By Brad Blume
Sports Information Director
South Dakota School of Mines
RAPID CITY --- The South Dakota School of Mines and Technology football program and Hardrocker head coach Dan Kratzer have announced the signing of eight new recruits for the 2007 campaign.
The ‘Rocker coaching staff has had a busy off season, finding quality kids that meet the high criteria of a SDM student-athlete in hopes of solidifying next season roster.
Kratzer has recruited a number of kids from across the nation, including three coming out of Nebraska, two from Idaho and getting one from Florida and Illinois as well as a local athlete from Rapid City Central.
Cobbler kicker Justin Whalin signed a letter of intent after helping RCC make a run in the South Dakota High School playoffs this past fall as their place kicker.
Whalin will prove to be an asset to the Hardrocker football program. As a kicker, he will give the Hardrockers an added dimension they were missing during the 2006 experience. During his senior year, his long was 36 yards and on PAT's he was 35-37. With strength training over the summer with coach Kratzer, Whalin is sure to add some extra distance to his already impressive boot.
"A team always needs a good place kicker and punter,” Kratzer said. “We have seen what the negativity, of not having (a kicker), can have on the season. Justin has a great opportunity to be a place kicker for our program."
The Hardrockers will tap three quality athletes out of Nebraska --- Tom Lunzman, from Gretna, Jess Seeley out of Halsey and Joseph Berke from Lexington.
Lunzman will challenge on both sides of the ball as a running back and defensive back. At 6-foot-1-iches and 190 pounds, he was a Nebraska All-State honoree as a DB and as a ball carrier, rushed over 1,000 yards during his senior season.
"Tom has the versatility to be a great 'West Coast’ type back,” Kratzer said. “He can run inside, he can run outside and he can catch the football. Defensively, he is a multi-functional back and is capable of playing any position in the secondary.
Seeley will also see time at the running back position as a Hardrocker. He comes to SDM as another athlete that can be used in a variety of ways. He was also named to the Nebraska All State team as a senior.
"Jess is a multifunctional athlete and can play a number of positions,” Kratzer said.
Berke played for Lexington High School as a defensive lineman. He is a proven athlete and looks to bring a lot to the Hardrocker defensive front right away.
"Joseph will be an impact player,” Kratzer said. “He is the type of athlete that makes plays all over the field."
South Dakota Mines found a real gem in Chicago, Ill., wide receiver Ed Waliczek. Standing 6-4-inches and weighing 200 pounds, Waliczek brings a completely new dimension to the Hardrocker receiving corps -- a good size target. Playing for the St. Laurence Vikings as a senior Waliczek was named to the All City Catholic League making the first team as a wide receive and a linebacker.
"Ed will give us a big target down field,” Kratzer said. “He has got a lot of speed for his size."
Florida native Dustin Meneley also has a promising career as a Hardrocker. Haling from Naples, Fla., Meneley has skills as a defensive back. He is a talented player coming from a successful high school program playing a tough schedule against NCAA Div. I caliber opposition. He is also an All-State wrestler and a track standout competing in the hurdles. He also excels academically and is one of the top students in his senior class as he prepares for graduation. As a freshman for the 2007 tour, Meneley is sure to challenge for a starting spot and with his athletic ability will be hard to keep him off the field. And with his speed, will also be used as a kick returner.
"Dustin is a super athlete. When you watch tape and notice that the defensive free safety stands out, then you know he's an outstanding athlete,” Kratzer said. “Dustin has good hands, a sense to the ball and is aggressive. He can play any secondary position and will be added depth to our team."
The Hardrockers also found a quality recruit from Idaho Falls, Idaho, in Chris Hannan. As a 6-4 230 pound defensive and offensive lineman, Hannan is very quick and very mobile. He will be able to bring some pressure on the defensive side of the ball while shoring up the offensive side to protect the quarterback.
"Chris is another guy that is a super athlete and will add a lot to the Hardrockers. He ran an 11.3 time in the 100-meter dash during (high school) track,” Kratzer said. “Chris will spend a year at (SDM) and then go on a mission for a year. He will return when he's 21 years old as a sophomore."
Ben LaPorta also signed with the Hardrockers out of Idaho Falls. As a 5-7, 210 pound running back, LaPorta is a load coming out of the backfield. He is very quick, clocking an unofficial time in the 100-meter dash at 10.8 seconds. As a track star, he finished sixth at the Idaho State Track Meet during his junior season.
“Ben has a very good opportunity to be a contributor right away,” Kratzer said.
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Devereaux Library. South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.