National Signing Day: Minnesota Gopher Football Defensive Commitments

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The past couple seasons the Gophers have made huge strides in rebuilding the program to Big Ten respectability.  Much of the on-the-field success has been attributed to the improved play by the defense.  Certainly having players the caliber of Ra'Shede Hageman and Brock Vereen has helped, but each of the Kill recruiting classes have added key players who have been significant contributors as well as added vitally important depth.

This year's defensive class does not, on the surface, appear to have any budding stars or at least any tremendously exciting players.  But I do fully expect that this is another class of guys who will provide quality depth (something not to be overlooked or undervalued).  Then of course there is always the belief that this staff has identified kids who will contribute and become very good Gophers in spite of their lower recruiting ranking; see Eric Murray.

Let's meet this year's defensive class!

LB - CODY POOCK (JUCO)

VITALS
Position: LB
Home: Iowa Western CC
Height: 6-2 
Weight: 230
40-time: 4.64

Videos: [Freshman Year at IWCC
Scroll of the SwornCommitted on December 14th

RANKINGS
- Rivals: (5.5) - NR
- ESPN: (72) - NR
- 247.Sports (0.807) - #13 JUCO ILB

Other BCS Offers: Illinois

TWITTER @codyallenpoock

NOTES:

Poock was a full-qualifier out of high school who went the JUCO route to gain himself better scholarship offers.  This means that he has played just one year of ball at Iowa Western and will have three years of eligibility at Minnesota.  He led his JUCO team in tackles.  Matt, in his Scroll of the Sworn, believes that Poock will come in and compete on the weakside, moving DeVondre Campbell over to the strongside.

Poock very well may have the most immediate impact out of this defensive class and will have the opportunity to play right away, filling in the holes left by James Manuel and Aaron Hill in the linebacking corp.  He is already signed, enrolled in class and will be participating in Spring Practice.

Here is the expected class of 2014 on the defensive side of the ball for your Golden Gophers.

DE - JULIEN KAFO

VITALS
Position: DE
Home: Montreal, Quebec
Height: 6-4
Weight: 245
40-time: n/a

Videos: [Senior Year
Scroll of the SwornCommitted on November 24th

RANKINGS
- Rivals: (5.5) - NR
- ESPN: (70) - #142 DE
- 247.Sports (0.795) - #94 WDE

Other BCS Offers: Nebraska, Iowa, Pittsburgh, Purdue

TWITTER @JPKafo44

NOTES:

Kafo camped at Minnesota over the summer and that is where he earned his offer.  The first thing that jumps out is Kafo's size at 6-4 and 245 lbs as an incoming true freshman.  Next is the fact that he is very raw and will need some developmental time.

Kafo is a prospect out of Canada and a bit of a developmental prospect. Does have good size and some tools to work with and could grow into a player that can contribute at the FBS level but we feel will need some time and work.

There is time to develop as the defensive line is fairly deep at the moment.  I fully expect that Kafo will redshirt and have the opportunity to contribute down the road.

DT - ANDREW STELTER

VITALS
Position: DT
Home: Owatonna, MN
Height: 6-4
Weight: 250
40-time: 5.12

Videos: [Senior Year
Scroll of the SwornCommitted on July 20th

RANKINGS
- Rivals: (5.5) - NR
- ESPN: (76) - #82 DE
- 247.Sports (0.847) - #38 SDE

Other BCS Offers: Iowa St, Duke, Harvard, Yale, Princeton

TWITTER @Steltz78

NOTES:

A DE in high school and listed as such by most recruiting services, but Stelter is expected to come to the Gophers as a DT.  Strength, athleticism and toughness are common compliments for Stelter when reading various scouting reports.

This guy is a tough customer won't stay blocked. Is a very good wrap tackler who doesn't allow cheap yards after contact; is relentless pursuing the football.

The top defensive prospect in the state and Stelter was a valuable get both in terms of adding value but also for keeping the local kids home.

DT - STEVEN RICHARDSON

VITALS
Position: DT
Home: Chicago, MN
Height: 5-11
Weight: 280
40-time: 4.61

Videos: [Interview following Minnesota verbal
Scroll of the SwornCommitted on April 29th

RANKINGS
- Rivals: (5.5) - NR
- ESPN: (75) - #133 DT
- 247.Sports (0.8142) - #89 DT

Other BCS Offers: Northern Illinois, Western Michigan

TWITTER @mteam_srich

NOTES:

Matt pointed out that this is exactly the "type" of DT that this staff has brought in in the past and likely will continue to bring in.  Tough kid, strong kid and appears to be a good football player who is just lacking the ideal measurables.  This eval prior to a Rivals camp last May.

Speaking of star rankings he currently has none per Rivals and that's just wrong. Richardson is a perfect NG type who will battle all shapes and sizes. Terrific mix of brute force and quickness and Richardson has a chance on Saturday to establish himself in a big way from a rankings/stars standpoint. I see Richardson easily as a mid three star kid to start. If Richardson was three inches taller he would have 30 offers and be a potential four star already just based off of his tape.

As a senior, Richardson notched 34 TFLs and 17 sacks playing along side Enoch Smith (4-star Michigan St commit).  ESPN eval.

Richardson can be tough to move as an interior defensive lineman and can clog things up and help defend the run. While he can be a stout presence and plays with good effort overall

Good addition, good depth and a productive football player from a good high school program.

CB - CRAIG JAMES

VITALS
Position: CB
Home: Edwardsville, IL
Height: 5-11
Weight: 170
40-time: 4.42

Videos: [Junior Year Highlights
Scroll of the SwornCommitted on February 5th

RANKINGS
- Rivals: (5.5) - NR
- ESPN: (75) - #48 CB
- 247.Sports (0.8407) - #70 CB

Other BCS Offers: Indiana, Kansas, Iowa, Iowa St, Missouri, Syracuse

TWITTER @1ofGodsoldiers

NOTES:

James is another kid in this class that is probably just an inch of height away from being a much more highly sought after commodity.  As it stands, he is a very good cover corner who possesses very good speed.

Way above average (coverage skills). Can move his feet, flip his hips and catch the ball. In man coverage he shows very good make-up speed but is usually disciplined enough to stay on top of receiver. In zone coverage he gets his eyes back into the QB and once the ball is thrown displays a good ability to cover ground.

...

James has the feet and speed to be a highly sought after corner and then, on top of that, should be very successful at the next level. Another inch would make him truly special.

I have been waiting for weeks for his commitment and thrilled to have him as a Golden Gopher.  Redshirting is a possibility but this is also another position that is on the thin side.  This staff is not shy about playing true freshmen and if he shows that he can help us on the field, you know he'll be there.  James has very good speed which may also be displayed in special teams.

LB - EVERETT WILLIAMS

VITALS
Position: LB
Home: Mansfield, TX
Height: 6-2
Weight: 220
40-time: 4.53

Videos: [Senior Year Highlights
Scroll of the SwornCommitted on September 30th

RANKINGS
- Rivals: (5.4) - NR
- ESPN: (73) - #141 ATH
- 247.Sports (0.8079) - #119 OLB

Other BCS Offers: Navy, New Mexico State

TWITTER @Everett2Dreaded

NOTES:

Williams was offered early by this staff and they never wavered in spite of the fact that other schools never came calling for Williams.  Expect that Williams will be a redshirt candidate who may contribute later in his career.  Appears to be of good character as well has good academic marks.

LB - JONATHAN CELESTINE

VITALS
Position: LB
Home: Jonesburo, GA
Height: 6-1
Weight: 210
40-time: 4.58

Videos: [QB hit by Celestine
Scroll of the Sworn: none - Committed on January 25th, 2014

RANKINGS
- Rivals:  (4.9) - NR
- ESPN: (70) - #150 OLB
- 247.Sports (0.790) - #143 OLB

Other BCS Offers: none

TWITTER @JonC_4

NOTES:

Teammate of RB commit, Rodney Smith.  Celestine was a very late offer and he quickly accepted.

Celestin is a player who will need to add size to his frame to be productive at the next level. Is a good tackler who could be effective in the middle if he could add bulk and strength to his frame.

I'll be shocked if he does not redshirt in 2014.

DT - Gary Moore

VITALS
Position: DT
Home: Mobile, AL
Height: 6-3
Weight: 280
40-time: 4.64

Videos: [video
Scroll of the SwornCommitted on February 3rd

RANKINGS
- Rivals: (5.4) - NR
- ESPN: (75) - #74 DT
- 247.Sports (0.7994) - #112 DT

Other BCS Offers: Southern Mississippi commit who flipped to Minnesota

TWITTER - none that I could find.

NOTES:

Strong kid with a quick first step but will certainly need time to get better.  A redshirt year is in his future but a kid with good size and strength can hopefully be taught to be a strong contributor later in his career.

That is a short list but this is the defensive class of 2014.

Also not to be fully ignored is the list of preferred walk-ons in this class.  These kids will most likely never be contributors outside of maybe special teams.  But there are a couple key contributors on the current roster who came to the Gopher program as a walk-on.  So this year's preferred walk-on class.

  • Davis Anderson - DB - Apple Valle
  • Blake Weber - LB - Prior Lake
  • Nick Leach - ATH - East Ridge
  • Payton Jordahl - LS - Perham
  • Emmit Carpenter - K - Ashwaubenon (WI)
  • Logan McElfresh - P - Brainerd

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