John Reiners and the Black Hills State University football coaching staff felt like the Yellow Jackets needed to bulk up on the offensive and defensive line when recruiting for the 2019 season.
Reiners said they did just that adding five on the offensive line and seven more on the defensive front. And it’s just a start.
"I feel like on the D-line we almost knocked it out of the park,” Reiners said after announcing that 32 student athletes signed with the Yellow Jackets Wednesday on National Signing Day. “We got some guys in those areas that have the size and athleticism you need in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. Week-in and week-out, you have to have depth."
Reiners said last year was a prime example when several injuries hampered the Jacket offense that went into the season with high expectations, only to see the team struggle to a 3-8 overall mark.
“It just changes the whole spectrum of your season,” he said. “To build some of that depth up is just huge for your team. We want to continue to do that.”
On the offensive line, new to the team are Zak Starkey, a 6-foot-2, 275-pounder from Berthoud, Colorado, along with Trey Trembley (265 pounds) from San Marcos, Calif., RJ Jones (265), from Phoenix, Ariz., Nate Clay (285) from Trabuco Canyon, Calif., and Jaxon Parker (250) from Big Horn, Wyo.
Up front defensively, the Jackets signed Marcus Glick (230) from Gillette, Wyo., EJ Hamilton (295) from Surprise, Ariz., Andrew Van Orden (235) from Fort Collins, Colo., Joshua Boles (220), from Loveland, Colo., Jason Chilcoate (285) from Adna, Wash. and Caleb Tiffin (198) from Huffman, Texas.
Overall on paper, Reiners said his staff did a good job of finding not only talented football players, but top student athletes and players of character, which is what every program wants.
“These 32 kids met a lot of needs, such as size that we needed up front and athleticism across the board,” he said. “I always say that this (Signing Day) is not a finality, it’s just kind of the beginning. We still have guys that we are talking to and we’ll sign a handful of guys in the next couple of months."
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Another area of need for the Jackets was at linebacker. Reiners said they are bringing in some athletic players who can fill the MIKE or three-linebacker position that they run.
“Jaxon Samsel (Greeley, Colo.) and Jake Medders (Arcadia) are two good looking kids. In the last two or three years (of high school), they had a combined 600 tackles. That was unreal,” Reiners said. “Aaron Thiele (Buffalo, Wyo.), Victor Vega (Orlando, Fla.) and Brady Badwound (Colorado Springs, Colo.) … there’s a lot of talent in that area.”
Reiners also said that in the defensive secondary they signed some players who maybe aren’t the biggest but have good ball skills, which translates well in the RMAC, which always seems to feature outstanding receivers.
Also on offense, Reiners mentioned Douglas, Wyoming, running back Dylon Case and some athletic receivers.
“We always talk about playing fast and physical, I really like these kids,” he said. “We also got some dual-sport athletes. We have a couple of guys going for state championships in wrestling and others play basketball, which is what I love. They are passionate about competing all year around.”
Reiners said they didn't sign a quarterback early on, although he said they are still looking at that position. Black Hills State will look to replace four-year starter Ryan Hommel. Tyler Hammons, who played in seven games and completed 53-of-106 passes for 553 yards, also returns.
The Yellow Jackets have less than a month before spring practices (Feb. 28) and Reiners like where they are at this point of the off-season.
"This is a big time of the year for all teams, but especially for a team like us. We didn't have the success that we wanted last fall, and again it put a chip on our guys' shoulders that they need to work harder, we need to coach harder and we need to continue to instill that in our team," he said. "We've had a great off-season so far, about halfway through our winter conditioning. I'm very proud of them."