Maple Grove running back Evan Hull rushed for over 2,100 yards and 19 touchdowns last season, helping the Crimson to its fifth consecutive state tournament appearance.

This fall, the incoming senior hopes to help the team win its first state championship.

Hull, a first-team Star Tribune all-metro performer last season, is one of four co-captains leading the Crimson into its offseason workouts, which started this week. He said the team’s motto for the upcoming season is “no retakes,” a nod to the fact that one bad game could end its season.

“It’s all about mental toughness,” Hull said of the team’s state-championship aspirations. “It’s really more a mental game than a physical game in that aspect.”

Hull made Maple Grove’s varsity as a sophomore but played sparingly, rushing for 72 yards in three games. He assumed the starting role at the beginning of last season and rushed for 1,270 yards and nine touchdowns in eight regular-season games.

Hull was especially effective in Maple Grove’s four state-tournament games, rushing for 10 touchdowns and an average of 226 yards per game. That output included a 397-yard, four-touchdown game in the second round and a 190-yard, two-touchdown game in the quarterfinals against St. Michael-Albertville. Hull rushed for the game-winning touchdown with four seconds remaining against the Knights to cap a 17-point comeback in the game’s final 59 seconds.

“There was a strange sense of confidence in the team,” Hull said of the comeback. “Not only did nobody give up, but nobody really panicked. It was like everybody knew what they were supposed to do and everybody went out and did it.”

Hull said he wants to become a more versatile running back, develop better hands and improve his pass blocking this offseason, also expressing interest in playing a bigger role in his team’s passing game. He’s also learning the defensive playbook and said he could play safety this season.

Maple Grove graduated nearly 30 seniors from last year’s 8-4 team, including starting quarterback Curtis Haugen, top wide receivers Joe Raymon and Erik Christensen, and leading tackler Jake Hanson. Hull said incoming sophomore Nate Elmes is positioned to start at quarterback in the fall and said he’s excited to see what Elmes can do.

Recruiting interest

Hull said he started being recruited last summer after attending the University of Minnesota football camp. He received his first scholarship offer from North Dakota in early February and has since received offers from Buffalo, North Dakota State, Air Force and most of the schools in the Ivy League.

Hull, whose goal is to play for a Power Five school, said it’s humbling to receive interest from colleges. He said he ranks schools in part on how interested they seem in him, something he gauges by talking with coaches.

“I want to go somewhere where I feel like I’m really wanted,” he said.

Hull isn’t the only rising Minnesota senior with Power Five aspirations. Edina offensive lineman Quinn Carroll committed to Notre Dame in May. Lakeville North lineman Bryce Benhart has offers from top Division I programs, such as Oregon, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Michigan. Two other class of 2019 recruits, Eden Prairie’s Cole Kramer and Owatonna’s Jason Williamson, have committed to the Gophers.

Carroll leads an Edina team that made the state quarterfinals last season, where it lost to top-seeded Cretin-Derham Hall. Benhart’s Lakeville North team also lost in the quarterfinals.

Kramer, a quarterback, passed for 1,191 yards and 18 touchdowns last season, helping Eden Prairie win its 11th state title. Williamson, a running back, rushed for 2,326 yards and 38 touchdowns for Owatonna, which won the Class 5A championship.