South Dakota School of Mines head coach Zach Tinker fires up his team at the end of a Hardrockers spring practice at O'Harra Stadium.

In some positions in football, you just need more size.

For South Dakota School of Mines, that was one of its major goals for its 2018 recruiting class. 

Mines head coach Zach Tinker said they were intentional in what they were doing, and they got larger with this class, which was announced on Wednesday.

“We wanted to definitely get bigger at positions that matter, and we did that," he said. "We filled some needs at some really specific spots. We had to replenish and get bigger at linebacker, and we did, and we needed to get bigger at the defensive back, which we did.

"It all worked out the way we wanted it to."

Tinker said they needed to bulk up on the offensive line and did that with Grant Smith (6-foot, 5-inches, 350 pounds), from Celina, Texas, and Austin Roth (6-4, 300), from Lake Tapps, Washington.

”We expect those guys to play early in their career,” Tinker said. “They are big guys who play with physicality. We want to see them do their thing.”

Two inside linebackers the Hardrockers signed with good size include Gavin Chaddock (6-2, 225, Peoria, Arizona), and Will Carroll (6-1, 205, Gatesville, Texas),

“They are 6-1 and 6-2, and that was important to us,” Tinker said. “We needed to get a little extra length at linebackers.”

Mines was also looking for some added size at defensive back and found that with Adrian Eastman (6-2, 205, Gilbert, Arizona), and Kendahl Johnson (6-3, 190, Phoenix, Arizona ).

“Both are 6-1, 6-2 type players who provide us more length in the back end so we can get into a few more the passing lanes when it is all said and done,” Tinker said.

Tinker said the Hardrockers are in pretty good shape with his skill positions, but they were able to sign a few players that he looks to contribute down the road.

“That is one thing that we return is good offensive skill. We wanted to get a quarterback in the class and we got Toby Smith (6-2, 190), out of Colorado Springs,” he said. “We have been on him forever. His brother plays for Colorado Mines, so to get him to come to our place is a good coup for us."

The Hardrockers also brought in quarterback McCoy Bila (6-2, 165),, out of Chadron, Nebraska.

“I really like Coy’s makeup. We did well at quarterback,” Tinker said.

Tinker also said that they expect wide receiver Quenton Starks (5-11, 175), of San Antonio to challenge for playing time as a freshman.

“When you go down to Texas, you’re finding a guy who is maybe a little more exposed to football,” he said. “Football is very, very important down there. These guys have played a good amount of ball, and they look and act like they are ready to play.”

Other signees include:

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Jalen Griffin (WR, 5-9, 170, San Antonio, Texas), Joseph Alber (S, 6-2, 200, Highlands Ranch, Colorado), Tyler Anderson (OL, 6-4, 295, Colorado Springs, Colorado), Kyante Christian (DE, 5-10, 226, Aurora, Colorado), Jake Leone (TE, 6-3, 215, Fort Collins, Colorado), Broc Langre (OL, 6-0, 280, Littleton, Colorado), Cole Peterson (LB, 6-1, 195, Boulder, Colorado), Fernando Chavez (RB, 5-9, 181, Denver), Cole Seiwald (DE, 6-3, 225, Thornton, Colorado), Chandler Callejo (DB, 5-9, 175, Littleton, Colorado), Kaleb Roth (RB, 5-9, 200, Madera Ranchos, California), Connor Smith (OL, 6-3, 260, Longmont, Colorado), Mitchell Black (OL, 6-2, 270, Arvada, Colorado), Hunter Jaskey (DE, 6-3, 215, Anthem, Arizona), Gavin Chaddock (LB, 6-2, 225, Peoria, Arizona) and Jake Bohnenkamp (WR, 5-11, 180, St. Thomas More, Rapid City).

While Texas, with defensive line coach Nicolas Jean-Baptiste from the Houston area, and Arizona have been big draws for the Hardrockers, Tinker said Colorado has been critical for the program as he calls it an extension of the Black Hills. He said it is somewhat of a home territory now that Mines is in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.

“Colorado coaches and the Colorado families have been super receptive to our message,” he said. “That has changed everything. We used to get guys from southern California, northern California, Oregon and Washington. Not that they weren’t great places for us, because we got some really good players, but (Colorado) is a little more connectivity for us; it is a better fit to just be here at home. Families can drive here for the games, which is what we really like."

Tinker said they are focused on bringing in players that had a winning background and a leadership background. Of the 24 players signed, 20 were team captains. Those players had a .655 winning percentage last season, and academically, they had a 3.6 grade point average and a 26 average in math on their ACTs.

“Numbers don’t tell everything, but those are impressive numbers,” he said. “You are not doing any trade-off on the academic side. You’re not taking a risk on these guys academically. Every single one of these guys stand on his own two feet academically.

“When it comes down to it, we’re not like most in the RMAC, we’re unique. If they want that unique experience, they want true academics and a chance to play big-time Division II college football, that’s us.”

With spring ball about one month away, Tinker said that the Hardrockers have some specific goals they want to accomplish.

Offensively, he said they have a good team coming back, and on defense, they will be younger than they were last year, although he likes their young players.

“It’s one of those unique scenarios where I do think this spring we will really need to identify that culture defensively and find what we will hang our hat on,” he said. “On offense, it is just going to be refining what we are already doing and develop that leadership, and have more of a killer instinct on offense. We have to take our offense into the fourth quarter and finish these guys that we had a chance to finish this past season and didn’t.”

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Sports Reporter

Sports reporter for the Rapid City Journal.