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Golden Gopher Football: Minnesota Football Recruiting 2015 Primer

With the first commitment for 2015 out of the way and summer camp season about to ramp up, it's time to talk Minnesota football 'crootin again

Gopher Gridiron

Hello friends, it's time to talk 'crootin again. Why now, you ask? Because GN made me summer represents a rather active period for recruiting information and gives us a chance to think about something vaguely related to actual football during the sports abyss, that's why.

Like Clockwork

I was all set to discuss how Jerry Kill’s recruiting strategy at Minnesota has been noticeably different than his B1G and Power 5 conference peers due to their extreme due diligence and patience. Really, that would have been diplomatic spin doctoring on my part to explain why the Gophers didn’t have a commitment yet. And then, boom: Bronson Dovich went down to Dinkytown.

I still believe there’s some merit to discussing Kill’s approach, a method he’s used and hasn’t changed in his now 7 years at the FBS level. You can almost schedule when to pay attention to recruiting with this staff:

  • Summer Camps
  • Official Visits
  • 1st day of the JUCO signing period
  • January

Minnesota uses the spring evaluation period to, you know, evaluate. Not simply evaluating whether prospects are worthy of offers, but also to see which local and regional players they should invite to camp and other recruits to keep an eye on for continued evaluation through the senior year. Whether the staff consciously avoids taking a batch of early commitments or there are more circumstantial reasons (such as distance from talent bases and a shallow in-state pool), the results are the same: Kill takes his time filling up on prospects each recruiting cycle, and doesn't appear in any rush to follow his coaching colleagues in the race towards wrapping up classes by the summer.

It surprises me not that the Gophers didn’t land their first commitment until nearly June. For the time being, I’ve actually come to expect it. So long as Jerry feels he can’t afford recruiting "misses," he’ll continue to be judicious with whom he targets and actively recruits.

Next Potential Commits: Target Watch

Now that it’s June and recruits are unencumbered by stupid things like high school, football ‘crootin business is about to pick up. Naturally, folks with a feigning interest in stalking where 17 year olds will spend their college years want to know if that place also by coincidence houses their favorite college football team. Yes, recruiting is a little creepy (a friendly and necessary annual reminder).

In Minnesota’s case, there are several prospects that could be ready to pop for the Maroon and Gold over the next few months. I know this because I pay attention to the 247Sports’ Crystal Ball polls for each recruit associated with the Gophers. Since the product was introduced last year, it’s proven quite a valuable tool in cutting through the glut of information available across the major recruiting sites. Specifically, the direction or trend of the prediction poll is something I find to be the most useful.

With that out of the way, here are the recruits Gopher fans should keep on their minds:

  • Grant Schmidt, OT: Schmidt is a high 3 star offensive linemen from a traditional bastion of Husker Country (oft referred to as South Dakota) with offers from Ohio State, among many others. Grant has made the trip to Dinkytown more often than the Minneapolis riot police hahahahhahah sorry but no seriously, he’s visited and attended games like 5 times over the last year plus. He’s been a heavy Minnesota lean since February and could pull the trigger relatively soon, especially if that camp offer from the Buckeyes doesn’t turn into a full offer. * Edit: As of Sunday night, Schmidt's CB is now trending Ohio State. Hold on to your butts.
  • Ted Stieber, OL: An Uh-hia guy (thanks Mase) with listed offers from Illinois, Syracuse and Rutgers, Stieber declared Minnesota his leader practically the day after Matt Limegrover extended the scholarship opportunity. His Crystal Ball is 100% Gophers, and I’d put 2/3 odds (that’s 60% probability) that he’s the next to pledge.
  • John Kelly, ATH/RB: A Michigan kid who grew up in Minneapolis and whose dad wanted him to be a Gopher growing up (not a typo), Kelly is a prospect Sparty wants in the secondary but who Kill sees as a running back. It’s the latter reason why the direction of his Crystal Ball has shifted towards Minnesota in a head heat with Dantonio. The usual axiom applies here: the longer Kelly waits, the better Minnesota’s chances get.
  • Jonathan Femi-Cole, RB: JFC is a Canadian back who looks like he’s on the Adrian Peterson workout routine. He’d be the Nugget replacement, the guy who bowls through MWC defenders during the non-con. Crystal Ball is 100% Minnesota.
  • Camp Guys: Happens every year, some dude the recruiting services have vaguely heard of camps at a Power 5 school, earns an offer, commits shortly thereafter and gets the default 3 star rating. Minnesota will most assuredly offer someone at one of Kill’s on-campus evaluations, and that kid isn’t likely to waste much time thinking it over. Potential camp bros include in-state prospects Josh Corcoran of Lakeville South, Nick Connelly of Red Wing and Alex Hart of Prior Lake. Another guy to keep at eye on is James Morgan, a quarterback from Green Bay. Morgan has been lighting up regional Elite 11 camps and with presumed favorites Wisconsin and Michigan State already having 2015 QB’s in the fold, James is still looking for his first BCS offer. Despite several prospects from the current cycle disseminating the Gophers’ plans to omit signing a quarterback next February, the quick flurry of offers to prep signal callers would indicate otherwise. Morgan is a guy this staff has known about for a while; the decision to go from zero to done at quarterback could arrive swiftly this camp season.

You probably noticed two names glaringly absent from that rundown: Jashon Cornell because HAHAHAHAHAHNOPE and Drayton Carlberg. While the DeLaSalle linemen currently sits at 62% Minnesota, the directional vector is pointing directly in Oregon’s favor after the Ducks offered recently. Expect a battle, and from where things stand now, the Gophers would fall short.

2016 on the Mind

The only people actively looking forward two years from now with glee are political junkies (SPIDER ALERT) and football coaches. All that stuff I said about Kill taking his time and being judicious about whom he pursues on the trail? That doesn’t really apply when it comes to getting ahead of the curve for the next next crop of football reinforcements, since the Minnesota staff has been more active in their pursuit of soon-to-be high school juniors than I can recall during his tenure.

Part of this may simply be territorial: of the fourteen prospects from 2016 with early Minnesota verbal offers, seven are more Georgia. Another four were doled out to greater Midwestern studs. 2 of the offers were extreme curve setters for in-state phenoms Seth Green (not him) and JoJo Garcia. Also of note, I have no data to back up whether this many early scholarship nods are in anyway different than previous years, though it certainly feels that way.

Here’s what I do know about ‘crootin: it’s all about relationships, and those relationships take time to build. Another thing I know about Time Brewster’s bread and butter: the lift you get from a successful season helps you more with the next class than the one you’re about to sign. If you’ve just finished the best regular season for your program in a decade, the tangible recruiting lift won’t manifest for another 1.5 years: you’re better off digesting in a Sarlaac Pit with those timeframes.

I don’t know if the staff believes the 2014 final record will surpass last season’s (I do know Killer feels this team will be better than 2013 due to experience from youth last year), but I can bet they feel a little more comfortable casting out the lures a bit earlier given the trajectory of the program.

Regarding Those Quarterbacks

There’s one and only one reason why the staff wouldn’t feel the need to sign a quarterback in 2015, despite it generally being advisable and best practice to do so: a supremely awesome junior-to-be from East Ridge High School by the name of Seth Green. For context, Scott Evil Green went to the Minnesota sponsored 7-on-7 tournament and one of Jerry’s camps. An offer was extended the day after. 3 days later, he camps at Louisville – the same Louisville which produced a 1st round draft pick at quarterback, recruited by the guy who now commands the Longhorns – and gets an offer the very same day. He’d just wrapped up his freshman year of high school.

Green now holds six Power 5 offers, a number that will surely grow between now and 2016.

Every bit of subtext and byline from the Gopher staff here points to the Killer moving all in on Seth as the QB of the future. He’s local, he’s great, he’s an ideal fit for the offense. Think Dimonic Roden-McKinzy with better pocket fundamentals, Moose’s frame and Q’s ability to flick his wrists and toss the ball 50 yards downfield. Green is awesome, and even more incredible, his perception of the Gophers appears on the surface more akin to Jeff Jones than James Onwualu.

Counting Stats

Minnesota has 18 seniors on scholarship this fall, so expect between 21-23 signees this fall after early grads and transfers. Kill has already come out and stated this cycle will focus heavily on defense since 9 seniors are set to graduate. Numerous recruiting articles point towards the staff taking 4-5 offensive linemen. Here’s a rough estimate of how I see that breaking down, by position:

  • 0/1 QB
  • 2 RBs
  • 2 WRs
  • 1 TE
  • 4-5 OL
  • 4-5 DL
  • 2-3 LBs
  • 4-5 DBs

The staff went heavy of offense last cycle, specifically focusing on athleticism and playmakers at tight end, receiver and running back while also picking up some depth along the defensive line. Defensive back recruiting was, um, a little light. This year, it’s completely the opposite: Jer’ needs a whole batch of defensive replenishments and a new developmental crop of offensive linemen. Some spots, like tight end and receiver, may see less allotment given other areas of need.