National Signing Day 2014: Nine Superiorland football stars sign NLIs on Wednesday

MARQUETTE – Area high school seniors who signed Wednesday to play football in college have no illusions that they will start at their chosen schools right away.

And that includes all-state quarterback Alex Briones of Ishpeming, who probably has the most ambitious plan of all to vie for a position with NCAA Division I Central Michigan University in downstate Mount Pleasant.

“I’ll probably redshirt next season,” he said, echoing comments made by just about every one of the other local signees.

That means they won’t play as first-year college students, instead getting a chance to work out and get stronger, learn their new team’s systems, and undergo a bit less stress while learning to adapt to college life.

They still get to play for four years with the possibility of using a fifth year in school when they should be physically and mentally more mature, not to mention better entrenched in their teams’ lineups.

Briones was joined by eight other area seniors who each signed a National Letter of Intent to play at an NCAA Div. I or II institution on the first day allowed, all getting faxes into the college or university of their choice before lunch – some before most of us ever have breakfast.

“We scheduled our signing at 7:15 a.m. on Wednesday at the (Negaunee) Middle School, which is where I teach,” said Miners coach Paul Jacobson.

Negaunee boasted the busiest fax machine, with three of its seniors signing at Upper Peninsula schools. Lineman Jeremy Bell will be going to Michigan Tech University in Houghton, while running back Tyler LaJoie and wide receiver Zane Radloff are set to play for Northern Michigan University in Marquette.

Marquette Senior High School had a pair, including the second player to be going Div. I – wide receiver Kurt Burmeister to the University of Dayton in Ohio. Teammate Shane Duquette, a linebacker and safety, will head to NMU.

From Gwinn will be safety Luke Sinnaeve, who despite tearing up his knee at midseason last fall, also attracted an offer from NMU.

L’Anse also produced two college recruits in kicker Ryan LaBerge, who is going to NMU, and offensive lineman Keith Denomie, who is going to Tech.

Despite announcing his intentions about CMU not long after the Hematites won their second straight state championship in November, Briones didn’t make his first visit to campus until a few weeks ago.

“It was pretty cool, just awesome. They’re very professional,” said the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Ishpeming student who said he could also end up playing linebacker or even safety on defense if QB doesn’t work out.

“I got to see all their facilities. They’re quite impressive.”

Briones was a dual-threat QB at Ishpeming, signified best by his scoring numbers in the regular season – 13 touchdowns passing and 13 more running.

While throwing sparingly in coach Jeff Olson’s run-oriented offense, he was a model of efficiency, scoring on every fifth attempt, completing almost exactly two-thirds and not throwing an interception all season until the MHSAA Division 7 semifinals.

That earned him the Large Schools Offensive Player of the Year honor from the U.P. Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.

Burmeister, 6-3 and 200 pounds, caught 43 passes for 722 and nine TDs in the regular season for the Redmen.

“Dayton runs a spread offense. It’s a complicated scheme,” he said, adding that he’s fully recovered from ACL and meniscus knee injuries he suffered before the start of his junior season.

“It was mostly a mental process. I think it made me a better person.”

Duquette, at 6-2 and 198 pounds, was an All-U.P. honorable mention player on offense who sees himself probably playing defense for the Wildcats.

“Right now, I think I’m looking at being a free safety, with a chance that could change to outside linebacker,” he said.

Not participating in a winter sport at MSHS has allowed him to put in lots of time at AdvantEdge Sports in Marquette to get stronger, more flexible and to learn more athletic techniques. He’s already close to 15 pounds heavier than he was at the start of football season.

Sinnaeve is still rehabbing his knee after he tore his ACL in September. It’s forced him to miss his senior season of basketball, where he was also a standout.

“I think I have another three more months,” he said about his recovery program. “Just recently I started to jump rope and straight-line jogging.”

A top running back with the Modeltowners, he sees himself as a free safety at NMU and will make maybe the best use of a redshirt freshman season getting his leg stronger for 2015.

At Negaunee, Bell said MTU was his first choice as he wants to study engineering – and has a 4.00 grade-point average.

The 6-4, 225-pounder said he thinks of himself strictly as a lineman, not a tight end or fullback, who hopes to put on another 40 to 50 pounds.

“Eventually,” he said about the time frame.

LaJoie, at 5-10, 170, said he was told by NMU coaches that he has a good combination of vision, explosiveness and quickness that can help the Wildcats run attack.

“They said no matter what weight I’m at, I need to keep my physical tools,” he said about future plans to work out at AdvantEdge.

Radloff, on the other hand, is a lanky 6-5 and 185 who said it’s important to beef up his body, though again not to the detriment of his speed and jumping ability that could make him a real mismatch as a receiver for the Wildcats.

He’s currently an important cog on a Negaunee basketball team that last year reached the Class C state semifinals at Michigan State University.

“I want to start lifting more; sometimes I go over to the (Miners) Dry,” he said. “I’ll probably be signing up for AdvantEdge after the (basketball) season is over.”