Former Somerset players excel in college football
While the Somerset High School football team was working toward a state championship game appearance this season, several Spartan alumni were performing at a lofty level in college football.
Leading the way are former Spartans Justin Trautmiller and Bryan Witzmann. Trautmiller is a senior defensive back at the College of St. Scholastica and Witzmann is a sophomore offensive tackle at South Dakota State University.
Witzmann has grown into a mountain of a man at 6 feet, 7 inches tall. He started the season weighing 305 pounds, but has slimmed down to 293 pounds during the SDSU season. That's by choice, according to SDSU offensive line coach Brian Meadows. Meadows said the Jackrabbits' offensive system calls for their linemen to be mobile, so they have not asked Witzmann to be overly bulky like many left-side tackles.
As a redshirt freshman, Witzmann has started all 22 games he's played in. Meadows said it is rare for college left tackles to be starting before they are juniors or seniors, so Witzmann has two more years of experience than most of his counterparts.
Meadows said there's only one aspect of his game the SDSU coaches are looking for Witzmann to change. In the coaches' opinions, Witzmann is too nice, at least on the football field. They don't want him to change off the field, but Meadows said they'd like to see him develop a bit more of a mean streak when he's on the field.
Witzmann is a civil engineering major and has already twice made the Missouri Valley Football Conference Honor Roll. Meadows said Witzmann's intelligence, plus his physical qualities, made him a recruiting target when Witzmann was in high school.
"We bring in guys that are winners," Meadows said. "His coaches in high school did a really good job of teaching him run blocking. He's got a hunger to learn and to get better."
The Jackrabbits finished the season with a 4-4 record in the Missouri Valley Conference, ending the season 5-6 overall. They finished the season on a three-game win streak, ending their season on Nov. 12 with a 27-7 win over Western Illinois. The Jackrabbits were rocked early in the season when their starting quarterback decided to leave the team. After a transition period, the team found renewed vigor under a freshman quarterback.
Meadows said nine of the team's offensive starters should return for next season, including the entire offensive line. Hopes are high for next season, only needing to replace the starting wide receiver and fullback.
Meadows said he foresees a bright future for Witzmann. In his first two seasons, Witzmann graded out as one of the top linemen for the Jackrabbits in every game.
Witzmann's strong play this season was recognized when he was named to the All-Missouri Valley Football Conference Team as an honorable mention offensive lineman on Monday.
The senior safety has been part of the meteoric rise of the St. Scholastica football program. St. Scholastica started its football program in 2008 and four years later, the Saints are champions of the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference (UMAC).
Trautmiller's importance to the Saints was recognized when he was named to the All-UMAC first team last week. It is the second straight season where Trautmiller was a first team all-conference selection.
Trautmiller was named the UMAC Defensive Player of the Week for the week of Oct. 18 after he intercepted three passes in a win over Westminster. All three of his interceptions led directly to Saints touchdowns.
Trautmiller led the Saints with four interceptions this season. His 11 career interceptions rank first in the team's short history.