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Minnesota Gophers Football Recruiting: A Quick Look Back

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Today would be the calm before the proverbial storm that is tomorrow's National Signing Day. Hopefully Coach Kill can close with a few more solid commitments, and then we can focus on where these kids fit into the Gophs' present and future.

To "Kill" some time between now and then, I thought we'd take a look back at past Gopher recruiting classes. Specifically, look at the "star" rankings according to Rivals (I'm not saying Rivals is the best or worst, it's just who I went with) and what some of our best players were ranked. Rivals database for us non-paying folks only goes back to 2002, so let's start there...


Certainly not Glen Mason's best class by rankings, as he had just three three-star kids. RB Gregg Pruitt, Jr of Ohio and TE Brian Sykora from Bloomington Jefferson never panned out. But OL Mark Setterstrom from Northfield became an all-conference lineman.

3 star: Those three were it.

2 star: Mason really knew how to coach 'em up, as QB Brian Cupito, DE Anthony Montgomery, and DB Trumaine Banks turned into starters. But the real home runs of this crop were C Greg Eslinger and DE Matt Spaeth, both of whom developed into All-Americans. Spaeth would switch sides and made the NFL as a TE, and Eslinger is arguably the best player Minnesota has had in the past 10 years.


Talk about boom or bust- Mason landed two four star kids who couldn't have had more opposite careers. RB Laurence Maroney is in the conversation with Eslinger for the best Gopher of the past decade while WR Paris Hamilton was a Hayo Carpenter-like total and complete non-factor.

3 star: 14 3-star kids with some decent-to-solid contributors. Among them were OL Tony Brinkhaus (who was recruited as a DT but became an excellent starter on the OL), ATH Amir Pinnix (moved to RB), DB John Shelvin, and WR Ernie Wheelwright.

2 star: The only two names that stand out for me are WR Logan Payne and K Rhys Lloyd.


Another sub-par recruiting class according to the rankings, and for the most part it turned out that way on the field as well. You want to know why Tim Brewster had so little to work with when he took over in 2007? Look at this class and you'll wonder no more.

3-star: DB Dom Barber is far and away the best of the just 6 3-star recruits Mason brought in.

2-star: Not much gold here with two noteable exceptions: RB Gary Russell was on his way to big things before he got kicked out of school. DE Will VanDeSteeg would start going by Willie and become the Gophs best (only?) dominant pass rusher off the edge we've seen this century. But that's really it.


Better rankings, yet still few starters came out of this class...well with one huge exception. But again, anyone questioning whether Mason left the cupboard basically bare when he was fired needs to think again. This class didn't help much either.

4 Stars: Alex Daniels was an "athlete" from Ohio who ended up doing bubkis. Thanks Alex.

3 stars: 10 recruits got this ranking, but only three made an impact. DB Dom Jones was awesome until he got hurt, Steve Davis turned into a decent LB, and Nate Triplett was buried on the depth chart until he exploded in 2009. Remember Jay Thomas? I try not to either. The local kid that supposed to pan out just never did.

2 stars: DE Matt Stommes of Eden Prairie switched to OL, and started for two seasons. Not sure how good those two seasons were, but a starter's a starter. The other guy from this group who ended up being kinda sorta good was Cold Springs, MN WR Eric Decker.


You know what? Forget the "stars breakdown. Good lord, did Mason just stop recruiting entirely? Did he not care? Here's what you need to know: Three-star recruits QB Adam Weber and DT Garrett Brown were good starters. OL DJ Burris and Dom Alford were not. And that's it for guys who even came close to making in impact. Four players. Four. That's it. Remember when Brewster was canned, and the folks from outside Gopher Nation saying we were stupid for firing Mason in the first place? Have them look over his last three recruiting classes, and see if they change their minds. Actually, the probably couldn't be bothered to, but just know this confirms we were not wrong to fire Mason. Hell, we were right!


And so begins the Brewster Era. Not a great class, but of course he had a REALLY late start on things as he didn't get the job until the middle of January. No real standouts, but a few contributors.

4 Star: DE Anthony Jacobs has not lived up to a four-star billing, but has been decent. Rivals only had Clint Brewster as a three, but I know other services had him as a four. Well they were all wrong. He stunk and is now riding pine somewhere south of the Mason Dixon.

3 star: A small class with just nine three-star commits. DB Ryan Collado was a mutli-year starter in the secondary, and Trey Davis, Ryan Orton and Chris Bunders tried to piece together some semblance of an offensive line.

2 star: Brewster did his best Mason impression, as his three best players from this class were not heavily recruited: RB Duane Bennett, DL Eric Small, and DB Kyle Theret. Ryan Wynn has also made contributions on the OL.


Brewster's first full class was a dandy: SEVEN 4-star kids might have been more than all of Mason's classes combined. Four of them have made contributions: QB/WR MarQueis Gray, LB Keanon Cooper, and WR Brandon Green will be counted on for big things in 2011. Juco transer Traye Simmons was all-conference his first year and then up-and-disappeared in 2009. We now know the reason was switching from Ted Roof to Kevin Cosgrove as DC. Sorry, Traye. The three misses were WR's Vincent Hill and David Pittman, and local boy LB Sam Maresh. I still really, really would love to Maresh end up back at The U, but who knows?

3-star: 17 came in with this ranking, and by my count, a staggering 12 have started at one time or another in maroon and gold. Six, if not seven, should be starters next year.

2-star: Depending upon how everyone adjusts to the new offense, Da'Jon McKnight might push Decker as the best two-star receiver the Gophers have had. Or he's at least in the conversation.


This group had a solid ranking but still has a lot to prove. Three 4-stars, and thus far none of them have panned out. RB Hasan Lipscomb never made it to campus, Juco WR Hayo Carpenter might as well not have and DB Michael Carter may be the single biggest enigma of the 2011 season: Do we get the potenital all-conference player we saw as a freshman or the craptastic whatever-the-hell-that-was we saw from him last year?

3-star: With WR Bryant Allen transferring (I STILL don't understand that one), the only sure starter is OT Ed Olson. QB Moses Alipate moves up to backup, OL Josh Campion is back from the Juco abyss, and DE Matt Garin was a surprise starter last year. DE Ra'shede Hageman is immensely talented but after salivating at his potential last year I'm much less optimistic now. OL Brooks Michel and DB Kerry Lews will have opportunites for playing time, but we'll see.

2 star: Just two guys here, and K Dan Orseske is the name I'm familiar with.


Way too early to make any judgements on this group, which is fine. JC transfer TE Tiree Eure was the only one to play much last year, and I'm fine with that. Nothing wrong with redshirting freshmen if there's more talented upper classmen ahead of them. Certainly some potential with this group, and spring practice will be intriguing for their progress alone.