Park Center • DB • 6-0, 190
College: Northern Illinois
If motivation was the sole element to football success, Buirge would be shoo-in All-America selection before he has played his first collegiate game.
Buirge spent three years dispelling the notion that he wasn’t fast enough, turning his sub-4.5-second speed in the 40-yard dash and his knack for big plays into a Division I scholarship to play defensive back. He did this while playing at a school not associated with football success.
“I think the last player from Park Center to play [Division I] football was … 20 years ago,” Buirge said. “And he was a walk-on.”
Going to Northern Illinois, Buirge knows he’ll again have to prove himself, at least to fans.
“I’m going to go out to each game, each practice, with a chip on my shoulder,” he said.
DeLaSalle • OL/DL • 6-5, 285
College choice: Oregon
For some, the recruiting process is tedious, an endless stream of phone calls, text messages and letters from coaches hoping to sway a recruit and reporters searching for a scoop.
Not for Carlberg. A three-star recruit who can play offense or defense, he used the opportunity to experience places he hadn’t seen.
“I love the traveling,” Carlberg said last fall. “Being able to go to all of the different campuses, people I don’t even know following me on Twitter.’’
Minnesota always was close to his heart, but in the end, it was impossible to resist the allure of Oregon, with its Nike connection and recent history of success.
But what convinced Carlberg to head west was something he felt more than something he saw. “My mom asked me which school felt the best,” Carlberg said. “At DeLaSalle, we talk a lot about family, and it felt the same way at Oregon.”
Red Wing • OL • 6-7, 270
College choice: Minnesota
Other colleges were interested, but when the offer from the Gophers came his way last summer, Connelly’s choice became clear.
“Minnesota was the first big offer I got,” he said. “When I got the chance to play for my home state, I didn’t care about the other ones. I shut down my recruiting right there.”
Connelly said his lengthy frame and better-than-average quickness were the big reasons the Gophers made him the offer he couldn’t refuse.
“I’m pretty athletic and I’m pretty tall, so I have that going for me,” he said. “And I’ve got a lot of room to put on weight. I can bulk up to about 310, 315 pounds. My ceiling is very high.”
The best part, he said, is that he can eat pretty much anything he wants.
“I”m on the see-food diet,” he laughed. “I see food, I eat it.”
Cretin-Derham Hall • DE • 6-4, 255
College choice: Ohio State
He was the nation’s No. 1 college football recruit as a junior, but even a man-child such as Jashon Cornell is subjected to freshman problems.
Cornell graduated six months ahead of his senior peers from Cretin-Derham Hall High School and arrived on Ohio State’s campus on Jan. 9. Failure to navigate the campus transit system meant he spent most of his first month walking the half-hour from dorm to lecture halls.
No matter. Cornell already is receiving plenty of football education at the home of the reigning national champion Buckeyes. He starts his days with workouts and meetings designed to help him maximize his potential.
A sleek, pocket-collapsing defensive end in high school, Cornell could see a brighter future by gaining weight and moving inside to tackle. He played the position at the recent Under Armour All-America Game and impressed coaches.
Lakeville South • LB • 6-3, 220
College choice: Northern Illinois
That Corcoran will play at Northern Illinois makes perfect sense. That he ended up there, however, surprises him.
“My dad went there, and I have a lot of family in Chicago,” Corcoran said of the university of 21,000 students in DeKalb, Ill., a 90-minute drive west of Chicago.
Despite the family ties, Corcoran never considered playing football there until they approached him.
“They came to me,” he said. “I never would have thought when I was a sophomore or a junior that I would go there. But they invited me to a game, and it was great.”
Corcoran has been spending his winter training for next season, hoping to avoid being redshirted.
“I’m putting everything I have into it in the hopes that I’ll play in the first game of the season,” he said. “They open at Ohio State. I’m pretty excited for that opportunity.”
Chaska • OL • 6-5, 292
College choice: Minnesota
Like Connelly, Dovich grew up as a University of Minnesota football fan.
When the Gophers took an interest in him after a camp last summer, Dovich had a feeling that he would be wearing the maroon and gold.
“Coach [Matt] Limegrover is the best coach I’ve ever talked to,” Dovich said. “He’s someone I felt really good about, someone I can work with.”
He made his commitment last June and has spent much of his since trying to show the team it made the right choice.
“I had a lingering hamstring issue, so I was nervous that it affected my game,” Dovich said. “So I didn’t want to get complacent. I gave it my all, tried even that much harder, to prove to everyone that I am this good.”
Prior Lake • LB • 6-3, 220
College choice: New Mexico
A rugged first-team All-Metro linebacker, Hart ended the 2014 season on a disappointing note. He spent most of the second half of Prior Lake’s 10-7 loss to Maple Grove in the Class 6A quarterfinals on the bench, the result of a stinger in his neck.
“It wasn’t fun having to watch and not help,” he said.
He has turned his attention to wrestling, a sport in which he has a 131-27 record over the past four seasons, including the 2014 Class 3A title at 220 pounds.
When faced with choosing between the two sports, he chose to play football at New Mexico rather than pursue a wrestling career. “I have more of a passion for football,” he said.
He’s excited to dive into the local culture of the Land of Enchantment.
“Albuquerque is a cool place,” he said. “I’ll have to get used to chilis. Those are popular there.”
Hopkins • LB • 5-10 ½. 199
College choice: Wyoming
Momoh first heard from Wyoming in his sophomore year, when Cowboys coach Craig Boll was in his final season at North Dakota State.
“They liked me then, and the coach always kept in touch,” he said.
But Momoh wasn’t able to commit to Wyoming until he improved his grades and earned a sufficient ACT score. He did both and gave a late verbal commitment to Wyoming on Sunday.
“I put in a lot of work and focused harder in the classroom,” he said.
Momoh expects to play as a strong-side linebacker on college, using his speed and explosiveness in pass coverage. As for Wyoming? He said the school appealed to him because it’s different and he’s ready to fit in under the West’s wide-open spaces.
“My parents are thinking about getting me cowboy boots and a cowboy hat,” he said.