When the St. Ambrose football program entered the recruiting trail, it had fairly lofty goals.
With 20 seniors graduating from a 4-6 season, the Bees were hoping to bring in around 50 commits to add depth and talent to the roster.
The Fighting Bees have achieved that goal, announcing 47 signings on last week's official signing day and Magistrelli said Wednesday that number is up to 50.
"Time will tell but we feel it's one of the strongest classes we've brought in," Magistrelli said. "I think last year's recruiting class and this one back to back are two of our better ones."
Magistrelli said this is one of the largest recruiting classes he's brought in. Last year's signing class was 30 players strong, and that number grew to where the Bees had 66 freshmen on their JV roster last fall. The job isn't done for the coaching staff, with spring ball slated to start at the end of March.
But Magistrelli feels they're off to a good start.
As is the case every year, Magistrelli said the focus was in the trenches. The Bees graduate four senior offensive linemen from last season and St. Ambrose signed nine offensive linemen last week, hopefully bolstering an offense that averaged 364.2 yard per game last year. Among the signings is lineman Jett Schmitt, who earned Class 5A all-state honors from the Illinois Football Coaches Association last fall after helping Peoria Notre Dame to a 6-4 record and playoff berth.
"We feel this has a chance to be the best O-line we've ever brought in," Magistrelli said. "We were fortunate last year to have a pretty veteran group, but we knew that was an area where we'd be younger moving forward. I think it's got a chance to be, the O-line group in this recruiting class, the foundation moving forward for us."
Defensively, the Bees put a focus on linebacker and defensive line, where they are hit the hardest by graduation. St. Ambrose loses its entire starting defensive line, including All-American Chris Overton and also has to replace middle linebacker Jimmy Morrissey. But they have pieces at linebacker in junior-to-be Dillon Valdez and Deontae Curry, who had 26 tackles and three sacks in just four games as a freshman last year.
This recruiting class figures to add to that.
"We felt like we had a pretty good group in last year's recruiting class as far as defensive linemen, and we've followed it up with another class," Magistrelli said. "Between those two, I think we've addressed that need the last two recruiting classes."
Though the majority of the recruits are from Illinois and Iowa, the Bees also landed signees from California, Florida, Maryland, Missouri and New Hampshire.
There is some local talent as well. Fulton's Ethan Fish and Brody Mason rejoin fellow Steamer Tyler Sweenie, entering his sophomore year at St. Ambrose. Davenport West's Jacen Petersen, Moline's Owen Swanson and North Scott's Mark Beno are three other signings from the Quad-City area that will continue to play close to home.
"You like to recruit your backyard and get the local talent, and we feel we've done a pretty good job of that," Magistrelli said. "Any time you can attract local guys, you're doing things well."