The three day tilt around the Wisconsin game was the largest official visit weekend of the Jerry Kill era by volume, though not since the early days of Time Brewster has there been this much recruiting star power on campus at once. I don't even need to say it, but I will anyway: this weekend is kind of a big deal.
|Jeff Jones||RB||5'11"||196||Minneapolis, MN (Washburn HS)||4 star||Gopher commit (Scroll of the Sworn), Under Armour All-American|
|Frank Ragnow||OT||6'6"||291||Chanhassen, MN (Holy Family)||4 star|
|Gaelin Elmore||TE||6'5"||238||Somerset, WI (Somerset HS)||3 star||Gopher commit (SotS)|
|Andrew Stelter||DL||6'4"||247||Owatonna, MN (Owatonna HS)||3 star||Gopher commit (SotS)|
|Brandon Lingen||TE||6'5"||245||Wayzata, MN (Wayzata HS)||3 star||Gopher commit (SotS)|
|Demetrius Kemp||S||6'0"||193||Demopolis, AL||3 star||Wake Forest commit|
|Cortez Lewis||WR||6'2"||200||Demopolis, AL||2 star||Wale Forest commit|
|Dorian Baker||WR||6'3"||205||Cleveland, OH (Cleveland Heights HS)||3 star||Kentucky commit|
|Trey Rutherford||OL||6'5"||274||King City, Ontario (Kent School, CT)||Not rated||Connecticut commit|
Headlining the list of visitors is Jones, the highest rated running back from the state of Minnesota in the Internet recruiting era (that's not a typo). The longtime Gopher commit was added to the Under Armour All-American Game roster this week, adding that honor to the list of accolades which include participating in The Opening 2013 and among the finalists for Minnesota's Mr. Football. Gopher fans have been waiting on baited breath for months, wondering if Jones will firm up his pledge after rumors he was opening up his recruitment over the summer. However, with no other official visits scheduled to date and not once uttering the words "I've de-committed," Jones taking an official visit this weekend is a strong predictor that he'll end up a Gopher on signing day. Rumblings about academic issues are largely overblown, most recently confirmed by David Shama via Jones' head coach.
I maintain what I've felt and heard for months now: Jeff Jones will sign with Minnesota this coming February.
If not for Jones, the news of Frank Ragnow deciding to use one of his five official visits on Minnesota would be the biggest development of the weekend. No doubt, the staff pushed hard for Frank to use an OV while the strongest of current commits (Elmore, Stelter and Lingen) - not to mention most actively engaged in recruiting other players to Dinkytown - are also in town and can bend his ear about joining them. Ragnow's decision to officially versus unofficially visit is significant, as it shows a level of seriousness in his interest.
The prevailing wisdom on Frank's recruitment has coalesced to the idea of two horse race between Minnesota and Florida State. The Seminoles have made Ragnow a top priority and plan on signing 5-6 linemen, with three already committed and several JUCOs on the radar. However, the pendulum has swung back towards the Gophers recently with their 4 game winning streak. Reportedly, Frank was looking for concrete signs of progress (i.e. winning) from Minnesota and saw what he needed to this season. Rumblings from those on the Florida State side feel that Minnesota's recent success, plus the distance away from home, will prove too much for the Noles to overcome in landing Ragnow. Others on the Minnesota side feel FSU has a slight edge, though not by much.
I'd venture to say things are 50/50 at this point. If Frank doesn't commit after either official visit (he's scheduled to see Tallahassee the following weekend), it'll be a dogfight into January. If that's the case, I'd lean Minnesota since there's every chance FSU will simply grab another option at OT. Arkansas and Ohio State would be considered dark horses here.
The other big development this weekend is the recently confirmed (as in today) addition of Dorian Baker to the visit ledger. Baker, a long time Kentucky lean and October pledge, was a former classmate and friend of current Gopher linebacker De'Niro Laster at Cleveland Heights HS, thus the recruiting leverage needed to pry an SEC commit for a visit. In fact, Laster's been at this awhile:
Tryna get dorien up here on his official this week— De'Niro Laster (@Mucho_Deniro) November 21, 2013
In terms of where Baker (HUDL highlights) would rank on Minnesota's big board for receivers, I'll take the liberty of stating "near the top" is likely. The Gopher staff offered all the way back in January and have continued their dogged pursuit despite his SEC pledge. He has the ideal height and playmaking ability the coaches look for, and can sell very early playing time given Minnesota's need for impact receivers.
I'm uncertain regarding whether this is a courtesy official visit, though it's not unprecedented for this staff to flip an SEC WR commit (Donovahn Jones is looking like one of Kill's biggest recruiting "wins" to date).
Rutherford was another late addition to the official visit roster for this weekend. He doesn't currently have an offer from Minnesota, though that could change once the entire staff gets an up close look. The Gopher coaches first saw Rutherford at the Sound Mind Sound Body camp this summer, the same event where Julien Kafo first caught their eye. Trey's recruitment may or may not have any connection to Ragnow's, so avoiding making that leap in logic if he does, in fact, receive an offer.
Finally, the Demopolis teammates are a pair of good looking athletes that could project at a few different positions. Both are recent commitment flips; Cortez Lewis (HUDL highlights) was set to Northern Illinois while Kemp (HUDL highlights) was pledged to Southern Miss. Their switch to Wake Forest is more an AQ reservation than anything else, especially now that Jim Grobe announced his resignation. The staff is reportedly very high on both prospects and would love to add them for the 2014 class.
Keep an eye out on Auburn here, since the duo were on hand to witness the miraculous "Kick Six" last weekend.
- Running back recruiting is getting.... interesting. Jones is the obvious priority #1. Beyond JJ, there's moving parts.
Expect the staff to take another 1-2 backs for the upcoming class and keep an eye on the three backs who took a visit for the Wisconsin game: J'Vonte Herrod, Rodney Smith and Deron Thompson. Herrod would fill the bruising back archetype, while Smith may actually represent the best "fit" of skill-set and ability for the Gopher offense. Thompson has track speed and Coach Kill is always preaching about the need for explosiveness on offense.
Greg Howell is another option, as he delayed his commitment announcement prior to the above listed running backs visiting Minnesota. Howell was thought to be a Gopher lean at the time.
- With Baker and Lewis visiting, expect to see the staff go hard after wide receiver commits. Rashad Canty, a current Appalachian State commit, took an official visit during the Nebraska game (great timing) and currently has a 100% Minnesota flip percentage according to 247Sports' Crystal Ball. Canty could be holding out to see if he earns some SEC interest, though if not, I'd expect him to pop for Minnesota relatively soon.
Melvin Holland, Jr. is a new name of the radar after receiving an offer this week. The Virginia native only began playing receiver full time this season, so take the lack of offers/rating with a grain of salt. Holland more than passes the eye test and the linked WaPo story makes him sound like the ideal Coach Kill prospect. Rinse, repeat.
- The JUCO signing period begins on December 17th, so anticipate a decision on the two linebacker recruits the staff brought in two weeks ago. Cody Poock will decide between the Gophers and TCU, while #1 ranked JUCO ILB Christian Russell lists UCF and Minnesota as finalists. Russell is expected to announce for UCF, while Poock has a 100% Gopher Crystal Ball on 247 though I'm less certain after he received a Frog offer while visiting last weekend.
Given that the staff reportedly wants Poock at weakside backer, that signals 2 things to me. First, the staff plans on moving De'Vondre Campbell over to strongside, the spot he started out during fall camp before yielding to Aaron Hill and rotating in at WLB. Second, the staff is selling immediate PT and a potential starting job for Poock, who has 3 years to play 4 and will enroll in January. Without knowing TCU's LB depth chart, the chance to start and play close to home (Cody's family lives 5 minutes from the Iowa-Minnesota border) will probably win out.
- The rumored class size, as of now, is between 18-20 commits.
The priorities, based upon my observations, are as follows:
- Ragnow, duh.
- Wide receivers
- JUCO LB
- Second/Third running back
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