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UND football balances recruiting in the transfer portal era

UND signed 24 recruits at the opening of the NCAA signing period on Wednesday, with 20 of those players coming from the high school ranks.

SethAndersonSpuds.jpg
Former Moorhead lineman Seth Anderson, who spent the past two seasons at North Dakota State, will transfer to UND this spring.
Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

It's a new era in college football recruiting, where transfer rates are at an all-time high as players no longer face an eligibility penalty for changing programs.

Still, the UND football program's signing day Wednesday went off like many before it.

The Fighting Hawks signed 24 additions, with 20 of those players coming from the high school ranks.

"You're going to be able to get guys (in the NCAA Transfer Portal) but on the other hand you're going to lose some guys, too, looking for a different opportunity," UND coach Bubba Schweigert said. "I think you end up looking more one year at a time with your roster than three or four years down the road.

"But we're always going to need to, and will always, recruit high school guys to develop and play here at the University of North Dakota because I think that's the best way to build a culture."

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Two of UND's four transfers announced Wednesday come from Division I programs in Cal Poly transfer linebacker Aaron Cooper, who started for three years with the Mustangs, as well as North Dakota State offensive lineman Seth Anderson.

Anderson, a 6-foot-4, 260-pound guard, is a Moorhead, Minn., native. He spent the past two seasons, including one redshirt year, with the Bison.

"He's a big, strong guy," Schweigert said. "We're looking to see what he can do in the spring. We want him to compete for a spot and playing time."

UND's two other transfers — Butler Community College offensive lineman Brayden Bryant and Northeast Oklahoma Junior College cornerback Devin Hembry — will also have a chance to compete for playing time next fall.

Bryant's offensive line coach at Butler played at Southern Illinois during Schweigert's time in Carbondale.

"The coach compared him to a center we had who was a really good player at SIU," Schweigert said. "If (the coach) is going to compare him like that, we knew we had to take a hard look. He plays strong and is a good finisher. I think he's a good fit for our culture. He seems like a responsible young man."

Offensive line was a focus of the 2022 recruiting class, which included preps Brett Kelzenberg of Wayzata, Minn., Liam Becher of Iowa City, Iowa, and Cade Borud of Pleasant Hill, Iowa.

"We wanted to get bigger and more physical but remain athletic," Schweigert said of the offensive line recruits. "It's a really good pass rushing league, and it's always good at defending the run."

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Schweigert also pointed to the addition of speedy wide receiver Caden Dennis, a high school senior out of the Kansas City area.

"We're always trying to increase our speed at wide receiver," Schweigert said. "We still have opportunities to do that we think Caden Dennis brings speed to our roster.

"We did a good job addressing immediate needs. We'll continue to do that. With this transfer situation, you can continue to try to improve your team here through the break as you start looking at second semester."

Roster status clears up

With the pandemic-impacted 2020 season not counting toward a player's eligibility, seniors in 2021 had decisions to make about returning in 2022 or moving on from the program.

Two unverified decisions from 2021 starters became clear Wednesday during signing day.

Nose guard Jalen Morrison is set to return in 2022, while inside linebacker Noah Larson will not be back for the Hawks.

Late swap

Two previous UND commitments made late recruiting swaps to FBS programs.

Kicker Leyton Simmering, of Rosemount, Minn., decommitted from UND late Tuesday night. On Wednesday, he announced his commitment to Kansas State.

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Earlier this week, defensive back Deven Magli of De Forest, Wis., changed his commitment to walk-on at the University of Wisconsin.

Official 2022 recruiting class

QB Colton Hackel, Perham, Minn
WR Caden Dennis, Liberty, Mo.
WR Sam Strandell, Grand Forks
RB Anthony Moe-Tucker, Kasson, Minn.
TE Haydn Stay, Princeton, Minn.
TE Trace Thaden, Omaha, Neb.
OL Brett Kelzenberg, Wayzata, Minn.
OL Liam Becher, Iowa City, Iowa
OL Cade Borud, Pleasant Hill, Iowa
DL Caleb Olson, Lisbon, N.D.
DL Jack Teiken, Moorhead, Minn.
DL Kendis Ledbetter, Sioux Falls, S.D.
DL Lucas Schweigert, Bismarck, N.D.
LB Paine Parks, Grand Forks
LB Logan Doell, Luxemburg, Wis.
LB Jack Baretz, Franklin, Wis.
LB Hayden Stec, Elkhorn, Neb.
DB Jett Sutton, Kansas City, Mo.
DB Jamal Dixon, Moorhead, Minn.
TRANSFERS
OL Brayden Bryant, Ardmore, Okla.
OL Seth Anderson, Moorhead, Minn.
DB Devin Hembry, Miami, Okla.
LB Aaron Cooper, Lancaster, Calif.

Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, tmiller@gfherald.com or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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