While we all know Minnesota isn't necessarily a hot-bed for major college football talent, both Tim Brewster, and now Jerry Kill, have discussed the importance of getting Minnesota kids with Division I talent to stay home and play football for the University of Minnesota.
Locking down the borders, especially keeping those kids from going to our border-rivals, is certainly important. In recent years we've lost some big time recruits to other schools: Bryce McNeal (Clemson), Willie Mobley (Ohio State followed by UCLA, and ultimately Arizona), Walker Lee Ashley (USC), Michael Floyd (Notre Dame), Seantrell Henderson (USC followed by Miami). We could talk about how these players who shunned their hometown team eventually had some difficulty (academic, injuries, drinking, their fathers, transfers, etc), but instead, let's focus on the kids who did stick around, and where they are contributing on the field.
You've seen a lot of kids from the land of 11,842 lakes as starters in recent years. Mike Rallis is an Edina kid who looks promising as an impact player at LB, despite an injury-riddled past. Shady Salomon is a Cretin-Durham Hall guy who started some games at RB under Tim Brewster before being moved to Dback. Ed Olson started 8 games on the OL as a true freshman in 2010. Ryan Wynn started the entire season during his freshman year before suffering a back injury that kept him out in 2009.
Minnesota kids have long made an impact on the offensive line and recent history is no exception. Chris Bunders (Osseo HS), Ed Olson (Mahtomedi), Ryan Orton (Eden Prairie) and Ryan Wynn (Maple Grove HS) have all seen time starting on the O-line in the last two years. Additionally, the Gophers have had quite a bit of success recruiting offensive linemen from within the state recently, and we'll begin to see that success pay off as early as this year.
Ed Olson started as a freshman in 2010 and will again in 2011. His brother Tommy, joining the Gophers this fall, projects to join Ed as a starter in the coming years. Josh Campion (Fergus Falls) will join the team this fall and likely redshirt, but is projected to be a potential starter the day he leaves the practice squad. Jimmy Gjere (New Brighton-Irondale) took a redshirt last year, but could see significant time this fall.
All big, home-grown Minnesota kids with a ton of talent. Because of this, it is completely conceivable that we will see a 100% homegrown offensive line playing for the Gophers within 2 years.
Defensive line is another area where the Gophers will benefit from in-state talent this fall. Matt Garin (Eastview HS) and Anthony Jacobs (Northfield) have seen significant playing time in the previous 2 seasons, and while Ra'Shede Hageman still needs some work and was recruited as a TE, he has the physical skills that continue to make coaches believe he'll have an impact rushing the passer in the future.
Two of the five listed QB's on the Gopher roster are from Minnesota in Moses Alipate (Bloomington Jefferson) and Adam Lueck (Eden Prairie). Additionally there are others on the team who were Minnesota high school QB's when they were recruited who could begin to make an impact at other positions in the coming years: Ryan Grant (Eden Prairie) and Peter Westerhaus (Holy Family HS) at LB, and J.D. Pride (Totino-Grace) at WR.
At other skill positions you've got RB Lamonte Edwards (Woodbury) who figures to play into the backfield as soon as this fall, and speedsters like Sophomore AJ Barker (DeLaSalle) and Freshman Devin Crawford-Tufts (Edina) who are likely to make an impact on the field either at their given position, or possibly on special teams.
As a program, the Gophers have done a good job of recruiting in-state kids to fill positions in the trenches, but the bulk of the skill positions are filled with kids from other areas of the country. It seems in recent years when we've had a light's out skill position player (i.e. Floyd, McNeal, etc), we've lost them to other programs. If Jerry Kill's group can begin to attract that top-tier Minnesota talent at the skill positions, we might one day be able to say that our borders are locked-down.