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Gopher Football Recruiting Class of 2016: I Love This Recruiting Class and It Is Still Early

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The current Gopher recruiting cycle could not be going any better!

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While trying to remain objective and practical and realistic...the current Gopher recruiting cycle could not be going any better.  Would it be better if we had several 5-star commitments launching us into the conversation as one of the top recruiting classes in the county?  Sure, but lets be realistic.  Currently Rivals ranks the Gopher class as 25th in the country, 5th in the Big Ten. 247Sports has us 27th overall and 4th in the conference.  It is VERY EARLY but getting out to a fast start is important and this class is shaping up to be outstanding.

I am not the recruiting expert around her BUT as far as I can tell, in the current recruiting cycle the coaching staff is doing exactly what it needs to be doing to continue to build the Gophers into a solid program.  I could not be more excited about how things are playing out.

The Local Kids

First and foremost, Jerry Kill and his staff are locking down the borders.  Other coaches have talked about it and failed.  Other programs who should be our relative peers are mostly successful at doing this.  This just an absolute necessity if the Gophers want to put themselves up a tier in the Big Ten pecking order.  When Minnesota produces Big Ten caliber players, they need to be kept here.  Losing a kid who can contribute at this level to any other program means you have to replace that local kid with a talented player from somewhere else.  Not an easy thing to do.

Look at programs like Iowa and Wisconsin, programs that built themselves up to something respectable and often successful.  By in large, they are able to secure kids from within their borders.  It is an important step for programs that are not sexy or nationally relevant and recognizable.

Nine local kids offered, seven verbally committed, only two undecided.


This class of Minnesota kids is strong and deep.  And the Gopher coaching staff is batting 1.000 in terms of landing the kids they have offered with two left on the board.  Nine local kids offered, seven have verbally committed and two are yet undecided.  Many of those seven also had legitimate offers from other power conference teams.  Why are kids staying home?  I think Jeff Jones making a statement, wanting to be an elite player who was one of the few to stay home over offers from helmet schools was a good start.  And of course winning.  Winning always helps.  Showing kids that we can win here after back-to-back 8-win seasons is important as well.

Keeping the Minnesota kids in maroon and gold is huge.  And locking them up early is even more significant.  The staff will continue to recruit them until signing day in February, but with many of these kids sounding sincerely committed more time and effort can be focused on securing other key commitments to make this an outstanding class.

Supplementing

With Minnesota not exactly a hotbed of football talent year after year, it is obviously imperative that we supplement with talented kids from the rest of the country.  On paper the 2012 recruiting class included a number of very nice local recruits with the signings of Andre McDonald, Philip Nelson, Maxx Williams, Jonah Pirsig, Isaac Hayes and a couple others.  But that class lacked much punch from around the rest of the country.  Partially that was because it was very early in the Kill regime and they were able to find a few diamonds like Eric Murray and Antonio Johnson.  That was a solid class, don't get me wrong, but with the current class locking up local kids this early the staff now has time to focus on more targeted players from all over.

Notice that currently the lone out-of-state verbal commit is a four-star recruit, his father played for Iowa, he had offers from Purdue, Indiana, Boston College, Maryland and others.  Supplementing the very nice class of Minnesota kids with high-caliber players from anywhere else.

Who is next?  Impossible to say.  The early summer is prime time for evaluating players and figuring out who is actually interested.  Wide Receiver and Defensive Back are going to be a couple of key positions for the rest of this recruiting cycle and finding a couple who can really contribute would be huge.

Winning Recruiting Battles

Landing these local kids can be relatively easy if they aren't getting much attention from around the country.  This staff has been good at identifying kids who have the talent to contribute here despite not having impressive offer lists from around the Big Ten or beyond.  Maxx Williams is a prime example and was just a second round draft pick and really had no significant scholarship offers other than the Gophers.  But his current class of local recruits is recognizeably good and the Gopher staff had to fight off well-known programs to keep these guys home.

- Carter Coughlin is from Eden Prairie, is a 4-star linebacker and had commit-able offers from Ohio State, Oregon, Iowa, Wisconsin and others.  This was not an easy get for the Gophers.  But he chose to be a Gopher.

- JoJo Garcia was down to Michigan State and Minnesota.  Obviously he chose the Gophers.

- Matt Kegel made his final decision between Minnesota and Oklahoma State (and the $ of T. Boone Pickens :)).

- Sam Schlueter had offers from Wisconsin, Michigan St and Iowa St.

- Sean Foster, the out-of-state commit, had offers from all over the place.  Primarily the Gophers beat out Purdue and Indiana with others showing strong interest but not yet actually offering the four-star tackle.

I believe that the Gopher program is finally getting to the point where they can go head-to-head with other good programs and win some recruiting battles.  I'm not nearly rube enough to think we are getting our pick of players and beating Ohio State and Alabama for kids.  But there have been tangible results on the field, players are being developed here and drafted, this staff has put the program in position to win some recruiting battles.  This is exciting.

This class is unique in that we are landing crucial local talent and we are getting early commitments.  The 2016 class is off to a tremendous start.  More excitement is surely yet to come, as we still have the summer camp circuit and fall visits to get excited about.

What has you excited about the 2016 recruiting class?