Aliso Niguel quarterback Nathan Cole was one of five Orange County recruits who signed with the University of Minnesota-Crookston, a tiny Division II school.

Small Minnesota school cleans up in O.C.


One of the big winners on National Signing Day was a tiny Division II school from Minnesota that even the most diehard Orange County football fans probably never heard of before Wednesday.

The school: the University of Minnesota-Crookston.

The Golden Eagles swooped in and signed five seniors Wednesday.

The Golden Eagles signed two players from Aliso Niguel - quarterback Nathan Cole (6-4, 215) and offensive lineman John Mitzel (6-5, 285) – two from San Clemente - lineman Sam Hunter (6-0, 255) and Landon Cook (5-9, 200) - and one from Mater Dei - defensive back Mychal Traylor (5-10, 155).

So why did Minnesota-Crookston find so much success in Orange County?

“With smaller schools like this I think it's just simply a case of them expanding their recruiting zone and reaching out to a larger area,” Aliso Niguel athletic director Mike Middlebrook said in an e-mail.

“Normally, schools this size try and stay local, but I'm sure they have realized that California is so rich in football talent that they just needed to tap into it.”

The school’s website reports an enrollment of 1,200 full-time students.

Cole said Mission Viejo coach Bob Johnson helped put him on Crookston’s radar.

“It was all Bob Johnson,” Cole said in a text message Wednesday. “He was contacted by Coach Richie Wessman from Crookston about six weeks ago. Shortly after they spoke with each other, I received a call from Coach Wessman and was offered a scholarship.

“I’m very thankful Coach Johnson helped me out.”

Wessman is another connection that served Minnesota-Crookstion well. He played quarterback at San Clemente and went onto Orange Coast College and USC.

Minnesota Crookston is a member of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, the same conference that produced 2010 Division II national champion Minnesota-Duluth.

The Golden Eagles finished 2-9 last season.


San Clemente offensive lineman Sean Harlow (6-4, 270) signed with Oregon State but won’t have to wait until the summer to join the team.

The senior recently graduated early from San Clemente and will enroll at Oregon State for the spring semester, starting April 1, his father, Pat, said.

“He wants to get up there for spring football,” Pat said in an email.


Tustin linebacker Marshaun Daniel (5-11, 210) took time to count his blessings before he signed with FCS contender Cal Poly SLO.

“Signing day has turned my lifelong dream into an actual reality,” the senior said in an e-mail. “This is the ultimate reward for all of my hard work. It feels good knowing you can actually achieve the goals you set for yourself. I'm blessed.”


Santa Margarita defensive end Nick Begg (6-5, 245) said he will greyshirt – a term used by colleges for delayed enrollment - at Arizona State. His scholarship will start in January of 2014.


Mission Viejo’s Braxton Shirley (6-4, 230) signed as a tight end with FCS Indiana State. Shirley spent his first three seasons with the Diablos as a quarterback and then moved to tight end. …

Indiana State also signed Tesoro quarterback Matt Adam (6-1, 205). Indiana State’s new coach, Mike Sanford, who has coaching ties to USC and Long Beach State. …

Santa Margarita’s Connor O’Brien (6-4, 205) signed with Washington as an outside linebacker and is excited about the Huskies’ recruiting class, which includes his high school teammate, center Dane Crane (6-3, 295). “I feel great about it,” O’Brien said. “We are getting so many great players, and with out great coaches, we should be one heck of a team.” …

Mater Dei junior cornerback Jonathan Lockett has been offered by San Jose State, Coach Bruce Rollinson confirmed Wednesday. Lockett joins La Habra’s duo of Greg Gaines (Colorado) and Toa Lobendahn (USC commit) as county juniors with scholarship offers.

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