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VU makes Lemon-ade
Coach Dale Carlson’s first class at Valparaiso University might be short on numbers, but looks long on talent. Considering his late hire, 33 football recruits represent a significant harvest.
Crusader coups include linebacker Francis Baker, who chose VU over Bucknell; quarterback Eric Lemon, and Eric Hoffman, a 6-4 quarterback from Manitowoc, Wis.
Lemon comes from Stevensville, Mich., home of Lake Shore High. There, he passed for 1,541 yards and 18 touchdowns and rushed for 320 and seven TDs.
“Coach Carlson likes to throw it,” said Lemon’s coach, Dennis Dock, “so Eric’s going to the right place.”
The 6-5 QB chose VU over George Washington, Hillsdale and Butler. If the name strikes a familiar chord, it’s because he is the grandson of former Michigan City coach Ron Lemon.
Carlson spent the weekend checking out leads in southern California, but paused long enough to talk about his recruits.
“We beat out two Patriot League schools,” he pointed out. “We also did well in the greater Chicago area.”
Fourteen recruits hail from Illinois (8) and Indiana (6), but lineman Miles Chorley, wide receiver Brandon Flanagan, linebacker Cole Gridley and running back Vincent Vetrone boast California roots. That’s an eye opener, considering very few athletes west of the Mississippi have heard of the Pioneer League school.
Twenty-two recruits come from within a four-hour driving radius, but Valparaiso is also going coastal. Future freshmen from Georgia (2), Maryland (2), Florida and Washington add far-flung appeal.
Highland defensive lineman Bryan Glover and North Newton defensive back Jacob Patz are VU’s only signees from the Post-Tribune circulation area, but that should improve in time.
“Sometimes, recruiting in your own back yard is the toughest to do, especially since Valparaiso hasn’t had a lot of success,” said Carlson, who left Ohio Dominican to become VU’s 16th head coach.
In the last five years, the Crusaders have won only 15 games. Since they captured the PFL title in 2003, their best record is 5-6.
“My first year at Ohio Dominican, we didn’t get many kids from Columbus, either,” Carlson pointed out, “but that changed when we began to have some success.”
In Ohio State’s back yard, his no-huddle offense produced a 36-27 record in Carlson’s last six years. The high-octane Panthers peaked in 2007, averaging more than 50 points and 550 yards on their way to a 12-1 record and the Mid-States-Mideast League title.
Nothing is complicated about his plans for rebuilding VU’s stagnating program.
“We’ve got to go out and build relationships,” Carlson said. “Coming in so late, we didn’t have a chance to do that before.”
His plan is to contact all the coaches in Northwest Indiana by the end of the month. A one-day football camp June 20 at Valparaiso also should break down some barriers.
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BY JOHN MUTKA, The Chicago Post-Tribune