Cold-country colleges enjoying recruiting success in AZ heat

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What is it about cold weather that is luring Arizona’s graduating high school football players to the northern climes?

How about the thought of four more years of August practices, when the temperature inside their helmets is somewhere around 120 degrees?  That should be plenty of motivation.

So, does that level the playing field somewhat for small colleges like Dakota State University that enjoys temperatures in the 80′s for those early days of practice?  Of course, by December, those temps have dropped to single digits. Brrrrr

DSU is  just one of the colleges in cold country that has targeted Arizona athletes and is picking them by the bunches.

You probably already knew that the University of Michigan picked up a couple Valley players in last year’s recruiting class, defensive end Craig Roh and offensive tackle Taylor Lewan, both from Chaparral High School in Scottsdale.  Roh started in Michigan’s front seven last season and Lewan is in a good position to compete for the starting left tackle position this spring and summer.

More than a dozen offensive line prospects nationally have offers from the Wolverines, and three of those are Phoenix-area players.  The focus of the 2011 recruiting class is supposed to be offensive linemen.

Which explains why the Wolverines have their sights set on yet another Chaparral HS stand-out, 6’5″, 250-pound Andre Yruretagoyena.  Both Michigan and University of Arizona are still on Yruretagoyena’s list and he plans to visit Michigan before the start of his senior season.  His buddy in Ann Arbor, Lewan, is beckoning.

And, not to be undone by the big dogs, little Dakota State (enrollment: 2,500) in Madison (pop:6,500), South Dakota, is gobbling up Arizona graduates – five at a time!

DSU has just signed William Bushong from Copper Canyon HS, Kevin Pantastico from Desert Ridge HS, and a trio from Prescott HS: Matt Groff, Aaron Gronwald, and Nathan Wittler.

Bushong, a defensive back, was a three-starter for Copper Canyon and twice earned All-Conference honorable mention, and Pantastico played quarterback at Desert Ridge, earning All-Conference and All-State honors.  Pantastico recorded the most passing yards and most touchdowns in school history and also set the state record for passing yards in a single game with 603 yards.

The trio from Prescott HS includes two defensive backs (Groff and Gronwald) and a defensive tackle (Wittler).  Groff, an All-Area and All-Region honoree, was the region leader in interceptions for two years and also played running back.  Gronwald was also named a First Team All-Region selection as both a defensive back and a wide receiver.  And Wittler is a 6’4″, 230-pound defensive tackle who played four years of varsity and will bring good size to the DSU line.

So what’s the allure for the three refugees from the snow-covered pine country of Prescott?  Maybe they like the cold weather.

Or maybe they just want a good chance to see some playing time.  Brrrr

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