating the players we had, that it was difficult to get everyone on the same page," Bagnell said. "This year, I think things are going well. We had an offseason draft with a lot of team competition, focusing on academic, community and football development.

"The guys have bought into what we're doing. I think, up to this point, we've had a good offseason."

The Marauders' recruiting class will be unveiled on Wednesday night at the Radisson Hotel, featuring free food, a highlight video and cash bar. The event is open to the public.

Bagnell can't publicly comment on players until the national letters of intent roll in Wednesday, but the main areas of emphasis were offensive line, quarterback and running backs on offense.

Defensively, adding D-lineman and D-backs were the primary concern.

A handful of transfers are already on campus and working out with the team.

In a perfect world, Bagnell hopes to redshirt the vast majority of the incoming players, but the best laid plans do not always materialize.

"Hopefully they don't, to be honest," Bagnell said only half-jokingly when asked if any of the incoming freshmen are expected to play. "We do have a couple of kids coming in that are very talented and they may push to play and there's nothing wrong with that.

"We want to be in the position that if those kids are the best guys, then they'll play. We just don't want to be in a situation like last year where we end up having to play true freshmen because we don't have any other option."

Currently, 81 players are in the offseason program, an increase of nearly 30 from last year.

"It makes such a big difference. In our league, you don't want to be in a situation where you're reloading every year," Bagnell said. "The goal is to have 20 seniors. Right now, we're in a good spot. We'll find out more this spring and as we continue to develop our players this winter."

QUARTERBACK ROOM

For much of last season, the Marauders played with just one true quarterback on the roster after knee injures took down their No. 1, 2 and 3 signal-callers on the depth chart.

Starter Jordan Velarde suffered a season-ending knee injury in the second game of the season, leaving true freshman Jason Hoekstra the last man standing.

Bagnell and company have added depth to the position, signing a junior college QB from California and a couple high-schoolers.

Just as important, Velarde and projected 2018 back-up Logan Nelson are recovering well.

"It's going to be a good quarterback room. We're going to have good depth in there, and really good competition," Bagnell said. "I'm really looking forward to working with those guys."

Velarde will still have two years of eligibility remaining after getting a medial redshirt for last season. Velarde will participate in drill work and 7-on-7s during spring practice, but is likely to be held out of most team drills.

"Jordan's doing well. He's recovering and making good progress," Bagnell said.

Nelson also is chomping at the bit.

"Logan's full-go," Bagnell said. "He's done really well in the weight room, getting bigger and stronger. He's changed his body a lot over the last few months."

There will be an open competition for the starting job come fall camp.

Hoekstra, a Legacy High product, is expected to redshirt.

SPRING BALL

The Marauders begin spring practice on Saturday, March 16. In all, they're allowed 15 practices, two of which helmets can be worn and 13 in pads.

The spring game is scheduled for April 14, although weather altered plans a handful of times during last season's spring festivities.

"We're hoping the weather's a little more cooperative," Bagnell said. "But that's not in our control, so we'll have contingencies in place as needed."

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Reach Tribune sports editor Dave Selvig at (701) 250-8246 or david.selvig@bismarcktribune.com

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