A cool and good thing happened during last night's Cubs playoff game, outside of the Cubs winning said game, of course.
South Fort Myers (FL) linebacker Andre Polk committed to Minnesota last night, becoming the 17th prospect for the class of 2016. Classified as an athlete but expected to play 'backer for defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys, Polk is a 3 star prospect according the the 247 Industry Composite, and chose the Gophers over listed offers from Louisville, Iowa State, and Marshall. An early enrollee candidate, Andre will be available for spring practice, and joins Carter Coughlin and Thomas Barber as projected linebacker signees for the 2016 class.
Minnesota has the 32nd ranked class, according to the 247Sports Industry Composite, good for 7th in the Big Ten.
Andre on his decision, via GopherDigest's Ryan Burns ($):
"I just knew that Minnesota was the place for me after getting home from my visit this past weekend," New Gophers OLB commit Andre Polk said. "I loved my visit to the Twin Cities a couple weekends ago and it just felt like home, so I had to pull the trigger."
Bottom line of what Minnesota fans can anticipate from Polk, according to Gopher247's Will Henry($):
"Polk will be a converted Safety who will bulk up into a linebacker. Will have to learn to play in the trenches on a more consistent basis, but offers loads of coverage ability in Nickel situations. He's a quick twitch athlete with an innate ability to flow to the ball."
(Likely Fraudulent) Measurables**
** The section title is a bit. It's an intentionally facetious comment on how recruiting sites (and even some college coaches) notoriously exaggerate traditional combine measures -- especially the 40. No offense is meant.
Weight: 190-195 lbs.
Fake 40 Time: 4.63s
Big 4 Ratings:
Junior year via HUDL:
I'm a big fan of putting the least amount of effort possible in crafting absurd comparisons, so it's nice to have one so obvious staring back at you. Former wide receiver? A tad skinny, but a fast and athletic kid who'll make the transition to outside 'backer? Guy who'll be good in coverage? Oh yeah, he looks like our guy Jack Lynn - a dude with 12 career TFLs in 21 games.
Polk has some well proportioned build already, suggesting adding the necessary strength and bulk to play outside linebacker in the B1G shouldn't be much of an issue. As a safety... he makes a better linebacker prospect. Kidding aside, he doesn't have the feet or speed Claeys and Sawvel look for in the secondary, but his experience playing in the box should ease his transition to a more natural position in college. He'll need to work on his form tackling, since he's a lunge and dive guy at the moment.
Andre showcases some ability to keep his outside shoulder clean, a key indication he can disengage blockers and make tackles sideline-to-sideline. Takes good angles and playing speed looks more than adequate, and displays solid burst when attacking the pocket. His biggest strength is in coverage, which isn't a shock given his background as a high school safety. The ability to flip and cover receivers in the slot will translate well to the next level, since he'll more than likely be asked to play the SAM backer spot in Claeys' defense (see absurd comparison to Lynn above, while Carter Coughlin and his skillset is more appropriate at the WILL spot).
Impact on Other Prospects?
The Gophers currently have 3 linebackers committed for the class of 2016, not including Kamal Martin who could end up at OLB, DE, or TE. There's speculation behind some paywalls regarding the possibility of a 4th linebacker in this class, but that remains to be seen as said 4th 'backer is officially of the double secret probation type. From a depth chart POV, the Gophers will have 7 upperclassmen linebackers to just 2 plus incoming freshmen next season, so grabbing a 4th linebacker makes quite a lot of sense.