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PREP FOOTBALL

McMinn inks NLI with Minot State

Roseville's running back joins fellow alumni in North Dakota
By: Steven Wilson,
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His wavy blonde hair gives Brendan McMinn a distinctive California surfer look. 

It’s something he’ll need to have thick skin for when he arrives at Minot State University — his college of choice — next fall as one of the football team’s newest additions. Surely, his new teammates will have a few jokes for him as he makes the trek to chilly North Dakota.

Roseville High’s All-Metro running back and defensive back became the second signee from the 2017 graduating class Wednesday afternoon following UCLA’s early enrollee Jimmy Jaggers. 

McMinn followed a few of his predecessors, including Ben Zahniser (2016) and Zac Cunha (2012), to a Beavers program that has become well known in Placer County.

“Roseville definitely has a connection up there, but I’m just excited for a new place and a new experience,” McMinn acknowledged. “I think I’ll be fine. Just talking to the coaches up there, they’re good people and it sounds like it’s going to be a fun time.”

McMinn is the second Roseville High tailback to sign with Minot State in as many years after Zahniser committed to the Beavers a year ago. 

As a true freshman last season, Zahniser set the Beavers' single-game rushing record with 264 yards on the ground as he helped Minot State beat Minnesota Crookston, 38-30, in league play. He added four touchdowns and scored on runs of 65, 43, 45 and 7 as he topped the school’s previous record of 251 set by Darrik Trudel back in 2002. 

But McMinn has a bullseye on that mark.

“I want to beat that record in my freshman year,” he said with a smirk. “He broke it during his first season up there, so that’s my goal. I want that record.”

McMinn will join 25 other commits next fall as part of Minot State’s incoming freshmen class, not including walk-ons. But he’ll also have the opportunity to dish with fellow Roseville High grad Zac Cunha, who will act as somewhat of a mentor to the newest member of the Beavers program. 

Cunha has spent the past four years in Minot, and hopes to participate in his sixth season in 2017 after a medical redshirt held him out for all but one game last year. After a long rehab process, Cunha could be back under center for the Beavers this season and could be handing it off to McMinn. 

“It’s nice to have someone up there that I can talk about the things that are going on back home,” McMinn explained. “We’ve talked about the program and the system before, but it’s a new coaching staff, so some of that stuff will be changing.”

Despite a coaching change in the offseason, McMinn hopes to learn the playbook quickly and make an immediate impact as a freshman. He is one of four running backs to sign an offer with Minot State this offseason, but could see significant time after Zahniser left Minot for Hawaii. 

“Brendan’s versatility — his ability to run and catch the ball — is going to be huge,” McMinn’s coach, Larry Cunha explained. “His physical strength, and abilities to stay in, block and to be an asset in pass protection gives them the whole package as a running back. He’s not the shake-and-bake guy, but he has good straight-ahead speed and he’s an intelligent player.”

McMinn racked up over 1,200 total yards from scrimmage last year for the Tigers. He averaged nearly six yards per carry en route to 921 yards on the ground, and he rushed for a team-high 19 touchdowns. The versatile tailback added 366 yards and three more scores on 26 receptions — a whopping 14.1 yards per catch.

“He’s durable — we used him quite a bit last year, and I wish we still could next year, but that’s going to help him at the next level,” Cunha added. “He’s big, physical and he’s got the mentality to stick with it and work his way up.”

In the fall, McMinn will look to produce similar numbers at the next level, but he’ll have to do so against smarter, faster and bigger defenses. 

“I think the size of the linemen is going to be the hardest thing to adapt to,” McMinn confessed. “It changes a lot from high school to college. We had a small line this year, but now I’m going to be competing against 300-pound linemen up there. I just have to adjust and change how I play.”

McMinn will also have to adjust to the cold and snowy winters, but he says after spending three years in Virginia as a boy, he doesn’t see it as a problem.

“It’s going to be a different experience for sure, but I think it’s going to be fun,” McMinn admitted. “It’s always good to experience something new and learn a new program.”

Before McMinn boards a flight to North Dakota, he hopes to improve his game. Part of his training as a tailback will come with the Roseville track team as he looks to compete in the quick sprints, including the 100 meter, 200 meter sprints and 4-by-100 meter relay.

“I want to be able to read cuts better and just get faster and stronger this offseason,” McMinn added.

If he’s able to shave a few seconds off his 100-meter dash time, he’ll surely have the tools to chase down Zahniser’s record in the fall.