CFB: USD Announces Early Signing Class

VERMILLION, S.D.—South Dakota head football coach Bob Nielson is pleased to announce the signing of 13 student-athletes to a National Letter of Intent. In addition, Nielson announced that two other high school standouts have accepted an offer of admissions to the University of South Dakota and plan to join the Coyote football program.

In a theme that has stayed consistent since Nielson’s arrival late in 2015, the early signing class is comprised mainly of offensive and defensive linemen. Five are designated as offensive linemen and four are defensive linemen, but most played both ways in high school. The group also includes three defensive backs, two linebackers and a high school quarterback converting to wide receiver. Nearly the entire class competed in something other than football in high school.

“We always try to find the very best athletes, and I think we did that,” said Nielson. “With your freshmen class, you want to find athletes with frames that you can develop and build over their time here. We also have many multi-sport athletes, which has always been something I have believed in. Their upside is so much bigger when they start to focus on just football as their sport.”

It is another diverse class that hails from eight different states. Three come from South Dakota and five others are from neighboring states, but also represented are Florida (3), Missouri (2), Illinois (1) and Kansas (1).

“It represents all the states that we recruit,” said Nielson. “We are focused on the Midwest region and then the state of Florida is the one area that we focus on outside of that regional footprint. To get kids from all corners of that area is a good job by our staff in identifying some really talented young men who are going to thrive in our program.”

With a 2018 roster consisting of 13 seniors and the large number of returners to the Coyote program, this early signing class wasn’t expected to be a large one numbers wise. That said, Nielson expects an additional group to be added in February.

“This is not going to be our complete class,” said Nielson. “We have a couple of areas position wise that we didn’t fill in this first signing group and that will be the focus of the next signing period.

“I don’t think you’re going to see the day where we will sign our entire class early because there are a number of high-quality prospects who make a conscious decision to wait for the next period. Certainly, we are excited about this group and their future with this program.”

The NCAA mandates a dead period in recruiting running now through Jan. 10. The second signing period date is Feb. 6.

A listing of the 2019 early signing class is below. A more informative bio on each signee is included in the attachment.

2019 South Dakota Early Signing Class

Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Hometown High School Previous School
Carter Bell WR 5-10 180 Bettendorf, Iowa Bettendorf
Ryan Bena OL 6-3 275 Omaha, Neb. Creighton Prep
Brady Booker LB 6-3 240 LaSalle, Ill. St. Bede Academy Iowa Central CC
Cori Fant Jr. DB 6-1 185 Tampa, Fla. Jefferson
Robert Ford III DB 6-1 175 St. Peters, Mo. Lutheran
Nick Gaes DL 6-4 235 Alta, Iowa Alta-Aurelia
D.J. Gross LB 6-2 215 McCook, Neb. McCook
Blake Holden DL 6-3 265 Watertown, S.D. Watertown
Cliff Johnson* OL 6-5 285 Lake Andes, S.D. Andes Central
Jake Larsen* DL 6-3 270 Harrisburg, S.D. Harrisburg
Joey Lombard OL 6-5 305 Anoka, Minn. Anoka
Jontrell Oliver DL 6-3 245 Tampa, Fla. East Bay
Tyler Perry DB 6-3 190 North Port, Fla. Port Charlotte
Tyler Smith OL 6-5 270 Joplin, Mo. Joplin
Siler Tschirhart OL 6-8 250 Overland Park, Kan. Blue Valley

*Players have accepted an offer of admissions to the University of South Dakota and plan to join the Coyote football program.