St. Thomas football lands 29 players on National Signing Day after winning Pioneer League

University of St. Thomas football coach Glenn Caruso announced his 2023 class on Wednesday, which features 29 players and 12 from Minnesota.

Glenn Caruso isn’t yet 18 months into being a coach in the FCS, but on Wednesday he announced his third National Signing Day class as a Division I football coach with the University of St. Thomas.

The day for announcing the newest members of his football program comes fresh off a 10-1 season in just his second season and Division I, winning the Pioneer League with an 8-0 record and being named the league’s Coach of the Year. So much for a slow progression to Division I football.

Caruso signed 29 players to the class of 2023 on Wednesday, and talked about all of them over the course of about 30 minutes to media, boosters and university officials with a blizzard starting outside. While being a Division I school now widens the recruiting net, the focus is and always will be on Minnesota. That’s why the Tommies’ newest class features 12 Minnesota players.

"That was the largest class of in-state Minnesota kids that any school has ever taken. It’s simply that there’s some really good football that goes on here, and they understand who the University of St. Thomas is," Caruso said. "Them knowing who we are as a university, but this program has always stood on the shoulders of Minnesota high school football players. Even though our reach and our footprint gets a little bit bigger, that’s still how we decided to build it. We’re grateful that there’s that many that are into what we’re doing here."

Here is a look at the 2023 class:

St. Thomas Football Signing Class of 2023 

  • Dakota Egert, OL, 6-5, 260, Minnetonka, Minn./Minnetonka HS
  • Denzell Gibson, RB, 5-10 190, Bellwood, Ill./Immaculate Conception HS
  • Stefano Giovannelli, WR, 6-2, 175, St. Louis Park, Minn./ St. Louis Park HS
  • Quinton Griffin, DB, 5-8, 165, McDonough, Ga./Union Grove HS
  • Daniel Harper, RB, 5-8, 195, Baltimore, Md./Calvert Hall College HS
  • Peyton Himley, DB, 6-2, 190, Edina, Minn./Edina HS
  • Elliot Huether, K/P, 6-3, 175, Minnetonka, Minn./Benilde-St. Margaret's HS
  • Marcus Johnson, OL, 6-5, 305, Minnetonka, Minn./Mayer Lutheran HS
  • CJ Johnson, RB, 6-2, 240, Waukesha, Wis./South HS
  • Jeffery Keller, OL, 6-5, 280, Bloomington, Minn./Kennedy HS
  • Jason Lindsay, WR, 5-9, 175, Baltimore, Md./Baltimore Polytechnic Institute
  • Owen Lyons, WR, 6-2, 190, Evergreen Park, Ill./Brother Rice HS
  • Gavin Nunnally, CB, 6-1, 180, Omaha, Neb./Millard South HS
  • Blake Osbahr, DL, 6-4, 245, De Pere, Wis./Notre Dame Academy
  • Elijah Paulson, ATH, 5-9, 150, Ramsey, Minn./Anoka HS
  • Griffin Phillips, DB, 5-10, 180, Macomb, Mich./De La Salle Collegiate HS
  • Brandt Pickrell, TE, 6-3, 215, Omaha, Neb./Skutt Catholic HS
  • Kaleb Rector, OL, 6-3, 282, Chaska, Minn./Chaska HS
  • Michael Rostberg, QB, 6-4, 210, West Fargo, N.D./Shanley HS
  • Max Rust, OL, 6-3, 298, Mukilteo, Wash./Kamiak HS
  • Caleb Sandstrom, LB, 6-3, 230, Andover, Minn./Elk River HS
  • Connor Schiessl, LB, 6-2, 200, Appleton, Wis./Kimberly HS
  • Luke Schuler, TE, 6-3, 215, Kenosha, Wis./Saint Joseph Catholic Academy
  • Kole Sneed, LB, 6-3, 215, Oak Park, Ill./ Oak Park & River Forest HS
  • Tak Tateoka, QB, 6-3, 195, Waukesha, Wis./South Waukesha HS
  • Nash Tichy, LB, 6-0, 205, Orono, Minn./Orono HS
  • Daniel Tschida, LB, 6-1, 225, Maplewood, Minn./Roseville HS
  • Chase Ullom, LB, 6-1, 210, Plymouth, Minn./Wayzata HS
  • Elijah Windham, DB, 6-2, 190, Midland, Tex./Midland Christian HS

Caruso took five offensive linemen, two tight ends, three wide receivers, one running back, two quarterbacks and one athlete on offense. On defense, he secured one lineman, three inside linebackers, two outside linebackers, five defensive backs and two specialists. 

Four of the five offensive linemen are Minnesota natives, and the prize of the class is Anoka receiver Eli Paulson. He caught 96 passes for 1,225 yards and 10 touchdowns, and has the state record for receptions. His father is Brandon Paulson, who won the silver medal in wrestling at the 1996 Olympics.

Caruso’s not done recruiting for 2023, either. He says he’s leaving one or two spots open for the second signing period in the spring.

The current class features 21 multi-sport athletes. Seven of the 29 were high school quarterbacks, six were state champions and 19 participated in their prospect camp. The class currently has a 3.77 grade point average.

Their fast start to Division I play has the attention of recruits. Five or six years ago, Caruso said he would have 50-60 high school players per week filling out a questionnaire showing interest in St. Thomas online. Now, that number is up to 800 per week.

"We very humbly and very fortunately have to introduce who we are a lot less now, and that’s awesome. That’s understanding who St. Thomas is," Caruso said.

One of his biggest hurdles is convincing recruits to play non-scholarship football, and for the next few years, playing without the possibility of a postseason. St. Thomas entered the Pioneer League and FCS from Division III on a five-year probation, meaning they’re not eligible for the FCS Playoffs despite earning the league’s automatic bid this year.

Caruso said the sell to a recruit isn’t as tough as one might expect.

"It’s not very difficult because of the way that our coaches are direct and honest and up front from the jump. We hide nothing, you might like what our coaches have to say, you might not like what our coaches have to say. Either one is fine, what I can’t have is not knowing what the coach is saying," Caruso said. "That attitude has to be at the forefront. Who they are as students, who they are as wanting to become a better version of themselves and a member of the University of St. Thomas, I don’t think that has changed at all."