When it comes to football recruiting hotbeds, the land of 11,842 lakes larger than 10 acres isn't exactly a Top 5 location. Still, Minnesota does have the ability to produce some talented kids who will get some national recruiting attention. You'll typically see at least one player each year who is being targeted by multiple BCS programs.
Every once in awhile the state of Minnesota produces a really special class of recruits. Remember 2009? That class of recruits was getting offers from all over the country.
Sometimes the Gopher football program lands a couple of these guys (Jimmy Gjere, Ed & Tommy Olson, Ra'shede Hageman). But quite often the Gophers lose the top recruit in the state.
2008-2010 saw the Gophers produce a number of high attention recruits, and the top targets in each class left the state. Each of them has struggled in one way or another, and I thought it'd be interesting to take a look.
**Disclaimer: I am not a great recruiting mind. And I, in no way, am suggesting that had these players chosen Minnesota they would have been great. After the jump I will do some simple exploring.**
This was an exciting class of kids and really was the class that got a lot of Gopher fans excited about recruiting after the "oh we can't compete for THAT kind of player" years under Glen Mason. Unfortunately that also meant that we were dealing with the early Tim Brewster years, years in which many of us (/points emphatically at self) were completely snowed by The Snakeoil Salesman.
Brewster pushed hard to get the top two recruits in the 2008 class, but lost both players to more storied programs.
Coming out of the Fighting Irish factory that is Cretin-Durham Hall in St. Paul, chances were good all along that Floyd was going to commit to Notre Dame. Brewster didn't yet understand the CDH to ND pipeline, so he went hard after Floyd and lost.
All Floyd did at Notre Dame was break the Irish rookie records for receptions, receiving yards and TD's, and went on to become Notre Dame's all time leader in those same categories. By ANY measurement, Michael Floyd's college football career was a huge success, and he was drafted #13 overall by the Cardinals in this years draft.
But it wasn't all roses for Floyd in his college years. Floyd racked up two underage drinking charges in May of 2009, and just 7 months later in January 2010 (both occurring in Minneapolis), and a third drinking offense, a DUI, happened in South Bend in March of 2011.
Still, Michael Floyd appears to have emerged from his off the field booze issues and is on his way to a hopefully productive NFL career.
Mobley was sired in another Minnesota high school football factory, Eden Prairie, and was one of the top DE's in the country for the recruiting class of '08. Mobley was also recruited heavily by Tim Brewster, but the Gophers were behind Ohio State and UCLA in the recruiting process from the beginning.
Ohio State was his school of choice coming out of high school, but eventually Mobley would attempt to play for two other schools that had also recruited him: the aforementioned UCLA, and Arizona, with a stop in JUCO along the way. The timeline looks something like this:
2008: Ohio State
Aug: says he's transferring to UCLA
Sept: instead goes to Orange Coast College to avoid sitting out a year at UCLA, does not play football for Orange Coast
Nov: announces that he won't have enough credits to get into UCLA and will go to Arizona
Feb: commits to Arizona
Fall: plays 10 games for AZ, making 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 7 total tackles
May: tears ACL playing pick-up basketball
Fall: misses entire season
2012: slated to compete for a starting job at Arizona this fall
We of course don't know all of the reasons behind the soap opera that ended up being Willie Mobley's college football career, and we can only speculate on whether or not things would have been more stable for Mobley at Minnesota (stability of course being a relative term as there was really NO stability in the Gopher program during this timeframe, but at least it was with a single program), but Mobley's future after leaving Eden Prairie certainly didn't turn out like anyone thought.
McNeal was the top recruit in the state of Minnesota in 2009, and the 10th best high school WR in the nation according to Rivals. He was highly coveted by Tim Brewster, but the Gophers were again unable to land the top recruit, and WR, in the state. McNeal ended up choosing Clemson over Minnesota, Colorado and Oregon.
McNeal redshirted in '09, and played in 12 games for Clemson in 2010, catching 19 passes for the Tigers falling short of the type of expectations that his recruitment had produced.
In 2011 McNeal was passed on the depth chart by three freshmen , and after 3 games and just one catch, decided to leave the team.
In January of this year, McNeal announced that he would be transferring to UConn, because in his words: "I felt UConn was the most loyal and had my best interest at heart."
The McNeal saga continued just a week ago when it was revealed that he would not be admitted to UConn because UConn could not admit someone with "around a 2.4 grade point average." Instead McNeal will enroll in graduate classes at Louisville and will be playing for the Cardinals this fall.
This was probably one of the more highly publicized recruitments in Minnesota history. Seantrel like Floyd and McNeal before him, was the top rated recruit in the state, but was also, by many accounts, the top rated recruit in the entire nation. His recruitment became a circus.
Henderson was recruited by nearly everyone and took unofficial visits all over the country. He finally "committed" to USC (many believe because of his dad's desire to spend time in L.A. trying to get a rap recording deal), but I but the word in quotes because he chose not to sign his letter of intent because he was worried about what would happen to the Trojans following the Reggie Bush debacle. He did finally sign that letter of intent about 6 weeks after National Signing Day, but when the NCAA actually handed down a 2 year bowl ban on the Trojans, Henderson asked to get out of his LOI. In July of 2010 he decided he'd transfer to the University of Miami, another school cloaked in controversy.
Henderson had a very nice season in '10 at RT for the Hurricanes and was named to several All-Freshman teams. In 2011 he was suspended for the Hurricanes opening game, then saw limited action due to back surgery. Heading into 2012 he was suspended for part of Miami's spring practices, and from playing in their first game this fall, due to violating team policies again. Miami coach Al Golden kept using the word "weed" and "weeding" in describing the problem... I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin' interesting choice of words?
Now again, let me be clear, this post was not intended to play the "if they would have come to Minnesota..." game, and it wasn't even intended to play the "what if..." game, but still, you know, what if?