After an undefeated 2018 regular season, the University of Minnesota-Duluth football team advanced to the Division II playoffs before falling in round one. After the season they went into the recruiting battles like they have for most of the years…
After an undefeated 2018 regular season, the University of Minnesota-Duluth football team advanced to the Division II playoffs before falling in round one. After the season they went into the recruiting battles like they have for most of the years they have been qualifying for the DII playoffs – by following the Three Cs. They focused on bringing in guys who commit to classroom, competition, and community.
Although his role in recruiting will be different going forward because he was just promoted to defensive coordinator, for the past few years, Trey Dill was the main UMD coach in charge of recruiting. He feels this recruiting class followed the Three Cs mantra.
“The one thing with the way things are going with recruiting right now, more kids are committing earlier,” Dill said. “We felt good about this recruiting class. Especially in December and January, we were able to find kids we felt fit our program and our profile. We feel we brought in not only good football players, but good students. Over the past few years, we wanted to recruit a well-rounded class with guys at each position. We were also able to fill some extra needs on the defensive line and at outside linebacker.”
Defensively, the Bulldogs’ recruiting focus has shifted over the last handful of years.
“We have been trending to improve our ability to defend spread offenses,” Dill explained. “Last year we ended up signing seven guys in the secondary. We signed another four with this year’s class. On the flip side of that, we have been able to find guys who can rush the quarterback. With the four defensive linemen and four outside linebackers, we put an emphasis on the ability to rush the quarterback. With the amount of people that are throwing the football now, it is what our goal is. All the defensive linemen we signed are all long and athletic, guys that can play both inside and outside positions. Same with our outside linebackers. We wanted guys that could play on the line of scrimmage, that can defend the run but then have a knack that can get to the quarterback.”
Raw athletic ability isn’t always what the staff is looking for on the field.
“We always look for good athletes,” Dill said. “But we need to find guys that are going to come in and have a role. The one thing we try to do is when guys come to camps, and on visits, we sit down with them and show them how they fit into our system.”
Like most football programs, UMD is also interested in how each athlete is off the football field too.
“We have to find guys that are good students – guys that school means a lot to them. UMD is a pretty high-level public school. We have to find guys that are going to fit from that standpoint first and foremost,” Dill explained. “Also, we want to find guys who are going to be good teammates. We spend a lot of time meeting with high school coaches and people connected with the student-athletes to get a sense of their personality – seeing how they accept coaching in camps and off the field. We like to see well-rounded guys, guys that play multiple sports or are involved with different things outside of football.”
The coaching staff can point to the recent success on the field, but Dill also feels the college and the area are big selling points for recruits.
“One thing is you are going to be a University of Minnesota student and have that type of education,” Dill said. “We provide a Big Ten degree at the Division II level. Not many places have the ability to provide a Big Ten education but still be able to play DII football. The community of Duluth is a great place to go through those college years. It is a large city with a lot of things to do. Duluth is a college town but still has some of the big city living that kids are looking for. Even with the big city, with the ability to hike, hunt, fish and stuff like that, we have some of the best outdoor activities locations in the country right out our back door.”
Their recruiting footprint has branched out further than it used to be. However, the program still gets most of its players from a couple of core areas.
“The majority of our roster is Minnesota and Wisconsin,” Dill explained. “We are going to recruit those areas hard. The majority of our Minnesota kids come from the Twin Cities area. In Wisconsin, we get a lot of guys from the Appleton and Green Bay areas. We have started to get more guys from the Milwaukee area.”
Within that footprint, the Bulldogs’ program is not afraid to reach out to guys who might have DI offers in the future.
“I wouldn’t say we will not reach out to them, but we are realistic too,” said Dill. “If a guy has some DI offers but hasn’t committed, we may reach out to those kids. We will recruit the best kids in the state until they say ‘no.’ With the amount of the roster turnover at the DI level we want kids to know we have an interest because you never know what is going to happen down the road.”
While the UMD coaches will obviously take a kid on their team with FCS talent, but they are focused on the letter C – specifically three of them more than the letters FCS or BCS.