All of the Seantrel conversation this week reminded me that there are other recruits out there to be had. The last week has seen a couple of our higher profile recruits decommit and head elsewhere. Kip Smith couldn't resist the lure of UCLA and Josh Huff is having trouble making up his mind, as of today he is going to TCU. Those losses sting a bit and the 2010 class is becoming less and less impressive, but we are not going to dwell on what we aren't getting.
This past weekend saw the Gopher commit class grow by three more moving the total up to 24. This was a large official visit weekend and we received three "non-traditional" verbals. James Green is the highlight of the group. Green committed to Tennessee a year ago but had some academic issues, took the year off and will enroll as a freshman in January. The other two were JUCO commits. TE, Tiree Eure and DB, Hershel Thornton give us a coupe more experienced players to bolster the 2010 roster.
Who actually is still committed to the Gophers and where will they fit into the team next year?
The Minn Kids - one of Brewster's recruiting goals was to lock down the border and stop the exodus of Minnesota D1 football players to places like Wisconsin, Iowa and other schools around the country. In my opinion he has not done this nearly as well as I would have liked. In his tenure guys like Willie Mobley, Michael Floyd and Bryce McNeal come to mind as top rated players who left for other programs. You can't fault him for 2007 since he barely had time to pull a class together. In 2008 he received commitments from exactly one of the state's top five players. 2009 was much better as he kept five of the top six in state, but still lost WR-Bryce McNeal, who was the states highest rated player, to Clemson. The bleeding is coagulating and it is nice to see that we are at least in the running for a player of Seantrel Henderson's stature, but I'd like to see the top five or six commit the U each and ever year. Here is who we have from Minnesota this year.
Jimmy Gjere - OL (6-7, 275 lbs) - The #2 ranked Minnesota player and the forgotten OL out of our fine state. In a year where Seantrel Henderson wasn't also graduating and picking a school, Gopher Nation would be thrilled about this commit. Gjere has been invited to the US Army All-American game, he should be a long time starter after likely red-shirting his first year.
Lamonte Edwards - ATH (6-2, 215) - The #3 ranked local from Woodbury projects as big RB or LB once he gets on campus. Once again there is very little buzz around this four-star, likely due to the focus on Henderson and Edwards' early commitment. In years past we would be pretty excited to have two, four-star recruits; especially if they were both local. Edwards may provide depth at LB, but if he contributes in 2010 it would likely be on special teams if at all.
J.D. Pride - ATH (6-1, 190) - Pride is a two-star prospect and currently not in the state's top 10. QB at Totino-Grace, friend of Henderson and hopefully gem of a prospect. The most likely red-shirt candidate in this class.
The Offensive Linemen - this class a class heavy on heavy kids. After not signing one offensive linemen in 2008 and five in 2009, this class already has six verbal commitments along the offensive line. And hopefully a seventh will follow. I would be shocked if we see any of these guys contribute in 2010 or even 2011.
Josh Allen - OL (6-2, 256) - Texas kid who is a borderline four-star (which means he's a three-star) recruit. Allen could end up playing at a number of potential positions. OT, OC, DT or even DE have been on the table.
Mark Lenkiewicz - OL (6-5, 250) - likely a tackle once he arrives on campus.
Johnathan Ragoo - OL (6-7, 342) - Big kid from Florida who had an offer from Miami. If anybody contributes early Ragoo would be the most ready, physically. He may need to trim down a little and I'm not sure how nimble his feet are. But he posts a high SAT and is a large body so maybe he'd be ready mentally and physically to play early.
Matt Eggen - OL (6-5, 290) - Wisconsin kid is the 7th highest rate player to come from Cheeseland.
- Zac Epping - OL (6-2, 274) - #10 ranked player out of Wisconsin who also saw the light and is headed to Minnesota.
Offensive Skill Position Players - over the last few years we have brought in some potentially exciting offensive skill position players, this class is incredibly light in this area. Nobody in the class of MarQueis Gray, Brandon Green or Hayo Carpenter type recruits are on the board this year. Fortunately there are not many positions of significant need in this area, with RB being the glaring exception. Next year should focus on this area much more.
- Chris Hawkins - WR (6-2, 175) - Texas receiver who appears to be the next in line to decommit. Hawkins would be a nice addition to continue adding quality depth to the WR corp. With Stoudermire, McKnight, Green, Carpenter and Allen returning I don't see Hawkins playing a lot in 2010 but you can't have too many quality receivers.
James Green - WR (6-2, 200) - Green was a four-star, 2009 recruit who had committed to Tennessee. Due to some academic issues (similar to Gray and Reeves) he was unable to attend Tennessee. He sat out this past year, is apparently on track to enroll somewhere in January, visited Minnesota and is our newest verbal. I have yet to see a first year WR do much of anything in a Gopher uniform but he is probably our best skill position recruit and will have the spring to get acclimated prior to August camp so maybe he'll contribute in 2010.
Tom Parish - QB (6-3, 200) - big and strong Wisconsin native. Parrish is the #3 ranked prospect out of the state. Parrish will likely red-shirt unless he is able to pass Alipate, Gray and Weber on the depth chart. Good size and a pocket passer, don't be surprised if he is under center for a few year assuming Fisch and his pro-style offense are around through his career.
Marquise Hill - ATH (6-0, 165) - Missouri native and three-star prospect had a number of very good other offers. UCLA, Neb, Iowa, Wis, Ark, Kan, K St and others. Good offers but I'm not sure where we will see Hill. Hill had 77 carries this year, 31 receptions, 14 offensive TDs, 2 interceptions and 37 tackles so who knows where he will end up playing for the Gophers. Lemming ranked him the #1 receiver in St. Louis so my guess would be he ends up outside, but who knows. May be talented enough to contribute in 2010.
- Donnell Kirkwood - RB (5-10, 197) - Kirkwood is the 91st rated Florida prospect and chose the Gophers over offers from Pitt, Rutgers and K State. With our struggles at RB he very well could step up and earn some PT as a true freshman. I think he'll be burried on the depth chart this year. Given some time he very well could bulk up to be a bruising RB.
Tiree Eure - TE (6-7, 240) - JUCO transfer, with other offers from Syracuse, Purdue, UConn and Colorado. This kid is big! It will be interesting to see how he fits into the picture at TE where we have Hageman, Hughes and Lair who project to get a lot of PT next year.
Defense - the glaring needs in the immediate future are at nearly every position on the defense. I like a lot of our potential starters for 2010 but would struggle to fill out a second string that I'd feel comfortable with. With that in mind here are the incoming commits on the defensive side of the ball.
- Josh Tauaefa - DT (6-2, 265) - a very strong kid who could be a real steal out of Texas. Edwards and Kirksey are the certain starters but after that Tauaefa could be given every opportunity to get playing time behind them. Needs to get bigger but having a motor that won't quit but if the rumors of strength are true he could see some time.
- Tyrone Bouie - DB (6-0, 170) - a personal favorite of mine for absolutely no logical reason. Bouie has good size for a corner, tackles well and is a very fluid player. DB is an area of need for next year but it is also a hard position to play at the Big Ten level as a true freshman. I don't see him surpassing Carter, Collado, any incoming JUCO, Dandridge, Lewis, etc. this year. A year to learn and get stronger would be great for Bouie.
- Harold Legania - DT (6-3, 250) - three-star tackle from New Orleans who had offers from SEC, B12 and ACC schools. As stated above depth is a real issue at our DT situation so Legania should be given opportunity to earn that right away.
James Manuel - DB (6-2, 200) - Safety is the likely position for this three-star kid out of Indianapolis. Maybe he's get some PT but with both safeties returning, this is the one position where we do not have any need. Manuel should red-shirt a year and be ready to step in 2011.
Willie Tatum - LB (6-3, 205) - three-star recruit out of Ohio. Tatum will be a Golden Gopher next year and could provide some depth at LB but I would expect he'll take a year to put on some weight and get acclimated to the system.
Dwayne Mitchell - LB (6-2, 220) - This two-star kid out of New Orleans was an all-state LB as a junior and has pretty good size for a high school senior. Mitchell may not be 100% sold on Minnesota but as of today he is still committed. Good size, good measurables, may take a year or two before he'd contribute.
- Doral Willis - DT (6-0, 330) - A two-star Florida kid who is pretty good sized at what we've determined is a position of great need. According to the two-stars in an area that is heavily scouted and the lack of any other big schools offering leads me to believe that he'll need some time to develop but you don't get very many 330 lbs incoming freshmen. Maybe he can plug a running lane or two while Edwards and Kirksey get some rest.
- Hershel Thornton - DB (6-2, 205) - Another JUCO pickup from this past weekend. Thornton actually graduated high school in 2006, worked for two years to support his family and needed to go the JUCO route to get back to big time football. Pitt, Rutgers and S Florida were the other pursuers of Thornton. All JUCO's, especially on the defensive side of the ball, are coming because they think they will get ample opportunity to play. He'll be in the mix with Royston and Theret.
Christyn Lewis - CB (6-2, 175) - the first of what I expect will be a few JUCO defenders. There is so little depth in the secondary it would have been rather surprising had we not landed a JUCO corner. Lewis is set to enroll in January and will likely be battling with Collado for the starting spot opposite Michael Carter. Assuming no other JUCO corners come on board he'll be playing a lot.
- Allen Veazie - DB (5-11, 165) -does not have a rivals rating, has no other BCS offers. Veazie is pretty fast but is a prime candidate to red-shirt to add some size to his frame.
Those are the 23 commits as of 12.14.09. If you are looking for guys to contribute as first year guys I think it is a short list. Chrystin Lewis is the strongest candidate to play right away and play the most. The handful of freshmen DTs will have a shot to get some time on the field but I expect a JUCO DT will find his way onto the roster to give us some more experienced depth. The incoming receivers, Green and Hawkins, may fight for some PT but the WR depth should be pretty good heading into next season.
Check back in the next day or so and I'll have a little recap of who we are still pursuing and who are the most likely candidates to end up playing Saturday afternoons at TCF Bank Stadium.