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Minnesota Football Recruiting Update: Gopher Recruiting as National Signing Day Nears

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Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

I am pleased today to bring you something to talk about that does not involve Gopher Basketball.  Some of you have requested a football recruiting update and I'm here to help you out.  Over the past couple months we had a brief surge of commitments, we signed several early who will be able to participate in Spring Practice, several have decommitted and of course we are still pursuing several more as National Signing Day is fast approaching.

As of today, the recruiting dark period is over and the coaches will all be on the road trying to shore up this class. Below I'll give you a rundown of names that we've already secured, those we have lost and those we are still pursuing with a chance to land.

IN THE FOLD

I'll begin with who we have committed and/or already signed.  In December the Gophers announced that they signed 6 to the 2016 class.  These six are locked and loaded in fact they are already on campus as University of Minnesota students.  Of the six, three of the newest Gophers are JUCO players with two years of eligibility and the other three will come to the U with four years to play. I had previously covered these names so I don't plan to go into much detail here.

  • Vincent Calhoun - OL - JUCO - should compete for playing time immediately
  • Garrison Wright - OL - JUCO - should compete for playing time immediately
  • Merrick Jackson - DT - JUCO - should compete for playing time immediately
  • Seth Green - QB - former Oregon commit, flipped to Gophers, should be a great fit in Jay Johnson's scheme
  • Thomas Barber - LB - another Barber, lightly recruited, lets hope another late-bloomer who developes into a defensive stud
  • Taiyon Devers - DE - prep school - development defensive end, very likely to redshirt

CURRENT EMPIRE CLASS

Moving on to the kids who have verbally committed to the 2016 Empire Class.  As of today there are 12 who are verbally committed to the Gophers.  A couple of these 12 are looking around a bit while the other 10 seem to be pretty solid to their commitment.

Carter Coughlin LB
Coney Durr CB
Antoine Winfield Jr CB
Kiondre Thomas CB
Drew Hmielewski WR
Dredrick Snelson WR
Phillip Howard ATH
Tyler Johnson ATH
Kamal Martin ATH
Ko Kieft ATH
Conner Olson OL
Sam Schlueter OL

The two to keep an eye on as possible decommits would be the following two...

  • Dredrick Snelson - WR - Miami - this should really come as no surprise if/when Snelson commites elsewhere.  A four-star WR who gave a verbal to MN seemingly out of nowhere.  Consensus all along is that his commitment is solid only when he actually signs his name on a letter of intent.  He is actually receiving a visit from Coach Johnson today (and Coach Anderson I believe) so the staff is making a push to keep him on board...we could use the help at WR.
  • Coney Durr - DB - Louisiana - taking a visit to North Carolina this weekend and has told GopherIllustrated that he might take one to Virginia Tech as well. Ryan Burns at GopherDigest believes that the staff isn't all that worried about Durr flipping but he's taking visits.

As it currently stands that is your 2016 Class.

BENEDICT ARNOLDS

The class was once larger but over the last several weeks a handful of kids have chosen take their talents elsewhere.  In some cases it was a mutual decision or even the new coaching staff deciding that they wanted to move in another direction.  Regardless of the actual reason here are the seven kids who were once Gopher verbal commitments who have decided to go elswhere.

  • Eljiah Daniels - DB - decommited and looking, visiting Maryland next weekend
  • Elisha Daniels - DB - twin brother of Elijah, also visiting Maryland next weekend
  • Andre Polk - LB - committed now to South Florida
  • Tralund Webber - DL - JUCO DE who flipped to Oklahoma State (this one kinda hurts)
  • Tony Poljan - QB - Michigan kid now looking at places like Nebraska...as a TE
  • Matt Kegel - OL - local kid now heading to Oklahoma State
  • Sean Foster - OL - Illinois 4-star who is visiting Iowa State this weekend

Decommitments are part of the game. It happens to most programs and some of these are at least partially related to the coaching change.  Tracy Claeys wants to bring in a certain kind of player, especially on offense, and some of these guys don't quite fit the mold he was looking for.  In other cases, kids just decided to look elswhere...it happens.  We are trying to flip other kids as well...it happens.

NEXT

So who are we looking at?  18 names is not enough and national signing day is only a few weeks away. There are plenty of names to watch so try to keep up...

  • QB/ATH - DeMarcus Williams - Jay Johnson was recruiting Williams to be a Ragin Cajun, but now that Johnson is here, he seems to be a top target.  Williams is getting a coaching visit this weekend and is expected to get an offer.  Seth Green is clearly the top QB recruit of this class but you just never know how kids develop and Williams will come in at QB as well.  Maybe he earns playing time ahead of Green or maybe Williams moves to another position eventually.  Not something to worry about now but he may be a Gopher before the weekend is finished.
  • QB/ATH - Keon Howard - Memphis verbal commitment who also has received offers from Louisville and Miss State.  Gophers have not yet offered but the Gophers are interested.
  • RB - Kobe McCrary - JUCO running back at Butler County CC in Kansas.  McCrary is visiting next weekend and it seems like he will be a Golden Gopher.
  • TE - Chase Allen - has a ton of big time offers and is visiting Michigan this weekend.  Seems unlikely but the Gophers are still in the mix.
  • OT - Patrick Kasl - Forest Lake kid, committed to Wisconsin in June and the staff is making a push to get him to flip.  He is getting a visit from coaches tomorrow and they are hoping to get an official visit out of him.  If they get that, he could be a Badger flip.
  • OG - Trystan Castillo - a Missouri commit who the staff has been trying to flip. He visited the Gophers in December, Iowa State this weekend and will make his decision closer to signing day.  Castillo is from Webb City where Claeys has connections and knows Castillo's high school coach.  Gophers have a good shot here.
  • OG - Lloyd Cushenberry - great name, South Carolina commit who is looking around.  Chances are slim here but worth putting on the list.  Cushenberry is visiting Missippi State next weekend.

Moving to defense

  • Rhashaun Epting - DE - a Western Michigan commit to play quarterback but Matt tells me that he would be a DE for us.  Expect him to get an offer when he visits and expect a commitment.
  • Amir Watts - DT - Probably the biggest DL target on the list. If Watts gets a Miami offer, then it's over and he'll be a Hurricane.  If not then it comes down to Pitt, Indiana, Iowa State and us.  Chicago native who visited Minnesota in December.  He'll be checking out Indiana, Pitt and Iowa State in the next three weekends (in that order).
  • Chase Pine - LB - current Pitt commit who is visiting Minnesota later in January.  Quite a few other P5 offers and would be a great flip for Minnesota.
  • Tyrez Lindsey - S - current Memphis commit and one the Gophers have been pursuing.  Lindsey is getting a visit from Sawvell this weekend, he will likely get an offer and then we will see if he wants to flip for a Big Ten offer.
  • Simeon Smiley - S - South Alabama commit.  Smiley is visiting Purdue and then Minnesota before NSD.

There will be more names, this much I promise, as the staff needs to add 10-12 more names to before NSD.  Help is very much needed along the defensive line and in the secondary.  The names above are the current ones to keep an eye on.  Notice when I talked about those who flipped away from the Gophers, how I also listed several guys they Gophers are trying to flip in our favor?  It is all part of the game.

Meaningless predictions

WE LAND

  • DeMarcus Williams - QB
  • Tyrez Lindsey - S
  • Rhashuan Epting - DE
  • Kobe McCrary - RB (JUCO)
  • Patrick Kasl - OT

CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC

  • Amir Watts - DT
  • Chase Pine - LB
  • Trystan Castillo - OG

We will do our best to keep you up to date with new names and important visits upcoming.