National Signing Day, The 2013 Golden Gopher Football Recruiting Class - Defense

Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE

While the Gophers return nearly everyone on offense this offseason (sans MarQueis Gray, John Rabe and Brandon Green), the defense loses several key pieces from a vastly improved unit in 2012. These are players who will provide reinforcements for Tracy Claeys.

Rayfield Dixon


Position: OLB

Measurables: 6-3 / 192 / 40 time 4.7s

Videos: [2011 Highlights]

Rankings:
- Rivals: (5.6) - #NR OLB
- ESPN: (76) - #84 OLB

Scroll of the Sworn: LINK

BCS Offers: Purdue, West Virginia, Miss St, Wake Forest

Notes: By the looks of it we landed a very good player and a very good person in Rayfield Dixon. This quote from his high school coach, obtained from GopherIllustrated.com

"He's one of the most down to earth kids you'll ever meet," Hilliker said. "Some kids get caught up in fame and attention that the recruiting process comes with, but that's not Rayfield at all. He's a very intelligent kid that always thinks things through before he makes any kind of decision and he definitely gets that from his mother and father. They've instilled great morals with Ray and he was definitely a leader for our football team."

The Seminole Ridge product is a very athletic linebacker who will surely benefit from time in the weight room.

Has the height and athleticism for the outside linebacker position at the major level of competition; his frame appears capable of supporting additional bulk over time. This guy is a tough, wrap tackler; puts ball carriers on the turf with very little yardage after contact; should be productive playing multiple positions on special teams.

Don't expect to see Dixon on the field this year but there is clearly some nice linebacker depth being built into the program with this recruiting class.

Hendrick Ekpe


Position: DE

Measurables: 6-4 / 230

Videos:

Rankings:
- Rivals: (5.5) - #NR DE
- ESPN: #NR DE

Scroll of the Sworn: none, but GoAUpher posted a little something

BCS Offers: Iowa and Northwestern

Notes: Brother to Scott who had a very nice and surprising true freshman season for the Gophers. Hendrick comes to the Gophers a little bit lighter than his older brother but he will also be playing outside at end rather than at tackle.

More depth along the DL is what Ekpe is bringing. Considering we have some experience there already it seems likely that he'll get the benefit of redshirting in 2013.

Jordan Hinojosa


Position: DT

Measurables: 6-3 / 272

Videos:

Rankings:
- Rivals: (5.5) - #NR DT
- ESPN: (69) - #NR JUCO DT

Scroll of the Sworn: last year's commitment

BCS Offers: Miami, Penn State

Notes: Committed last year but was unable to gain admittance so Hino went the 1-year JUCO route. He is now coming into the program with 3 years of eligibility. Out of high school he had offers from Michigan State, West Virginia and Wake Forest. This guy has been a fan favorite for a while now because of his passion and desire to play for the Gophers. I doubted he'd ever get here but Hino is already on campus and working out with the team.

ESPN's eval for 2013

Hinojosa remains a real active interior D-lineman who plays with a good motor and tries to get around the ball. He looks to have added some needed mass and improved strength and appears to have a sturdy, thick build with room to possibly add some more good size. He still shows flashes of a quick, initial move, but can be inconsistent and adequate in his get-off.

A position of need for the Gophers and Hino adds some depth with a bit more maturity and experience with a year of JUCO ball under his belt.

De'Niro Laster


Position: OLB

Measurables: 6-2 - 6-3 / 220 / 40 time: 4.7s

Videos: [Published in Sept-12] [2011 Highlights]

Rankings:
- Rivals: (5.7) - #35 OLB
- ESPN: (73) - #137 ATH

Scroll of the Sworn: LINK

BCS Offers: Illinois and Kansas

Notes:

ESPN Eval

Defensively, Laster shows flashes. Does a good job playing the outside run and maintaining leverage. Can separate and stretch out the run to the sideline or slip the block inside as well with quick hand escapes. Would like to see him play with a bit more knee bend, but he mirrors ball carriers well in space and breaks down soundly with good body control for a taller defender. Effective blitzer with his first-step quickness and bend off the edge.

Laster was a fast riser after a strong senior campaign, attracting attention from a number of BCS schools before ultimately deciding upon Minnesota. He has great length and size for the OLB spot, though he'll likely need a redshirt year as he's new to playing defense.

Jalen Myrick


Position: CB

Measurables: 6-0 / 190 / 40 time: 4.5s

Videos: [2012 Senior Highlights] [2011 Junior Highlights] [Track video running a 10.4 100m]

Rankings:
- Rivals: (5.3) - #NR CB
- ESPN: (78) - #49 CB

Scroll of the Sworn: LINK

BCS Offers: None

Notes:

ESPN eval:

Myrick is a very talented football player capable of producing big numbers on both sides of the ball; is very effective as an all- purpose running back/receiver demonstrating the ball carrying and receiving skills that gain big chunks of yardage. However at this stage of his career we feel his size and athleticism are best suited for the cornerback position at the major level of competition. Has the frame capable of supporting additional bulk over time. Myrick is an outstanding competitor who has the skills capable of earning early situational playing time on defense and special teams.

Myrick has exceptional speed for a cornerback and was one of the team leaders on a very strong high school program. Savannah Christian is a very small (Class 2A) Georgia school that typically doesn't produce much FBS talent, which likely contributed to his status as an under the radar prospect nationally. The coaches except Jalen to come in and compete for playing time on day 1.

Demaris Peppers


Position: DT

Measurables: 6-3 / 250 / 40 time: 4.9s

Videos: [2012 Senior Midseason] [2011 Junior Highlights]

Rankings:
- Rivals: (5.5) - #NR DT
- ESPN: (70) - #115 DT

Scroll of the Sworn: LINK

BCS Offers: Nebraska, Kentucky

Notes:

ESPNU eval

He does carry the bulk he has now well and comes across as a fairly lean kid for around 250, so he should be able to add more good mass with time in a college weight program. ... He does a good job of firing out low and being able to consistently get pad-under-pad and play with leverage. With that he can hold his ground and even get some push into the gap. He flashes the ability to be active with his hands, but does need to do a better job of creating separation and being able to disengage. ... As a pass rusher he can get to half-a-man and get under the shoulder and power his way up-field, but again needs to improve hand usage to help him clear from blockers. ... Peppers is a kid who can be tough inside, but needs to keep developing physically and as a player so he can get more from the ability he has.

Peppers, a very similar prospect to current Gopher Scott Ekpe in playing style and stature, moved from Memphis to Atlanta in the 6th grade but moved back to Tennessee in order to play football under his cousin's stewardship. Demaris picked up a late offer from Nebraska after the Huskers saw several of their recruits poached but had no intention of switching his pledge.

Given the depth at the position, Peppers will likely redshirt.

Owen Salzwedel


Position: DE

Measurables: 6-5 /235

Videos: [Junior and Sophomore Highlights]

Rankings:
- Rivals: (5.6) - #NR DE
- ESPN: (73) - #95 DE

Scroll of the Sworn: LINK

BCS Offers: None

Notes:

ESPN eval

Salzwedel doesn't seem to bring a lot of flash to the table, but this is a good sized kid who displays the tools to be a tough edge run defender. As a defensive end he has excellent height and carries solid bulk on his long frame and looks capable of packing on some more good mass with time in a college weight program. He is best suited to defend the run at this stage. He gets off the ball well. For a taller kid he demonstrates the ability to play with good pad level. He can fire out low and maintain a good 'football position' when taking on blockers. He does a very good job of shooting his hands and creating separation.

Owen camped at Minnesota over the summer and earned an offer almost immediately. He made the choice for Minnesota shortly thereafter; a prospect viewed as a steal by Midwest recruiting analysts. A likely redshirt candidate in 2013 as he'll need to put on more mass and add strength but loaded with potential due to his frame.

Damien Wilson


Position: MLB

Measurables: 6-2 / 230 / 40 time: 4.6

Videos: [2012 Sophomore Season at Jones County CC]

Rankings:
- Rivals: (5.4) - #NR LB
- ESPN: (76) - #NR JUCO LB

Scroll of the Sworn: LINK

BCS Offers: Kansas

Notes:

ESPN eval.

He is quick to diagnose and react to what he sees. He shows above average lateral movement skills to slip blocks in tight quarters. He uses his hands to shed and disengage blockers and flashes the ability to redirect and make a play. Size is an issue but Wilson plays tough.

Wilson was offered a walk-on spot at Mississippi State but chose a scholarship at Alcorn State instead. He played defensive end at ASU, turned a few heads, promptly transferred to Jones County Junior College en route to becoming an All-American. Wilson, currently enrolled, was 4th in the NJCAA with 122 total tackles. He'll compete for the vacant starting MLB job right away.

Chris Wipson


Position: MLB

Measurables: 6-2 / 220 / 40 time: 4.8s

Videos: [2012 Senior Year] [2011 Junior Year]

Rankings:
- Rivals: (5.4) - #NR LB
- ESPN: (71) - #130 OLB

Scroll of the Sworn: LINK

BCS Offers: None

Notes:

ESPN eval.

Wipson is an active run stopper who flashes zone coverage potential. This prospect is a good wrap tackler; flashes the ability to knock ball carriers back where they came from. His aggressiveness along with a desire to get to the football should allow him to do a variety of jobs on special teams. Although we see some hip tightness when playing in space his key and diagnosis reaction skills get him off the mark when defending against the run; is a good attacking linebacker, capable of moving through traffic and filling gaps from inside out; scrapes off the edge, displaying good sideline to sideline range.

Wipson earned an offer from the staff after a strong showing at camp and committed shortly thereafter. Tore his ACL midway through his senior campaign, a redshirt is likely in order. Strong tackler, good straight line speed and comes from a dominant Minnesota prep squad (Wayzata).

Daletavius McGhee


Position: DB

Measurables: 6-2 / 180 / 40 time: 4.5s

Videos: [2012 Senior Year]

Rankings:
- Rivals: (5.3) - #NR DB
- ESPN: (72) - #84 S

Scroll of the Sworn: LINK

BCS Offers: None

Notes:

ESPN eval.

McGhee demonstrates the versatility to align at multiple positions on both sides of the ball as a two way player who flashes play maker ability. Aligns at corner, safety, wide receiver and as a return specialist. Plays with an aggressive, physical mind-set and good functional strength. May be best suited at safety in college. Displays good playing speed but is not elite. Demonstrates good instincts with above average awareness in run and pass situations.

A late pickup for the staff, McGhee is viewed as a replacement for Nate Andrews, the stud CB prospect who switched his pledge to Florida State. An aggressive and versatile defender, McGhee loves to hit and simply makes plays. Projects better as a safety than a corner at the next level.

Damien Wilson will be looked at right away to fill the void left by Mike Rallis' graduation and Brendan Beal's medical leave. He proved himself a tackling machine at the JUCO level and has the size and instincts necessary to play MLB in the Big Ten. Several other prospects could earn early playing time this fall, especially Myrick, Ekpe and Hinojosa. Ekpe and Hinojosa are currently enrolled (as is Wilson) and have a leg up on their prep counterparts, while Myrick could be forced into action due to a lack of depth at the CB spot.

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