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The University of Minnesota-Crookston has done some heavy fishing for Alaska football players, and the catch is getting quite large.
This weekend the Golden Eagles nabbed their ninth Alaskan of this year's recruiting class, and second from Juneau-Douglas High School, when they signed senior Crimson Bear lineman Zac Campbell. On Feb. 18, the Golden Eagles signed Juneau tight end/defensive end Jake Miller.
"It's a done deal, I'll sign either today or tomorrow," Campbell said on Friday, adding that he was just awaiting the arrival of his NCAA National Letter of Intent in the mail before signing. "I plan to room with Jake. Jake's signing helped me make my decision."
Campbell won Alaska's lineman of the year award in October and was a first-team all-state selection as an offensive lineman. At Minnesota-Crookston, though, he will play on the defensive side of the ball.
"I'll definitely play either defensive end or nose tackle," Campbell said. "It's hard to tell until I get there. It depends on how things go when I get there. I'm 6-foot-1, 220 pounds right now, which is a couple of pounds lighter than when I was in the fall. But they think I can be effective at that weight because of my speed. I've been working out, so I'm a lot stronger."
Minnesota-Crookston is a program that just moved up to the NCAA Division II level from NAIA, and the Golden Eagles posted a 4-7 overall record last year.
The Golden Eagles already had three returning players from Alaska -- all-conference tight end Nick Buzby of Wasilla, defensive lineman Matt Gittlein of Wasilla and defensive lineman John Fillman of Glennallen (who graduated from Palmer's Colony High). Based on their success (and that of Buzby's twin brother Justin, who doesn't plan to play next year), UMC offensive coordinator and recruiting director Shannon Stassen decided to take a look at other Alaskans.
Besides Campbell and Miller, Stassen recruited two players from two-time state champion Dimond High -- quarterback/linebacker Jason Simmons and linebacker Jason Speyerer. Last week, Stassen signed five players out of state runner-up Bartlett -- offensive lineman Mike McKeown, wide receiver Lionel James, defensive back Brandon Moore, cornerback Danny Diedler and defensive end Nick Lagos.
Stassen confirmed Monday that he'd made a scholarship offer to Campbell, but NCAA rules dictate he can't say anything until he receives Campbell's paperwork. He did say he'll be excited to have Campbell on the team. Stassen also made some general recruiting comments about the Alaska connection, which he said could grow even stronger.
"There are some good players up there," Stassen said. "We're not done yet. There could certainly be more signings before everything's through. We've had great success out of our Alaskans."
Campbell said what attracted him to Minnesota-Crookston was the small size of its campus and its information technology program. He also said Miller's signing helped make the decision easier, because not only will he have someone he knows on the team but Miller has family in the area that can help with Campbell's transition to college.
"Jake's got family there and that could help both of us out," Campbell said. "When we both set out to look at colleges we wanted to see if we could find a place we could go together. Jake's family did a lot of research on schools for us, and finding out it was good in technology helped me make up my mind."
"It'll be nice to have someone I know there," Miller said. "We're pretty good friends and it'll be awesome. We'll get to meet some new people and my family can help with the transition."
The Golden Eagles could bag yet another Crimson Bear, since Juneau quarterback Brett Fairchild said he's also received a scholarship offer from Minnesota-Crookston. Fairchild, the state's offensive player of the year, said he won't make a final decision until after he takes a recruiting trip to the University of Idaho and Eastern Oregon next week.
In other recruiting news, Juneau wide receiver Jacob Dutton signed with Orange Coast Junior College in California. Dutton, who was a first-team all-state selection, will join former Crimson Bear tight end Justin Rose and offensive lineman Emil West at the school.
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.