UND football: Sioux add speed, explosiveness

UND football recruit R.J. McGill, a shifty running back from Phoenix, was asked to describe his strengths. "Speed," McGill said. It's likely a common answer among this year's UND football recruiting class, which targeted speed and athleticism at ...

UND football recruit R.J. McGill, a shifty running back from Phoenix, was asked to describe his strengths.

"Speed," McGill said.

It's likely a common answer among this year's UND football recruiting class, which targeted speed and athleticism at the skilled positions.

"Overall, I'm extremely happy with the speed," UND coach Chris Mussman said.

The speed of this season's class focuses on McGill and California running back Breon Butler.


McGill, who is 5-foot-10 and 165 pounds, said he likes to compare his game to New Orleans Saints running back and former USC star Reggie Bush.

McGill reportedly ran a 4.47 40-yard dash at a Phoenix combine, according to Butler is listed as running a 4.5 40-yard dash on

No Sioux player ran a 40-yard dash time faster than 4.50 seconds this fall. UND deep threat Ismael Bamba ran a 4.58 a season ago.

Mussman, who said he doesn't put much stock in 40-yard dash times until he personally clocks players, said the speed of recruit Adam Shaugabay, a Warroad, Minn., native, also stands out.

"(Shaugabay) was a guy we targeted here right away," Mussman said. "He was a surprise. The first time I saw his highlight tape, I was surprised he was in our area and not garnering a lot of attention."

McGill brings versatility

McGill was a first team all-state running back in Arizona, racking up more than 2,000 yards of offense and 13 touchdowns. He was named the 5A Desert Valley Conference Two-Way Player of the Year.

McGill, who is listed as a two-star player on recruiting Web sites and, played a variety of positions in high school.


"I'm very versatile," he said. "In high school, I played wide receiver and running back mostly. I also played quarterback, linebacker, cornerback. Wherever the ball is."

McGill said Sioux coaches foresee him as a combination of running back and wide receiver.

"I told the coaches I wanted to go to a college to make a difference, and I like the ball in my hands," McGill said. "They agreed and thought I'll play both running back and wide receiver."

McGill, who also had offers from South Dakota State and Air Force, was almost a recruit the Sioux didn't land. McGill didn't visit UND until last weekend, where he was the only recruit on campus at the time.

"The reason it was so late, I guess, is because they just found out about me," McGill said. "(Mussman) didn't believe I was available because my highlight tape is pretty good. He thought I had been picked up by a (Division I-AA school). . . . he got me up there right away."

McGill's visit also eased concerns about the transition from Arizona to North Dakota.

"Since I'm from a big city, I didn't think North Dakota would have that many hotels and shopping places," McGill said. "And on Saturday, I went to a hockey game. That really impressed me."

Although McGill may possess the athleticism to play as a true freshman, he said he is leaning towards red-shirting.


"UND's still in that transition of eligibility," McGill said. "The coaches said if I wanted to compete for a job right away, I would be able to do that. But with the playoff thing, I think I'll want to redshirt. That way, I'll have one year of not going to the playoffs, then three more."

McGill comes from a strong football background. His father, Reggie, was a coach at McGill's St. Mary's High School. Reggie was the 1985 Arizona high school offensive player of the year and went on to be a four-year starter at the University of Arizona. He also spent a little time in the NFL with the San Diego Chargers and Detroit Lions.

Sioux also address speed on defense

UND's recruiting class also features speed on defense, namely Wayzata cornerback Daryl Brown.

Brown, at 5-10 and 160 pounds, was named first team all-state, all-metro, all-conference and all-area.

When Mussman was asked who on this recruiting class he felt was a steal, he mentioned Brown in a round-about way.

"It's tough to label kids the next best thing," Mussman said. "The kids have a lot of football and life left before we make those assertions."

However, Mussman went on to mention Butler, Brown and Eden Prairie tight end Taylor Grant, the grandson of former Minnesota Vikings coach Bud Grant.


As a senior, Brown had 39 tackles, 16 pass breakups and four interceptions.

"I don't want to be cocky, but I think I'm a shutdown corner," Brown said. "Every game in high school, the coach said the one guy who they thought was the best receiver, they put me on him and go man up."

Brown also had offers from Division I-A Wyoming and Division II schools Minnesota State-Mankato and Winona State.

Brown said the tipping point was academics.

"When I went on my official visit, UND had a lot of help for academics and that was a good fit for me," Brown said. "I knew they'd be able to help me in some of the areas I need it."

Miller reports on sports. Reach him at (701) 780-1121; (800) 477-6572, ext. 121; or send e-mail to .

Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019 and 2022.

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, or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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