HELENA — If you looked at the Carroll College football team’s departing senior class, you’d notice a need on both sides of the line.
Carroll lost an all-American on the offensive line, and all-conference performers on the defensive line.
With recruiting season fully underway, one may anticipate the Saints would be searching mostly for linemen.
The Saints are. And they were – last year.
“I always look at recruiting two years out,” Saints coach Mike Van Diest said. “Not every freshman you recruit is going to be an immediate help for you the fall of 2018. It’s really a two-year proposition.”
So while the first recruiting haul came in before Christmas, Van Diest is equally excited about his second-year players, some with a redshirt season under their belt and others such as Ryan Arntson and Nate McGree who were solid contributors as true freshman.
“Then there’s other guys who you have to wait and see what they do,” Van Diest said. “We haven’t even been through spring football yet so we don’t know what all of our needs are until we get through that phase of it as well.”
Carroll’s current recruiting class includes four Saints who Van Diest is giddy about. He anticipates another wave of signings in January after the Saints get a chance to bring players on campus once classes resume.
Tanner Harrell announced his signing with Carroll over Twitter a week ago. The two-way all-state player spoke with the Independent Record about making the jump from Class B Shepherd High to Carroll College.
Van Diest views Harrell as the No. 1 defensive lineman in his recruiting class.
“I loved watching him play and he played hard,” Van Diest said. “He’s got great lower body strength and his legs are just awesome. He just has a great demeanor about himself and he has a high motor.”
Van Diest views Harrell as a defensive end. Harrell comes to Carroll as a multisport athlete, wrestling and currently playing basketball. The 6-foot-1, 235-pounder was the second recruit to sign on with the Saints.
Bridger Arvanetes of Ponderosa High School in Colorado signed with the Saints first. The 6-foot-3, 255-pounder was second-team all-conference for his past three years in high school playing center and defensive end. He helped his team reach the playoffs and post a 9-2 record.
“He’s played both ways,” Van Diest said. “Centers are hard to find. He’s very good. He can play center or guard. He’s going to be a 290-pound kid in a couple of years. Good strength. Looking forward to see how he does.”
Arvanetes’ father worked in Helena at the Veterans Affairs Hospital, giving him family ties to the area.
Carroll added a linebacker in Josh Vaughn out of Bolivar, Missouri. The 6-foot-2, 235-pound linebacker, like many in Van Diest’s recruiting classes over the years, is a multisport athlete. He ran the 100-meter in a time of 11.6 seconds as a junior and Van Diest said he’s looking forward to see how he runs this season.
“We’re going to look at him as an outside backer or defensive end,” Van Diest said. “He’s a great young man.”
Vaughn in particular caught Van Diest’s attention with his deep interest in Carroll College. The Saints have a form for prospective recruits to fill out. Most write two or three sentences about why they’re interested in Carroll College.
Van Diest showed a page-long write-up.
“He wrote a dissertation,” Van Diest said. “We’ve very blessed to get him. I’m very excited to see what he can do when he gets here.”
The last of the Saints official signees was Colton Ball of Asotin High in Washington. Ball is a four-year letter winner in football, basketball and track. He’s “been all-conference in everything” and all-state Van Diest said.
Ball comes to Carroll after rushing for 1,700 yards and 24 touchdowns last season. He totaled around 3,500 yards rushing for his career with 38 touchdowns. He also piled up 392 total tackles and 11 sacks.
At 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, Ball gives the Saints a dynamic player. Ball was a team captain his junior sand senior seasons. Van Diest said he’ll get first crack at Ball, likely bringing the young man to the defensive side of the ball.
“(Offensive coordinator Nick) Howlett and (offensive line coach Jim) Hogan are going to have to twist my arm,” Van Diest said. “The kid is just a football player. I’m looking forward to getting him on campus.”
With four in the books for the current recruiting class, Van Diest knows how important it is to bring Montanans on board. As Montana State coach Jeff Choate and now Montana coach Bobby Hauck make the rounds and tap into talent statewide, Van Diest has his sights set on the Big Sky.
“We know how important Montana players are to this program,” he said. “They’re the lifeline of our program.”