BY JEREMY HOECK
A month ago, Tyler Tsagalis was certain he would be going to college at Western Illinois University. Then, as tends to happen in the world of college football, a coaching change led to a tough decision.
Stay committed? Or look elsewhere?
Ultimately, Tsagalis, a 6-foot-3 quarterback from suburban Chicago, choose to follow that departed coach – Bob Nielson – to the University of South Dakota.
After previously committing to WIU last June, Tsagalis – who played at Notre Dame College Prep in Niles, Illinois – flipped his commitment to USD during a visit to the Vermillion campus last weekend.
His final decision was left up in the air after Nielson left Western Illinois to take the USD job on Dec. 15.
“The first two weeks right after Coach Nielson left were pretty stressful,” Tsagalis said by phone Friday. “I never knew where people were going.”
It wasn’t until Jan. 1 that Nielson announced his coaching staff, which included seven WIU coaches.
“That relieved a little bit of the stress, because they recruited me,” Tsagalis said. “It was stressful in the beginning, but it’s all worked out for the best.”
He said he was especially anxious to follow Ted Schlafke, who had been on Nielson’s staff at Western Illinois and was then hired as USD’s pass game coordinator/quarterbacks coach.
“The connection you make with coaches really means a lot,” Tsagalis said. “Them being at Western was a big reason why I committed; I liked coach Nielson and the offensive coordinator.”
As a senior last fall, Tsagalis passed for 1,970 yards and 18 touchdowns, and also ran for 667 yards and nine touchdowns for Notre Dame College Prep.
When he made his official visit to Vermillion last weekend, Tsagalis got an up-close view of USD’s ongoing construction projects – which will eventually include football-related renovations inside the DakotaDome.
Much like Nielson said in his introductory press conference last month, the vision of what’s to come in Vermillion played a big role in Tsagalis’ decision.
“Seeing everything at South Dakota and sitting down him (Nielson), I can see what he saw,” Tsagalis said. “They’re putting a lot into football, and that’s something I really like.”