There are five weeks until the opening of fall camp for St. Olaf football. Five more weeks of lifting and running and preparing for the 2015 season. But, when a team is rebuilding a program and replenishing the player pantry, recruiting is never-ending.
So it is for the Oles, as coaches last week entertained 30 prospective players from places as far-flung as Georgia and Texas and as close as Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Missouri and Illinois. That prospective class of 2020 would join an anticipated freshman class this fall that hails from Arkansas, Washington, Ohio, California, Oregon, Florida and South Dakota.
Recruiting now has become more systematic, more meticulous, more detail-oriented than in years past, said Eric Yuen, the Oles offensive line coach and recruiting coordinator. It has to be. When you are competing against St. John’s and St. Thomas and Bethel and Gustatus for student-athletes, the process needs to be thorough. It’s not just about getting numbers, but about recruiting students who will thrive in an academically challenging, family-oriented environment.
So far, it appears to be paying dividends.
Nearly 30 new first-year players are expected to arrive at the Hill on Aug. 14 for the opening of fall camp. It would be the largest class of incoming recruits in Head Coach Craig Stern’s three years at the helm. In all, Yuen said the Oles expect first-years, returning players and a handful of older students who are coming back to football after a year or two off to boost the total roster to 73 players in 2015. That is a marked improvement over last year’s 52-man squad.
It’s an improvement. But Stern and Yuen say they are not resting on improvement. Their roster goal for the 2016 season is 85-90 players; in 2017, it’s 100-105.
So, in a way, this next five weeks will be the first step toward the next several years of improvement, of replenishment. Of rebuilding back to levels once regularly enjoyed by Ole football – back to a future of contention in one of the country’s strongest D-III football conferences.
I can’t wait.