The Saints announced the majority of their recruiting haul on Wednesday, taking part in the NCAA's National Signing Day.
Neither NAIA athletes nor institutions are constrained to the same dates as NCAA athletes, but many players choose to commit or sign letters of intent to play sports at the collegiate level on Feb. 1.
“We’ve been doing it for a couple months and we’re closer,” Mike Van Diest said. “We’re 90 percent done. We have a few more key positions to fill. We feel pretty good about the class at this point.”
Van Diest said assistant coach Jim Hogan is out in Oregon and expected to sign another offensive lineman soon.
Carroll announced 19 football recruits as part of its 2017 recruiting class. Three are transfers and have been previously reported on by the Independent Record. Carroll’s announced football recruiting class so far includes transfers Seamus Tully of Bellow Falls, Vermont (defensive tackle); Jeremiah Vasquez of Spanaway, Washington (defensive back), and Alex Thomas of Great Falls and the University of Montana (linebacker).
Recruits from the high school ranks include Whitehall running back Wesley Harshbarger, Conrad linebacker Hunter Mycke, Helena High running back Ryan Arntson and Capital High defensive back Colin Sassano, Butte wide receiver/defensive back Nate McGree, Great Falls defensive back Xavier Pace, linebacker Thomas Robitaille of Casper, Wyoming; offensive lineman Dustin McLean of Lewiston, Idaho; offensive lineman Brandon Ahlgren of West Linn, Oregon; offensive lineman Tanner Steele of Lynden, Washington; offensive lineman Anthony Reisch of Pasco, Washington, defensive lineman Garrett Kocab of Pinon, California; offensive lineman Jacob Clark of Sumner, Washington; wide receiver Anthony Olmes of Benicia, California; defensive lineman Billy Lewis of Larkspur, California; and wide receiver/defensive back/kicker Josh Kraft of Billings.
By position, the Saints' recruiting class stands at two running backs, three linebackers, one wide receiver, three defensive backs, two defensive linemen, five offensive linemen, and three multi-position players.
The Saints added more bodies on Signing Day than they did a year ago, when the Saints signed 11 players.
“We signed three transfers that came in January,” Van Diest said. “That was a big part of it. Having them in January. Getting them secured, that jump-started the recruiting for us. I think kids in Montana, Idaho, Washington are taking notice of what Carroll College is. They really looked at our body of work for the last century, especially for the last 15 years. That academics are certainly attractive, too.”
The Saints lost to graduation three defensive backs, one running back, a quarterback, three linebackers, one receiver, four defensive linemen, four offensive linemen and a kicker, according to the Carroll College roster. Starters or part-time starters who graduated included linebacker Jake Konen, offensive lineman Brandon Vedder, running back Dylan Green, receiver Cameron Nelson, kicker Colter Hamel and defensive lineman Kyle Smith.
Ahlgren, the offensive lineman out of West Linn, comes to Carroll after completing an undefeated season and winning a 6A state championship in Oregon. The 6-foot-4, 266-pound lineman was pursued by Eastern Oregon, Southern Oregon, Humboldt State and Western Oregon. EOU and SOU offered the senior. Carroll won out and recruited him as an offensive guard, though he says he’s capable of playing tackle, too.
“I chose Carroll because academically it's almost impossible to beat and the football tradition runs so deep,” Ahlgren said. “I want to study Anthrozoology and it's one of the only colleges in the country that offers it.”
Ahlgren comes to Helena with some familiarity, as his older sister attended Carroll and he’s been able to visit and acquaint himself with the Queen City. He was a three-year starter at West Linn, and during that time the Lions went 35-5 with two state championship appearances. He’s twice been selected to the all-league team. Ahlgren also wrestles and throws during track and field season, which he plans to continue at Carroll.
Olmes comes to Carroll by way of California. The wide receiver, too, comes to Carroll as a state champion. His high school, St. Patrick/St. Vincent High, won its first-ever school championship this season as Olmes became a second team all-league receiver and an all-area all-purpose player.
“I love Carroll's campus and the Carroll College community,” Olmes said. “When I first visited with my family as an eighth grader, I knew that it was the top school on my list. I first heard of Carroll when they were on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 2007, and my family has followed them ever since. I love the faith, community, academic, and outdoor opportunities on campus.”
Olmes has kept track of Carroll’s recruiting class, saying “from what I have read about the rest of the recruiting class, I can tell there is lots of talent coming in. I am very excited to meet my teammates.”
Olmes is one of eight boys in his family, and his twin brother, Alex, will also be attending Carroll. Alex played football and is a standout volleyball player. He does not, however, plan on pursuing football at Carroll.
When asked what Saints fans should know about him, Olmes said: “Saints fans should know that I am very excited to play for this great community, and I want to do everything I can to bring back NAIA championships to Helena. I love my faith and the outdoors, and I cannot wait to be up there.”
Steele is a 6-3, 250-pound guard from Lynden High School in Washington. He also played nose guard on defense. He was named a first team all-conference selection on both sides of the ball.
Clark is a 6-4, 225-pound tackle and guard out of Sumner High School. As a junior, he was named first team all-league tackle. His senior season, Sumner moved up a classification and Clark moved positions and garnered a second team all-league guard. He was a team captain and holds a 3.3 GPA.
Clark said Helena felt “really comparable to my home town of Sumner. I could already feel the community support all around me which is what Sumner is all about. Also I enjoyed meeting with the coaches and faculty. They were all really nice and enthusiastic.” The Washingtonian is an avid skier, though he admits it’s secondary to his passion for football.
Lewis is a 5-8 defensive lineman from Larkspur, California. Kraft is a 5-11, 180-pound kicker/receiver/corner from Billings Central.
“To sign somebody like Ryan Arntson is really big time,” Van Diest said. “He’s a guy that comes around once every five or six years. He has such an impact. What he did last year was phenomenal. You look at the rest of the Montana kids, they are very exciting because they are going to make a difference.”
Van Diest said ideally he’d like to bring the 2017 recruiting class together at Carroll in June and “let them work out and get to know the coaches even better and get to know themselves better.”
The Saints will host a Signing Day event on Feb. 13 at the Staggering Ox with ESPN Montana, highlighting players in the most recent class.
Recruits will likely continue to trickle in over the the coming months. Information on other recruits can be found online at helenair.com/sports.