Recruiting was a little different this time around for the Rocky Mountain College football coaches.
“Last year at this time, I think we signed two (players),” said Jason Petrino, the Battlin’ Bears head coach.
The 2017 recruiting class – Petrino’s second – has a bit more heft.
A total of 42 players from nine different states signed NAIA letters of intent to play at Herb Klindt Field this fall. The Battlin’ Bears signed 35 high school athletes and have seven mid-year transfers.
“We had depth issues across the board we wanted to address,” said Petrino. “We were particularly looking to improve the depth of our O-line and D-Line and improve our athleticism at all positions.
“We feel exceptionally good about what we have been able to accomplish with this recruiting class.”
The group includes 12 players from Montana and 12 from Idaho, along with five from Wyoming.
“We stayed within the region recruiting,” Petrino said. “We won some, we lost some. Northern Wyoming was good to us and we went back to the Boise (Idaho) area because we’ve developed good relationships there.”
Rocky added 10 offensive linemen, which includes a long snapper, nine defensive backs, five wide receivers, four linebackers, three running backs, three linebackers, two quarterbacks, a punter/kicker and five listed as “athletes,” with their positions to be determined in fall camp.
Defensive back Paris Wilson is a DI transfer from Tennessee State, while defensive back Kirk Durtsche and wide receiver Max Gray are already on campus from Chadron State.
They joined a Rocky team that finished 4-7 overall and 4-6 in the Frontier Conference last fall.
Petrino expects the Battlin’ Bears to add a few more players in the coming weeks.
“We’ll still have some players sign late,” he said. “We’ve got some basketball players and wrestlers who have not been able to make it to campus yet and see what we’re about.”
He said the team will have anywhere from 120 to 125 players in fall camp this August.
Petrino became the program’s 17th head coach in late January of 2016.
“It’s a 10-month process,” he said. “You identify the players, follow them and develop the relationships. You have to make sure they are the right fit, athletically and academically, what we want to accomplish here.”
Spring practice is tentatively scheduled to begin March 18. That too, could change, according to the head coach.
“With all this snow, we might not be able to go until April,” Petrino said.