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UND hopes prep hoops stars develop into FCS football stars

UND head football coach Bubba Schweigert (left) speaks with Midco Sports Network personality Alex Heinert during an on-air segment as part of an early signing period Wednesday morning for prospective college football athletes. Nick Nelson / Forum News Service1 / 3
Fighting Hawks head football coach Bubba Schweigert (center) checks for updates on Wednesday's early signing period for prospective college football athletes with assistant coaches Jordan Gigli (left) and Malcolm Agnew at the Midco Sports Network office. Nick Nelson / Forum News Service2 / 3
UND head football coach Bubba Schweigert (second from left) sits in a conference room with coaching staff at Midco Sports Network in Grand Forks during Wednesday's early signing period. Nick Nelson / Forum News Service3 / 3

GRAND FORKS — Looking at the prep careers of Garett Maag of West St. Paul, Minn., and C.J. Siegel of La Crosse, Wis., it might be tough to tell whether University of North Dakota football coach Bubba Schweigert or UND men's basketball coach Brian Jones were more interested in recruiting the high school seniors to Grand Forks.

Maag and Siegel are both averaging more than 20 points per game playing basketball this winter.

On Wednesday, Dec. 20, though, they were two key pieces of Schweigert's 2018 football recruiting class, which came during the NCAA's early signing period, a recruiting calendar previously reserved for February.

In total, UND announced 21 additions during the early signing period.

Maag, a 6-foot-5, 205-pound wide receiver for St. Croix Lutheran High School, turned down a walk-on spot with the in-state Minnesota Gophers to hold true to his commitment to UND.

"I love it there," Maag said. "The community is amazing, and I really like the coaches. They loved me, and I wanted a college that really wanted me."

Maag finished his senior season with 25 catches for 771 yards and 12 touchdowns. He was a Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune All-Metro Second Team and was named to the Twin Cities All-District Team.

Siegel, a 6-foot athlete expected to play cornerback for the Fighting Hawks, was one of five Wisconsin players signed by UND during the early signing period.

As a senior, Siegel rushed for 391 yards and a touchdown, while adding 34 receptions for 521 yards and seven touchdowns. On defense, he totaled 47 tackles with a forced fumble and interception.

"I was 100 percent committed from the start," Siegel said. "UND was the right school for me and the right fit. I'm ready to get going."

Early in his high school career, Siegel fashioned himself more as a basketball player in the future, especially after his sophomore season of football was wiped out with an injury.

"He has unbelievable quickness," La Crosse Logan head coach Casey Knoble said. "He's one of the best I've seen as far as not losing any speed when he makes his cuts. He also has a willingness to work and get better and ask questions. Character-wise, you're talking about a top-of-the-line kid. With that athleticism and attitude, he's a coach's dream."

Siegel impressed UND coaches at the team's elite camp over the summer.

"We feel like he can develop into an excellent corner," Schweigert said. "We like the way he competes. He committed to us early and stuck to it. Those are guys you want in your program. We feel like he's a really good fit for us."

In addition to Maag and Siegel, UND coaches pointed to Wisconsin product Mike Bruner to have an opportunity to play early in his career.

The 6-foot-3, 215-pound linebacker committed to the University of Iowa early in his prep career before reopening his recruitment.

UND signed two in-state wide receivers: Grand Forks Red River's Tyler Burian as a preferred walk-on and Noah Sickler of Dickinson Trinity.

"Local guys are very important," Schweigert said. "We want guys who grew up watching UND and wanting to come to UND. I love walk-ons. They're really special to your program. We think (Burian) has big upside. We're really excited to have him on our team."

UND signed four junior college transfers who will each join the team for spring ball during the second semester.

The junior college transfers are Laney College safety Zach Zimmerman (the brother of UND quarterback Andrew Zimmerman), American River College cornerback Lenny Nelson, Moorpark College safety Hayden Galvin and Garden City Community College linebacker Tyron Vrede, who is a native of the Netherlands.

Schweigert said the staff will continue to recruit into the next signing period in February. The team would like to target tight end, offensive line, running back and quarterback, as well as look at potential dropdowns from the FBS ranks from any position.

UND had one verbal commitment fall through late in the recruiting process as defensive lineman Daniel Okpoko of Saskatoon, Sask., spurned the Fighting Hawks for San Diego State.

Tom Miller

Miller has been with the Grand Forks Herald sports department for the past 13 years. He's also a Grand Forks native and UND graduate. 

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