Minnesota State Mankato continued its dominance of the NSIC this season with another undefeated regular season. They also made the postseason for the third straight season. Recently, northstarfootballnews.com had a chance to talk to Mavericks’ head football coach Todd Hoffner…
Minnesota State Mankato continued its dominance of the NSIC this season with another undefeated regular season. They also made the postseason for the third straight season. Recently, northstarfootballnews.com had a chance to talk to Mavericks’ head football coach Todd Hoffner about the 2020 recruiting class.
What are your general thoughts on the 2019 season for your program?
It was a star led team. We had a lot of experienced players returning from the 2018 season, where we lost in the national semi-finals. We made it to the finals this year and did some special things. It was a special season. We had a lot of special football players on that team and am proud of that team. We graduated a lot of good football players, but we have a lot of good players coming back.
What are your overall thoughts on this recruiting class?
Because we have been playing deep into the season while still trying to recruit, a lot of what we do is through the summer. My assistant coaches do a really good job in the summer going out and working camps at other institutions at a higher level. They identify young men they may have worked with at those camps. We talk about them and decide if they are a good fit. The process starts about now for the 2021 recruiting cycle and then continues through the summer. This past year, we signed 25 guys and had 22 young men already committed before the season was even over.
What was the strength of the Minnesota class this year?
Close to a dozen Minnesota guys committed to us this year. Every year we are looking for the brightest and the best. I thought we did a really good job in Minnesota. Joe Beschorner is our lead coach in Minnesota, and he did a fantastic job this offseason.
Position-wise, what was your focus this recruiting season?
Obviously, we want to have a stronghold on the remainder of the football players who are not chosen by the Division I programs, who are looking to play for one of the best Division II programs. Every year we are looking for a balanced recruiting class. We are trying to bring in around 24 young men. We are looking for the best available players that meet our standards. If you look over our classes over the years, we are always looking for five to seven offensive linemen and five to six defensive linemen. Linemen are important to us and our ability to control the line of scrimmage. Linemen will get you where you want to be, and we have been fortunate to have strong, powerful, dominant players up front. That is the backbone of what we look for and what we are trying to achieve. Having a young man like (Wayzata senior running back) Christian Vasser – selling him on the point of we are going to open a hole so that he can avoid being tackled until he gets to the third level. We want people to understand that everything starts up front and try to convince people that running the ball is okay in today’s pass-happy day of football. Running the ball and stopping the run is important in the Midwest. We make no bones about it. That is who we are.
Outside of football skills, what do you look for in a potential recruit?
Sixty-three of our ninety-eight players were above a 3.0 GPA. Being a good student and a good person is important. We want to have positive young men that fulfill our prototype when it comes to size and all those different things. We try to use as many filters as we can to make sure we are not making a lot of mistakes. The priorities in our program are family, academics, and then football. The young men need to line up in those three areas. That is critical to our success. We want them to be a student-athlete and go from being a young man to a grown man.
What about your program/school do you stress when talking to a recruit?
Graduation is really important. We had nine of our fifteen seniors graduate before the season was even over. We have young men going into engineering, pre-med, and pre-dental. We have a quality institution, quality people, a quality education, and a quality football program. Our program’s slogan is ‘Make the Journey.’ It is about the process that leads to the product. You can run any system you want, but you better have a strong culture. What you do has to matter to the people you are putting on a show for on Saturdays and, more importantly, to the young men to help them become leaders after football.
With the unfortunate end to the programs in St. Cloud and Crookston – those kids needed a place to go. What was your approach to the guys in this class that were committed to either of those programs?
It was a very unfortunate situation for those young men. When the news went down, it was hard for us, we were still playing, and a lot of the teams that weren’t playing anymore moved rapidly. We didn’t spend any time away from our team’s goal of winning a national championship. When you are still playing late into December, it was hard to get involved at that stage and get people to our campus that fast. We only graduated fifteen guys and have a roster cap, so we didn’t have many spots. We tried to pick up a few players and had some success. We ended up with three guys.
Did you have any last-minute commits or anything that surprised you as this class came together?
Every year a guy changes his mind. This year the change didn’t come from a Division I school coming in and grabbing a recruit from us. When that happens, there is not a lot you can do about it. This year we had a guy who committed here who decided not to sign on Signing Day. We told him we will still honor the scholarship if he decides to play this August, but he is still not sure if he is going to play football at all.