Gopher Recruiting - the fast and the furious

A little over a week ago the Gophers had received one verbal commitment since the beginning of April.  If Gopher fans were getting restless about the lack of commitments then at the very least they should feel better as Tim Brewster and staff picked up four new commitments over the last seven days to bring the Gopher class up to 10 commitments.

Unfortunately I've been unable to keep up with the recent activity until now so here is a snapshot of the current Gopher recruiting class 2010.

The Early Commitments

CB-Antoine Lewis - was the first to commit back in early March.  Lewis is a corner out of the Chicago area.  A three-star recruit according to Rivals but gets a little more love from ESPN as the second highest ranked player in the Gopher class.

Can run man-to-man with speed receivers and stays stride for stride with them on the deep ball. Exhibits great anticipation and seems to read the quarterback's eyes resulting in a quick break on the pass.

Smallish but fast.  Lewis also plays WR but is likely going to be a corner at this level.  His other official offers were from MAC-esque schools (Bowling Green, Eastern Michigan, W Kentucky). The Hilltoppers are apparently still holding court with Lewis as they'd like to see him contribute on offense as well.  The first to commit (and maintain his commitment) could be a Troy Stoudermire type player who is able to contribute on special teams sooner rather than later as he learns his craft, whether that be defense or offense.

OT-Jimmy Gjere - so far this is the jewel of the class.  According to Rivals Gjere is the 49th overall player in the country and the 7th best OT.  Were he not overshadowed in the recruiting world by some other massive OT coming out of Minnesota (cough...Seantrel Henderson), Gopher fans would be ecstatic about this commitment.  But don't discount Gjere just because he is ranked lower by recruiting services.  We should be thrilled to have Gjere as the multi-sport athlete is huge and should be a bookend tackle for the  Gophers down the road.  The Irondale native is a beast along that Knight offensive line, looks even bigger on skates during hockey season and I would imagine looks just as imposing on the mound as he pitches for the Knights.

He has great size and long arms that really help in pass protection. A very good technician in terms of footwork; takes short steps and is always in control of his body. Especially productive executing zone blocking schemes; works his way up field showing the ability to pick up line stunts and blitzes.

Gjere has the strength, athleticism and technical skills to play relatively early at the next level.

ATH-Lamonte Edwards - another four-star recruit home grown in Minnesota.  Edwards plays both ways for Woodbury at RB and OLB.  Some project his power running style fits best at the D1 level and others believe his lack of speed makes this hard-nosed football player better suited for OLB in the Gopher defense.

Edwards is a big and powerful running back. He is stout and though he doesn't possess blazing speed, he is a deceiving ball carrier that is very productive with the football under his arm. Displays good vision and follows blockers like a big time running back

Doubles as an outside linebacker and shows same toughness as on offense. Defeats blockers with his hands then separates and gets to the football. A sure tackler but needs to take the extra step to finish the hit. Edwards is a very good football player that is versatile and hard nosed.

I feel as though Edwards is another player overshadowed by the Seantrel Henderson sweepstakes just because he plays in the same state.  But once again Edwards is a very good football player who despite his early commitment had offers from Wisconsin and Iowa. We've become a bit spoiled with the last couple recruiting classes but having two four-star commitments by the end of June is something this program wasn't used to just a few years ago.  We are well on our way to putting together another great overall class.

QB-Tom Parish - After getting a couple of the highly ranked in-state players, Parish is the first in line from our neighbors to the east.  Parish is the 13th ranked dual-threat QB in the 2010 class. 

He has good feet, drops are quick and smooth and he gains good depth away from center. Is not in the shotgun all the time and shows quality footwork in the three and five step passing game. He is a sound ball handler and works off play-action well. He is at his best in the short and intermediate passing game because this is what his arm allows him to do best. He possesses adequate-to-good arm strength and velocity, but in order to get the most out of his arm he must be balanced, plant and throw on time. The one thing that does stand out about Parish is his overall accuracy. What he lacks in elite strength he generally makes up for in ball placement. He shows very good touch and throws a very catchable ball especially on underneath throws.

Parish had an offer from Iowa but had yet to receive one from the Badgers, which seems odd considering his family legacy in Madison.

Parish has a family legacy at Wisconsin, both his father and grandfather were Badger quarterbacks, but he felt no pressure to follow in their footsteps. "We talked about all the colleges and when it came down to it Minnesota was the right fit. There was no pressure, he wanted what was best for me and that is Minnesota."

I would assume that Parish will be the only QB we take in this class unless we grab JD Pride as we do what is necessary to land Seantrel Henderson.

The Summer Commitments

CB-Allen Veazie - The Gophers keep the Texas pipeline going with this Houston area corner.  Veazie has "natural cover skills" and despite being undersized (5-11, 165) he is a talented corner who I'm excited to see in a Gopher uniform.

Excels in both man-to-man and zone schemes. Shows fluid hips and turns. Anticipates the pass well and displays good breaking quickness jumping and often undercutting the perimeter pass. Transitions smoothly in and out of his pedal and flashes deceptively strong plant and drive skill. Closes hard on the football and makes solid contact limiting yards after the catch. Sticks tightly to the receivers' hips out of their breaks and knows how to utilize his play-side hand properly to deflect the pass. Breaks up a lot of passes in deep coverage by soundly tracking and adjusting his body to the downfield throw.

Gopher Illustrated had a nice writeup on Veazie and he certainly has the confidence to play corner at the BCS level.

"I see myself as a physical type of corner who can play either bump and run man or in the zone. I feel like I have the speed to run with anyone, even if a play breaks down I can get back in and make a play. I don't ever give up and I work hard to get in and make every hit that I can. I might be undersized, but I love to get physical and hit people. Don't let my size fool you, I can cover anyone and I will hit anyone, I love to hit."

OT-Matt Eggen - This massive tackle from LaCrosse was the second verbal from the Badger state.  Eggen measures out at 6-5 and 290 lbs and plays both sides of the ball for his LaCrosse Logan team.  According to the scouting report on ESPN Insider Eggen is not a finished product and needs more polishing than some of our other verbals.

Gives good effort on the screen and getting to second level linebackers. A sound pass protector that is impossible to power rush but needs to kick back and anchor down quicker in order to handle a speed rusher.

He still has received three-stars from Rivals and had offers from Indiana and a number of MAC schools (or MAC level).  Eggen is a huge recruit who given a red-shirt should have every opportunity to refine his skills and contribute to the Gophers before all is said and done.

OL-Zac Epping - the third Wisconsin native to commit to the Gophers.  Epping is more of a tough and physical player than explosive.  He plays OT and DT currently and may end up somewhere else along the OL when he actually gets to campus.  Like Eggen, Epping's ESPN scouting report points out areas of improvement more than his dominating skills.

We like his toughness but his explosion and agility must improve if he is to compete for a starting position at the major level of competition. Epping is a developmental player; more of a mauler then finesse type guy who will need a red shirt plus to develop his athletic and physical skills.

Brewster likes guys with toughness and mauler-like skills.  He may be a good fit for the Gophers and after a few years we will find out how productive he will be at this level. 

K-Kip Smith - with their eight commitment the Gophers took care of some special team's needs.  Recruiting services and scouting reports are not often complete for kickers and punters at this stage of the recruiting season, so it is tough to gauge where Smith will end up being ranked.  But his high school stats are pretty good.

This accoring to Gopher Illustrated...

Smith is rated as one of the top ten kickers in the country by every reputable kicking service. Smith hit a career long field goal of 56 yards as a sophomore. During his junior season Smith had touchbacks on 47 of his 50 kick offs and one of the misses was an onside kick. Smith also punts for Legacy High School with a career long boot of 65 yards.

Kicking could be a trouble spot for the 2009 Gophers so I think it will be safe to assume that Smith could arrive in 2010 and have a chance for playing time very early.

OL-Mark Lenkiewicz - will be coming to the Gophers from Tinley Park, IL.  Another developmental lineman who as a reputation for toughness.

This is a tough battler who works to finish blocks and with time and a red shirt year should improve his explosion and playing strength. Lenkiewicz does not project as an immediate starter or impact player at the major level of competition, rather a developmental player who after polishing his skills and adding bulk to his frame should begin to see playing time and eventually start.

Considering we have a number of young linemen already and last year's class had guys like Josh Campion and Ed Olsen, this may be just the right time for a player like Lenkiewicz to come in and develop into a contributing player at the Big Ten level.

RB-Donnell Kirkwood - after grabbing four players from the state of Florida last year, the Gophers received their first verbal commitment from the Sunshine State in the 2010 class.  Kirkwood had offers from Rutgers, Pitt and Kansas State but ended his recruitment early picking the Gophers.  He is a big and strong back who at a Rutgers camp last week impressed with, "surprisingly quick feet from someone of his size."  With the young stable of running backs we currently have it would not be surprising to see Kirkwood end up at FB but that is pure conjecture.  In 2008 he rushed for just over 1,000 yards and scored 14 TDs.  It is really hard (impossible) to gauge what kind of impact he'll have but at the very least he will be a link to the Florida pipeline of talent.

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So that concludes out current list of verbal commitments. Through the first 10 verbals here is what I like and what I don't like.

What I like...

Two things stand out.  First it is that we are keeping our in-state, four-star kids at home.  I'm very excited about Jimmy Gjere and Lamonte Edwards.  I'm not declaring that they will be future All-Americans but as of right now they are considered the best players not named Seantrel Henderson in the state.  We need to keep them here and Brewster did that early this year.  Secondly we are making a dent in the Wisconsin top 10.  I know that these guys did not hold offers from the Badgers but that is irrelevant imo.  We have three players who will likely be in the top 6 or 7 out of Wisconsin committed to the Gophers.  Iowa has another.  If the Badgers want to make a living by signing kids who are unranked and passed on by all other schools I believe that will catch up to them sooner rather than later.  I believe that with his family history Parish would have received an offer and Epping canceled his Badger camp visit which possibly would have ended with his scholarship offer.  Ultimately just the fact that the Badger staff has to work a little harder on their own kids is at least making them do their job.

What I don't like...

If there is an area for concern it would be the offer lists on most of our incoming recruits.  Kirkwood had a decent offer sheet, Kip Smith is a kicker so that is acceptable, Gjere and Edwards surely would have had a long list of offers had they lengthened their recruiting process.  But the majority of the other incoming recruits have offers from schools like Northern Illinois, Bowling Green, North Dakota State, Toledo, Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan, etc.  I believe that the Rivals star rankings is a pretty good indicator of the potential these kids posses.  But the second thing to look at is the list of schools willing to give these kids a precious scholarship.  Either we are advanced in our scouting and we see things that nobody else is seeing.  OR we are giving away scholarships to kids who won't be able to adequately contribute at the Big Ten level.  We won't know the answer to any of that for a couple years but if there is reason for concern at this point it would be just that.

Finally The Daily Gopher top 10 wish list - I like throwing this out there.  If I could get 10 more guys to sign right now this would be my list.

  1. OT - Seantrel Henderson - ya, I'd love to get the #1 recruit in the country.  I guess...if we have to take him
  2. CB - Tyrone Bouie - love the way this kid tackles in his videos, I'd really like to see this Florida native choose Minnesota.
  3. DT - Beau Allen - Minnetonka native and a top 5 player in the state.
  4. WR - Kevin Johnson - teammate of Hasan Lipscomb last year in Houston.  Johnson has commited to OK State but there is still time for him to come to his senes.
  5. DE - Tobi Okuyemi - Wayzata native and athletic DE.  May end up moving to OLB at this level but very good player.
  6. WR - Toby Durham - teammate of Tyrone Bouie, three-star receiver
  7. S - Isaiah Lewis - attends MarQueis Gray's old high school, the top 25 S has offers from nearly all B10 schools.
  8. RB - Marcus Coker - Maryland back who was rumored to have committed but it was just a rumor
  9. OLB - Kevin Kisserberth - there are not a ton of offers out there for LBs and this Klein, TX native is one still looking at us.
  10. S - Gregory Barksdale 

This list will change as players begin to narrow down their lists, official visits are planned and further rankings are completed.  But this is a good start.

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