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National Signing Day, The 2012 Golden Gopher Recruiting Class - Midwest Recruits

Today is National Signing Day! It is like Christmas for college football coaches. Really it is probably more of a relief than anything else as they no longer have to recruit the following kids who have already verbally committed to the program. It is the final day of the 2012 recruiting cycle and day 1 of 2013. But for now let us take a look at your future Golden Gophers.

Below is part 1 of your 2012 Gopher recruiting class. I am listing all of the kids who have committed to the program, I am not waiting for each individual kid to sign their LOI.

JUCO early commits were covered last month.

This list is all of the midwest recruits who have signed (or plan to sign) a letter of intent to play for the Gophers. I have listed the Minnesota kids first, followed by the rest of the kids who have committed from the midwest.

Andre McDonald

Position: WR

Measurables: 6-3 /195

Videos: [1 SR] [2 JR]

- Rivals: - #68 WR
- ESPN: - #37 WR
- 247Sorts: - #62 WR

Notes: The late addition to the 2012 recruiting class was one of the first and the last to commit. As most of you know McDonald committed to Coach Kill about a year ago. He then changed his mind and decided he'd play at Vandy. Then he changed his mind again and came back to MN. He led the state in receiving yards and touchdowns in both his JR and SR year. The kid has very good size, decent speed and good strength.

He possesses excellent athletic ability and is fairly nimble given his size. Is a big target in the passing game, shows the ability to make the acrobatic catch and can make adjustments while the ball is in the air. Is tough and will go after the ball in traffic and isn't afraid to go over the middle.

McDonald may not have an huge impact as a freshman but I do expect that he will play as a true freshman and grow to become one of the better receivers in the Big Ten.

Philip Nelson

Position: QB

Measurables: 6-2 /215

Videos: [1 news clips] [2 rushing TD vs. Winona]

- Rivals: - #16 QB
- ESPN: - #93 QB
- 247Sorts: - #48 QB

Notes: Nelson racked up some very impressive stats in his Mankato West career. But more impressive is that the Gophers landed a kid who's father played for the Badgers and who grew up in Madison going to Badger games. The kid is accurate, has good arm strength and has some athletic ability to get downfield with this legs.

"He gets set and wastes little time working through progressions. Knows this scheme, knows where to go with the ball and he is tough to pressure because the ball is out on time. In the short and intermediate levels he is one of the most accurate guys we have seen in this class. Shows zip, leads targets, does not expose them in a crowd and can fit the ball into tight creases underneath."

He has been heralded as the perfect fit for Kill's offense, the same mold as a Chandler Harnish at NIU. He will surely redshirt a year and then compete with Shortell to start in 2013. I am looking forward to the Nelson era under center for the Gophers.

Isaac Hayes

Position: OG

Measurables: 6-2 /270

Videos: [1]

- Rivals: - #35 OG
- ESPN: - #6 OG
- 247Sorts: - #9 OC

Notes: ESPN loves Hayes and is the only recruiting service to give him four stars and ranking him the #6 offensive guard in the country.

Hayes is an outstanding pass and run blocker; dominates at his present level with very good explosion along with a nasty finishing effort. Has the size and athleticism for the offensive guard position at the major level of competition.

I assume he'll redshirt to develop the necessary strength, but maybe his mean streak and toughness get him the opportunity to push for that open RG starting spot. He is reportedly quick for his size and is used to pulling on a regular basis which should help him to assimilate into Kill's offensive system. His brother played at Stanford and Hayes eventually chose the Gophers over offers from Boise St, Virginia Tech and several non-BCS schools.

Jonah Pirsig

Position: OT

Measurables: 6-9 / 300

Videos: [1]

- Rivals: - #60 OT
- ESPN: - #52 OT
- 247Sorts: - #20 OT

Notes: Pirsig's offer list may be the most impressive of any of the Gopher recruits. The Blue Earth native ultimately picked the Gophers over Iowa and Wisconsin but he reportedly had offers from Auburn, Ohio State, Michigan St, Michigan, Miami Illinois and others. Standing at 6-9, he obviously has a huge frame. I would be shocked if he doesn't redshirt this year to fill some of that frame out and hone some of the more technical skills required. But a redshirt year then a year on the bench and he may be the favorite to start at LT for three years.

Maxx Williams

Position: TE

Measurables: 6-4 / 220

Videos: none found

- Rivals: - #NR TE
- ESPN: - #NR TE
- 247Sorts: - #30TE

Notes: Williams was a do-it-all player for Waconia. He was often seen at QB, he split out at WR, he lined up at TE and he played on the defensive side of the ball, usually as a LB. Oh, and he punts and kicks. With all of that position flexibility, most expect that Williams will end up playing TE in his college career.

He has good size, good athletic ability and this is a position of need. With only John Rabe (SR) and Drew Goodger (SO) as scholarship TEs on the roster (and Alipate moving there as well), there is a chance that Williams could come in and play as a true freshman. Getting a year to add muscle and let his body mature would be best, but there a chance.

His father was a former Gopher and went on to play for the NY Giants.

Nick Rallis

Position: S

Measurables: 6-0 / 205

Videos: [1]

- Rivals: - #NR S
- ESPN: - #118 S
- 247Sorts: - #81 S

Notes: Tough and physical run-supporting safety who I believe will be in the mold of Kyle Theret, though will come into the program larger than Theret as a senior. Giving a year or two, I wouldn't totally be surprised to see Rallis move to LB after he puts on a few pounds of muscle.

Projects best at strong safety or a hybrid type position. Hips and speed may be better suited at outside linebacker if he can add size. Overall. Rallis is lacking ideal measurable but is a tough and fundamentally sound football player who has a good nose for the ball.

I don't see Rallis being a multi-year impact type player. But there is always room for fundamentally sound players who work hard and can do exactly what is asked of them. Solid contributor and solid depth guy who may be a starter near the end of his career.

Mitch Leidner

Position: QB

Measurables: 6-4 / 220

Videos: [1]

- Rivals: - #NR QB
- ESPN: - #110 QB
- 247Sorts: - #47 QB

Notes: Good size and pretty good athleticism for a quarterback, but that may not be where Leidner ends up in his college career. Most people assume that with Shortell as a good young QB and Nelson getting a scholarship that Leidner will quickly move to TE once he arrives on campus.

He can be a load to handle in the open field when he runs the ball and isn't afraid to lower his shoulder. Shows good elusiveness for his size.

6-4, 220 is basically the same size as Maxx Williams, who also played (mostly) QB in high school and will be making the switch. As a QB I don't see him seeing the field very often, but the kid may develop into a solid TE. Almost certainly will redshirt.

Duke Anyanwu

Position: ATH (H-Back, DE, OLB)

Measurables: 6-4 / 220

Videos: [1]

- Rivals: - #NR
- ESPN: - #NR
- 247Sorts: - #NR

Notes: Duke received a late offer from the Gopher staff and he quickly accepted. There is a possibility that he will be a "grey shirt" candidate which means he will not actually enroll at the U until next January so the clock on his eligibility will be delayed a year (FBT talks Duke and greyshirting here). This may be the ideal scenario to allow Anyanwu an extra year to mature.

The kid has very good size and athleticism. My best guess at which position he'll end up is either an H-back or DE. Offensively he has good size and frame to be a big TE who can move well. Or on the other side of the ball he could put on some bulk and be an athletic pass rusher. Those are just guesses though and he'll likely have 2 years to figure it out.

Good kid with solid academics and plenty of flexibility for his future. I believe this will be one of those lightly recruited kids who becomes a reliable contributor during his Gopher career.

Ben Lauer

Position: OT

Measurables: 6-4 / 225

Videos: [1]

- Rivals: - #NR
- ESPN: - #NR
- 247Sorts: - #NR

Notes: Another late scholarship offer and a kid who may very well greyshirt. Lauer had offers from NDSU and UND, but once the Minnesota offer came he took it, even with potential greyshirt strings attached. Linemen are often hard to project but getting an extra year before enrolling might give Lauer an edge down the road with an opportunity to contribute.

Lauer reportedly has a 3.75 GPA and a 30 on his ACT. In my opinion, if you room and you can land a local D1 prospect who brings with him that kind of an academic record you absolutely should do it. At the very least he will add solid depth to the line in years to come and he will strengthen your APR. He will need to add strength and size.

Antonio Johnson

Position: S

Measurables: 5-11 /190

Videos: [1] check out the hit at 38 seconds

- Rivals: - #NR S
- ESPN: - #153 S
- 247Sorts: - #NR S

Notes: Formerly a Ball State commit who flipped to the Gophers. Johnson is a physical safety who also played running back in high school.

This guy is a tough customer who tackles with authority; does a good job wrap tackling in space and will punish ball carriers on occasion

This class seems to be heavy on kids who are tough and competitive with a bit of a nasty streak in them. Johnson should end up being pretty good against the run. I fully expect that Johnson will redshirt unless he cracks the two-deep and is deemed valuable on special teams.

Teammates with 2013 DT prospect, Donovan Munger.

Jack Lynn

(#14, Jack Lynn applying the hit)

Position: OLB

Measurables: 6-2 /205

Videos: [1], [2]

- Rivals: - #NR OLB
- ESPN: - #171 OLB
- 247Sorts: - #92 OLB

Notes: Lynn was a very good player on a very good team in Illinois. He earned 1st team all-state in class 7A (out of 8 classes) to go along with winning the Lake Shore Defensive Player of the Year. That second link really gives you the sense that this is a good kid who works hard and will be a great teammate. That isn't supposed to be code for a nice kid who won't ever play, I fully expect that after a year or two he will be on the field for the Gophers. He is a smart kid who will need a redshirt year to add strength. But he will be a contributor for the Gopher defense over his career, I'm sure of that.

His Lake Zurich teams reached the state semi finals as a sophomore, state title game as a junior and the semis again as a senior.

Eric Murray

Position: CB

Measurables: 5-11 / 175

Videos: none found

- Rivals: - #NR CB
- ESPN: - #NR CB
- 247Sorts: - #159 Ath

Notes: According to Rivals Murray is the #4 player in the state of Wisconsin. Murray attended a summer camp in Minnesota last year as a receiver, the staff asked to try playing corner and they liked what they saw. The staff asked him back for another camp and after their second viewing of the young man they offered him a scholarship. Considering this is a brand new position for Murray I'm sure he will redshirt with an opportunity to contribute later.

Alex Keith

Position: DE

Measurables: 6-4 / 230

Videos: [1-2010 Highlights]

- Rivals: - #NR DE
- ESPN: - #190 DE
- 247Sorts: - #108 DE

Notes: Columbia, MO native who played his high school ball for the Hickman Kewpies (not a typo). Minnesota was his only BCS level offer. ESPN's recruiting eval had this to say about him. Keith recorded 20 sacks over his JR and SR seasons and had 22 TFLs as a SR while earning all-state both years. His high school coach was an assistant for coach Kill back at Pittsburg State.

He is physical when taking on blockers and when he fires out low and shoots his hands he can hold his ground and even at times knock blockers on their heels.


He plays with a good motor and hustles to the ball and displays above average straight-line speed and range.

That picture is actually 2 years old and as a sophomore he had pretty good definition and size. With some decent depth at DE I don't think there is any doubt that Keith will redshirt.

Roland Johnson

Position: DT

Measurables: 6-2 / 285

Videos: [1]

- Rivals: - #NR DT
- ESPN: - #NR DT
- 247Sorts: - #NRDT

Notes: A much needed DT commit from a more seasoned and mature recruit. The unfortunate part is that Johnson was not able to enroll for the spring semester and participate in spring practice. But the plan is for Johnson to be here this summer and he should have the opportunity to compete for playing time immediately.

The JUCO lineman comes to us from Butler CC, who finished the season ranked as the #2 JUCO program in the country. And Johnson was 1st team all-conference.

There you have your midwest recruits. I believe that the highlights of this group are several of the Minnesota kids. Hayes, Pirsig, McDonald and Nelson are all potential multi-year starters who could be very good Big Ten players. I like the upside of Lauer and Anyanwu as well. The story of this recruiting class is really Kill's ability to lock down most of the local kids. We landed seven of the top eight in the state who we offered (Nick Davidson isn't being counted due to his short time in the state).

Of the non-Minnesota kids I think that I like Antonio Johnson and Alex Keith the most. Johnson fills an area of need and he should be contributing early. Lynn is a heady player who has been rather successful in high school, I think he will be a great addition to the roster. But the two who I think will play the most (down the road) and contribute the most are Johnson and Keith.