Sign on the line

MARSHALL – During the 2012 season, the Marshall High School football team led the state in scoring in Class AAAA with 42.9 points per game. Part of that success stemmed from two 1,000-yard rushers in Colton Citrowske and Rhett Struve and a 1,000-yard passer in quarterback Austin Saugstad. A greater part of that six-plus touchdowns per game average was the commanding play of its offensive line.

On Wednesday morning at MHS, two key cogs of that offensive line signed their national letters of intent to play college football, while becoming the latest editions in the growing trend of Tiger linemen to play at the next level.

Offensive tackle Austin Nath inked his commitment to Northern State University out of Aberdeen, S.D., while teammate Alex Werner will be staying a little closer to home signing his letter of intent to play for Southwest Minnesota State University.

Though he was unsure of the exact figure, Marshall head football coach Terry Bahlmann said he thought Nath and Werner to represent the seventh and eighth linemen to sign letters of intent since he took over the Marshall program in 2004, which includes two-time national champion Tyler Gimmestad (an offensive guard at North Dakota State University).

“It’s great that the colleges are starting to recognize that we have produced some good linemen,” Bahlmann said. “These two guys fall right in line with that. Both of them have been excellent players for us and have put their time in and done what they’re supposed to.

“They’re two different types of players,” Bahlmann added. “Austin is, of course, powerful and extremely strong there. Alex is tall and lean and athletic there. I’m happy for both of them. I know Alex wanted to stay close to home and Austin was getting away a little bit, and now they get the chance to continue their football career and their education.”

Werner will be joining his older brother, Nathan, at SMSU, where he will play defensive end. Nathan will be a junior defensive tackle for the Mustangs in the fall.

Along with his time spent keeping defenders out of the backfield for the Tigers, Alex Werner spent an equal amount of time disrupting opposing offenses as a linebacker.

Werner was among the team leaders in tackles, while also racking up a team-high eight sacks for the Tigers’ second-ranked defense in 2012. Marshall allowed just 10.9 points per game last season, which trailed only Class AAAA state champion and future Wright County Conference opponent Hutchinson’s 9.9 points allowed per game.

It took some time for Werner to crack the starting lineup for the Tigers, earning his first start as a guard during his junior season, but Bahlmann said that Werner, especially, is a prime example of what can be accomplished when a player puts in the time and effort away from the field.

“We believe if kids come in and do the work and follow our program, they’re going to turn into good football players and Alex and Austin are great examples of that,” Bahlmann said. “Alex is 6-foot-5 and was a little bit of a late bloomer with the weight, but he’s about 230 now. His upside is huge with the way he runs and his explosiveness there. I think (SMSU) is going to play him at (defensive end) and I think he’ll be a good football player.”

Nath, on the other hand, made an immediate impact for the Tigers. As a four-year starter on the offensive line, Nath picked up two Southwest Conference Offensive Lineman of the Year awards in 2011 and 2012.

With the ability to bench press 225 pounds 29 times, Nath is easily one of the strongest teenagers in the nation and garnered interest from from schools like Iowa State, the University of Minnesota and the University of South Dakota. In the end, however, a scholarship and the chance at being a four-year starter swung Nath in the direction of Northern State. Bahlmann is confident in Nath’s ability to succeed in Aberdeen.

“Austin’s found a good fit at (Northern State),” Bahlmann said. “They’re excited to have him and he’s probably going to play center or guard there. His bench press of 225 29 times is actually an amazing total for a high school kid. He’s benched over 430 pounds in one rep for us here, his strength is an elite area and he’s going to come in and be a physical player for them. They think he might have a chance to start as a redshirt freshman.”

Both Nath and Werner were All-Southwest Conference selections in 2012, while the Tigers finished the season 9-1 overall, ending their season with a loss to Glencoe-Silver Lake in the Section 2AAAA semifinals.

SMSU was 4-7 overall in 2012 with a 3-4 record in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. Northern State posted a 6-5 overall mark and went 5-2 in the NSIC.