Dakota State University football coach Josh Anderson continues to recruit in Arizona, adding four of the state’s prep players — including Payson High’s Logan Garner — to the Trojans’ 2010 roster.
The continued interest in Arizona is more than a bit surprising after last year’s fiasco in which three of the Trojans’ highly prized Arizona recruits unexpectedly quit the team and returned home.
Former Longhorn standout Shane Keith, a defensive star on the 2008 PHS undefeated state championship team coached by Anderson and Kenny Hayes, quit just a few days into preseason training.
Steel Armstrong, formerly of Blue Ridge, and ex-Chino Valley star Garret Worster, walked away after the first game.
At the time the Arizona trio departed, both Anderson and Hayes expressed their extreme disappointment, saying all three had the talent to be starters, and a support system was in place to help them succeed academically.
The deflections also left the two coaches scrambling to cover holes in the offense and defense.
Joining Garner from Arizona on next year’s DSU team will be Carl Curtis, Dennis Lechner and Conner Todd.
Curtis is a transfer from Chandler Gilbert Community College, Lechner will graduate in the spring from Queen Creek High School, and Todd is from Glendale North Canyon.
Anderson says in spite of last year’s recruiting setbacks, he and Hayes will continue to scour Arizona “as long as we have a high level of interest.”
He also believes, “there are still a ton of great athletes in the Longhorn football program, and I’m glad to keep the PHS connection open.”
In addition to the four recruits from Arizona committing to DSU, Anderson has 23 other athletes, which he calls “outstanding” from South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota.”
“We made a huge commitment to locate and recruit the best athletes,” Anderson said. “The amount of local student athletes we have signed is a direct tribute to the efforts of high school coaches, as well as our DSU coaches taking the time and effort to develop those connections.”
This year, Hayes — PHS’s defensive coordinator under Anderson and the former PHS head basketball coach — played a prominent role in recruiting.
He was not able to do that last season, Anderson’s first at the helm of the Trojan program, because he remained in Payson fulfilling his teaching and coaching duties until close of school for the summer.
“Last year, we had to kind of sift through who was left and hoped they turned out,” Anderson said. “This year, we’ve got a ton of great athletes signed up and ready to make a difference.”
In Garner, the Trojans will have a recognized team leader who has been a spark plug for the Longhorns during his three-year varsity tenure.
At 5-feet, 9-inches, 230 pounds, he showed a gutty physical presence, playing on the offensive and defensive lines.
He began the past season at center but, after breaking his hand, was moved to guard. At the conclusion of the campaign, he was named to the All-East region first team offense and was 3A All-State honorable mention on offense.
As a junior, Garner was also an all-region and all-state honoree.
Only a month ago in a voting of coaches, Garner was tapped to play in the Arizona Coaches Association North vs. South All-Star game when it is contested in June at the Surprise Sports Complex.
During his varsity career, Garner experienced plenty of ups and downs. As a junior, he was a starting member of a team that went 14-0 and won the 3A state championship.
But as a senior, he suffered through the heartbreak of defeat as the Longhorns were manhandled for most of a dismal 3-7 season.
Anderson is obviously high on the former Horn star, “He will play on the defensive line for us but, if needed, I know I can trust him to play on the ‘O’ line as well.”
The DSU coach is also convinced Garner “will fit in wonderfully here because he’s all about getting his education at DSU which is rated No. 1 in the nation four years in a row.”
Building the program
With Garner and the other recruits in the DSU fold, Anderson says he would like to continue to add more players to fill roster needs.
His goal is to have 85 to 100 athletes at the onset of the 2010 fall camp.
Those numbers are needed, he said, so the Trojan program can begin a redshirt program similar to a larger university.
“I want to be at a point where only a handful of true freshmen are expected to be a part of the two-deep depth chart,” he said. “I believe we are only one year away from that happening.”
Anderson served as head coach at Payson High School from 2006 to 2008, leading the Horns to the state championship in his final year.
He resigned last spring to become the head coach at DSU, his alma mater.