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Gopher Football Recruiting Under Jerry Kill - A Look Back at the Class of 2012

Analyzing Jerry Kill's first recruiting class as Minnesota's head coach.

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

It was mid-October in 2010 when Tim Brewster was finally relieved of his duties as the head coach of our Golden Gophers.  Coach Horton stepped in to finish out the season as interim (to be emphatically endorsed by Sid Hartman after beating Iowa!) and eventually Jerry Kill was selected to lead the program.  Hired on December 6th, 2010, Kill was not left with nearly enough time to recruit the class of athletes he needed.  It was a mad scramble to add a few key pieces and keep the current commits.

Quickly looking over the 2011 class it is pretty remarkable the number of kids brought in by Kill in just a handful of weeks who are not at least significant contributors to the team.  And it is even more remarkable when you compare his hit rate to that of Tim Brewter's who had several months to recruit.

2011 - Brewster Recruits 2011 - Kill Recruits
Josh Campion RS SR Starter Foster Bush RS SR Starter
Tommy Olson graduated Starter Joe Bjorklund RS SR Starter
Kyle McAvoy RS SR little impact Theiren Cockran RS SR Starter
Luke McAvoy RS SR little impact David Cobb graduated Starter/Drafted
Luke McAvoy RS SR little impact Michael Amaefula graduated Starter
Max Shortell transferred little impact Derrick Wells graduated Starter
Devin Crawford-Tufts transferred minimal Drew Goodger graduated Starter
Jephete Matilus transferred none Marcus Jones graduated contributor
Peter Westerhaus career end injury n/a Grayson Levine graduated contributor
Quinn Bauducco career end injury n/a Chris Hawthorne graduated contributor
Steven Montgomery graduated minimal
Quentin Gardener didn't last none

While there were only two "Starter" level players out of the 9 recruited by Brewster, Kill hit on over 50% of his commits with 6 starters coming from the 11 players he recruited (NOTE: JUCO players were ignored).  Pretty impressive for a class that was thrown together with Northern Illinois targets, last ditch pitches and walk-ons (Peter Mortell and Jon Christenson tyvm).

Kill and his staff quickly moved on to the class of 2012 where they would have a full 12 months to evaluate and convince kids to commit to Minnesota. While the class of 2012 the first class that was 100% Jerry Kill's, it was still a challenge since 12 months is not even really a full recruiting cycle. But while looking up something else I stumbled upon the list of 2012 commits and was immediately impressed by the number of players from Kill's first full class who are (or were) major contributors and starters for what promises to be one of the best Gopher teams in memory.

(NOTE: JUCOs once again are not included in this list.  Not because none of them were any good, rather, I think just think JUCO's require different analysis. I could give you Briean Boddy-Calhoun and Roland Johnson.)

2012 - Kill Recruits
Maxx Williams left early Starter/NFL
Eric Murray SR Starter
Rodrick Williams Jr SR Starter
Antonio Johnson SR Starter
Damarius Travis SR Starter
KJ Maye SR Starter
Alex Keith SR contributor
Lincoln Plsek SR contributor
Mitch Leidner RS JR Starter
Ben Lauer RS JR Starter
Jonah Pirsig RS JR Starter
Jack Lynn RS JR Starter
Isaac Hayes RS JR contributor
Scott Ekpe RS JR contributor
Nick Rallis RS JR contributor
Yoshoub Timms RS JR little impact
Duke Anyanwu RS SO (inj) Starter?
Andre McDonald no longer on team minimal
Jamel Harbison no longer on team minimal
Philip Nelson no longer on team minimal
Jordan Hinojosa no longer on team none

Nearly half of this class ended up being multi-year starters, with more potential starters looming in Anyanwu, Hayes, Keith and Ekpe. Additionally, it is likely to be that multiple players from this class will be drafted.  Where was this class ranked?  Dead last in the Big Ten according to Rivals!  The worst recruiting class in the Big Ten is anchoring what could be the next Big Ten West Division champ.

This class was unheralded and unimpressive to the experts but Jerry Kill and his staff told us to be patient and to trust that they knew what they were doing.  Who can argue with these results?  I think most of us are pretty big fans of what Kill is building here and recruiting is a core component.  Given the appropriate amount of time to judge, I think recruiting is going just fine with this staff.  Might not be such a bad place and program to be a part of anymore.

2013's class looks to be a little lighter, in part due to Nate Andrews and his last minute switch to Florida State.  2014 still looks like it was a very strong class with several making significant contributions as true freshmen.  And it is way to early to make any judgement on the 2015 and 2016 classes (but we can get excited anyway).

It's fun to look back and admire what went well.  This 2012 class was the best this staff could do.  They were bailing out water and plugging holes on this sinking ship while also trying to look toward the horizon.  The result was a job well done with this group of young men and the wins have been there to prove it.