Austin Barth, QB, 6-5, 210, Fr., Columbia Falls (Columbia Falls): Earned first team all-state honors at linebacker as a senior and first team all-conference honors at that position twice ... two-time second team all-conference quarterback ... also all-state choice in basketball. Coach Rob Ash: “Austin was the leader of the pack in our recruiting this year. He committed last spring, so he’s been a Bobcat for almost a whole year now. He’s an outstanding talent as a quarterback, has a big arm, and is very poised. He’s an outstanding basketball player and is very athletic for his size.”
Kris Cooper, DL, 6-2, 265, Fr., Gardena, Calif. (Garden Sierra): Earned First-Team All-Mission League honors... also named Second Team All-CIF Southern Section. Coach Ash: “Kris Cooper was the top-rated inside player on our board. He’s from a very strong Catholic school in Los Angeles, where he played high-quality football. His best days are ahead of him in that he still has room to grow and get stronger, but he’s very quick and light on his feet and very aggressive. We’re hoping he can develop into the same type of player as Zach Minter and Christian Keli’i, who we graduate this year. He’s our hope for the future at that position.”
Vince DiGiallonardo, DB, 5-11, 180, Fr., Polson (Polson): A three-time all-state quarterback and free safety who earned all-conference honors at safety four times ... led his team to a 21-4 record as the its starting quarterback, earning conference offensive MVP honors twice. Coach Ash: “Vince is an extremely versatile and talented athlete who can play any of a number of positions. We recruited him as a free safety, and think he’ll be a very heady, smart, diverse athlete back there. He could also help us on special teams in the return game.”
JP Flynn, OL, 6-5, 290, Fr., Bettendorf, Iowa (Bettendorf): Earned First Team All-State honors as a senior after helping lead Bettendorf to an undefeated regular season and state runnerup finish ... First Team All-Mississippi Conference and All-Academic team ... also team captain. Coach Ash: “I recruited JP’s brother Steve to Drake five years ago so we have a connection with the Flynn family, but we recruited JP on his own merits. He is a very outstanding offensive linemen from one of the top programs in the state of Iowa. His team was undefeated throughout the season until the state championship game. He is a big, strong, athletic offensive lineman who could play a number of positions in the offensive line.”
Zach Hutcins, DE, 6-3, 225, Fr., Las Vegas, Nev. (Bishop Gorman): A First Team All-State linebacker as a senior ... helped lead Bishop Gorman to three straight state titles, lettering each year and starting the last two during the team’s 43-3 run ... logged 79 tackles, six for a loss, with three sacks ... Sunset Southwest Defensive MVP as a senior ... earned Nevada’s U.S. Marine Corps 2011 Honor, Courage and Commitment Award given to one student-athlete in each state ... Bishop Gorman’s starting tight end last fall, as well. Coach Ash: “Zach Hutchins is a dynamic player from one of the top high school programs in the nation. He played a lot of different positions, but we project him to be a pass-rushing defensive end in the mold of some of the guys we’ve had that have made such an impact in our program, a Dane Fletcher/Brad Daly type of undersized, speedy defensive end.”
Jackson Mahlum, TE, 6-2, 212, Fr., Frenchtown (Frenchtown): A three-way all-conference choice in Northwestern A as a senior, earning first team honors as a tight end and punter and honorable mention as a defensive end ... a team captain and four-year varsity player ... Frenchtown’s leading receiver as a senior, with 17 catches for 225 yards ... averaged nearly 40 yards per punt, and finished second on the team in tackles ... also a three-year starter in basketball ... the cousin and former high school teammate of Bobcat running back Cody Kirk. Coach Ash: “Jackson Mahlum has bloodlines back to the 1984 National Championship team that his dad Tom played on. He’s a very good tight end in his own right. He’s young and growing and going to get bigger and stronger during his time here. He’s very tough and tenacious.”
Dakota Prukop, QB, 6-2, 177, Fr., Austin, Texas (Vandergrift): A two-year team captain who earned All-District 25-4A honors as a quarterback and safety last fall ... team MVP as a senior, and academic all-district choice ... first scholarship student-athlete signed from Vandergrift. Coach Ash: “Dakota is in the first senior class to graduate from Vandergrift. He took them from their first football team all the way to the playoffs this year. He’s a very skilled athlete. Some teams recruited him as a safety, but we like him as a dual threat quarterback, a good runner and passer.”
AJ Silva, K, 6-1, 170, Fr., Sparks, Nev. (Reed): Helped lead Lake Travis to the 2011 Division 1-4A State Championship, a team ranked fourth nationally, its fifth straight state title ... was all-district cecond team, academic all-district, and a multiple offensive lineman of the week honoree ... an avid weight lifter. Coach Ash: “He comes to us as a kicker, but he was a sparkplug of their football team as a quarterback this year. He led them to the finals, where they lost to Bishop Gorman in the championship game. He passed for around 3,000 yards and had a great career as a quarterback, so he’s very athletic. He has a very strong leg, and was one of the national leaders in kickoff yardage and touchbacks.”
Fe’ao Vunipola, LB, 5-11, 210, Fr., Pittsburg, Calif. (Pittsburg): An ESPN First Team All-East Bay Athlete ... earned Second Team All-CIF Southern Section honors ... logged 32 tackles with one interception and a sack as a senior, 26 tackles as a junior ... rushed for 1,034 yards and eight touchdowns as a senior, 436 yards and four touchdowns as a junior. Coach Ash: “Fe’ao was our top linebacker prospect. He’s in the mold of the linebackers we’ve recruited to Montana State - he can run, he’s very fast, he’s aggressive, very athletic. He was also a good running back in high school. He’ll fit right into the style of Jody Owens and Na’a Moeakiola, fast linebackers that may be a little undersized but can really run.”
Marshall Womack, OL, 6-5, 250, Fr., Lakeway, Texas (Lake Travis): Helped lead Lake Travis to the 2011 Division 1-4A State Championship, a team ranked fourth nationally, its fifth straight state title ... was all-district second team, Academic All-District, and a multiple Offensive Lineman of the Week honoree ... an avid weight lifter. Coach Ash: “Marshall comes from Lake Travis High School, a powerhouse program which has won five state championships in a row. He has a great frame. His best year of football are ahead of him because he is tall and rangy and very athletic and flexible as an offensive lineman.”
Keith Leenders, K, 5-8, 185, Jr., Vacaville, Calif. (Vacaville/Solano College): Transferred to MSU at the semester, and is presently enrolled and attending classes ... finished 2011 season 10-14 on field goals and 28-31 on extra points, scoring 58 points ... helped lead Solano to two straight Bay Valley Conference titles... kicked four field goals in one game (vs. Feather River), including a long of 45 ... named the league’s top kicker in 2010 and ’11 ... finished his junior college career 21-for-29 on field goals, 56-for-65 on PATs ... a two-time all-league kicker at Vacaville High. Coach Ash: “Keith is an extremely consistent and steady kicker who has two years of college experience under his belt. I expect him to immediately contend for the vacant place-kicking position on our team when we begin practicing this spring.”
Eight football players sign with Carroll
Two athletes from Dillon’s Class A state championship-winning squad highlight Carroll College’s 2012 football recruiting class.
Beavers quarterback J.T. Linder and linebacker Zeke Koslosky were two of eight signees announced Tuesday by coach Mike Van Diest. Fellow Treasure State products joining the Saints are Savage’s Braden Ler and Columbia Falls defensive end Jacob Babcock.
Out-of-state athletes rounding out the list of signings are Elliot McGill (Salt Lake City), Tyson Bydler (Chadron, Neb.), Alec Basterrechea (Gooding, Idaho) and Colter Hamel (Green River, Wyo.).
“They have the qualities that have made Carroll College successful both on the football field and in the classroom,” said Van Diest, who just wrapped up his 13th season at the helm with the Saints’ 12th straight Frontier Conference title and eighth national championship berth.
Linder led Dillon to the state crown this past fall, throwing for 2,378 yards and 22 touchdowns in addition to rushing for 482 yards and 18 scores. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound signal caller was named Offensive MVP of the Northwest Montana conference and made the All-State team as a junior and senior, in addition to Academic All-State the past three years.
“I have family up there, and I really like the atmosphere up there, what they have going for them,” said Linder, whose mother, Roxanne, played basketball for Carroll. “It’s nice to be wanted, too. At Carroll I was wanted, and at Missoula they told me I could be a preferred (walkon). ... I’m excited to be a Saint.”
Linder, who visited the Carroll campus on Jan. 23, has been selected to play in both the East/West Shrine Game and the Montana/Dakota Badlands Bowl this summer. He is also a three-year letterwinner in basketball, where the Beavers finished as state runners-up during the 2010-11 season.
Also at quarterback, the Saints signed the 6-2, 175-pound Hamel. The Green River High School product was named conference player of the year and was also named to Wyoming’s “Super 25” team. Hamel, who also plays soccer and basketball, has made honor roll all four years.
Van Diest said Linder and Hamel are tremendous athletes with strong arms, and that their size and ability to run the ball appealed to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Nick Howlett.
At receiver, Van Diest said the Saints’ staff set out in search of taller wideouts. That is exactly what they got in the 6-3, 205-pound McGill. The Salt Lake City product started at wide receiver and outside linebacker for Judge Memorial Catholic High School, where he led his team in receptions, receiving touchdowns and tackles. McGill also excelled in basketball.
“He is an outstanding athlete with size, speed and great hands,” Van Diest said.
The coach also liked the athleticism shown by Chadron’s Bydler. The 6-2, 250-pound lineman was a two-way player on his football team in Nebraska and was named All-State twice. Bydler carries a 3.5 GPA, and Van Diest said he could suit up on either the offensive or defensive line at Carroll.
Also adding depth to an already deep defensive line is Babcock. The 6-2, 225-pound defensive end was a three-year starter for Columbia Falls and team captain the past two seasons. Babcock also has lettered twice in track and field and has three years of wrestling under his belt.
“The fact that he is a wrestler shows his toughness and his passion,” Van Diest said.
Rounding out the recent additions to the Saints’ defense are linebackers Ler and Koslosky, and defensive back Basterrechea.
The 6-4, 210-pound Ler helped lead the Warriors to back-to-back state runner-up finishes in Class C 6-Man the past two seasons. Last fall he finished with 128 tackles and two interceptions, in addition to 34 receptions for 12 TDs on offense. Ler boasts a 3.73 GPA.
Koslosky (6-1, 215 pounds) was Defensive MVP of Class A’s Northwest conference and co-captain of his title-winning team. Koslosky is also a member of Dillon’s track and field and wrestling programs and is currently undefeated in the 215-pound weight class. He won a state title in the discus last year. Koslosky owns a 3.9 GPA.
Basterrechea (6-2, 190) was a two-time all-conference linebacker and defensive back for Gooding High School, as well as a captain his junior and senior year. This past season he recorded 70 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. Basterrechea, who is also student body president, will join the talented Saints’ secondary.
“All three have tremendous speed for their positions,” Van Diest said of Ler, Koslosky and Basterrechea. “They are tough and play with great intensity and focus.”
Van Diest said he expects to add another 18 to 20 athletes to this recruiting class in the coming weeks.