(*Editor's note...What the heck does "Commitment to Eight" mean? It is our new recurring title for recruit commitments referencing a commitment to work towards the Gopher's Eighth National Championship. A little bit tongue in cheek, but why not right? )
Tracy Claeys landed his first recruit of the 2017 class when the state's top player verbally committed to be a Golden Gopher. Blaise Andries has decided to play his college football in his home state, he is going to be a Golden Gopher. Many believed that Andries was a strong Gopher lean but with offers from Michigan State, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Miami, Arkansas, Penn State and quite a few others; there was no certainty that Andries was going to be Golden.
The analysis of Andries via GopherDigest ($).
Gets off the ball well, is powerful and looks to finish his blocks. Plays until the whistle. Can continue to improve his ability to bend, especially if he is to play left tackle at the next level. Overall though, he is a good athlete who plays with good balance and coordination.
Other than his physical attributes and his athleticism, Marshall coach Terry Bahlmann believes that the Gophers are getting a leader and a good person off the field as well. (also from GopherDigest)
"Blaise is a leader on and off the field and he is an excellent role model for our younger players," Marshall head coach Terry Bahlmann told GopherDigest. "He is always willing to help at youth camps and also help out the younger offensive lineman. He is also a 4.0 plus student. As a player he is a very physical run blocker with the ability to get on a defender at the second level."
(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.
Height: 6' 6"
Weight: 290 lbs.
Fake 40 Time: it doesn't matter
Big 4 Ratings:
Currently ranked a 3-star prospect by most of the rating agencies, with Scout giving Andries a 4th star. But I believe that given a solid summer of camping you likely will see Andries bumped up to a 4th star by others. Not that it really matters other than improving the overall score of the Gopher class.
At this point of the year we can lament how stars don't matter but then come February we (or others) lament about how the Gopher class ranks so poorly compared to its Big Ten piers. So do stars matter? Not really, but kind of.
Junior year highlights: My favorite block in this video is about the 2:55 mark when he is running 15 yards downfield with his running back and gets just enough of a DB to spring his back for a long touchdown. Not as impressive as a big pancake block, but it shows his athleticism. In fact that highlight is the first of a handful in a row where Andries shows off his athleticism. He gets out and leads the way on a screen, runs down a fake punt from behind and is pretty good out in space.
In Two Words - if you have to remember just two things about this player...
The first person that came to mind when watching this film was Jimmy Gjere. The level of competition that Andries is facing would make Jonah Pirsig an OK comparison but given that Pirsig was bigger in high school (both height and girth), I don't think he is the right one to compare. Gjere and Andries are both in the 6'6-7" range and the trait they share the most is athleticism. Both get out and do well in open space and both are multi-sport athletes who excel in other sports. Gjere's career was cut short due to concussion issues, so lets hope that the comparisons end here and Andries goes on to have a fantastic Gopher career anchoring one of the tackle spots for a few years.
Andries fits the mold that Tracy Claeys is trying to bring into his program. He wants toughness and physical football players. Andries can get out in space and he will hit. What does he need to work on? Pass blocking is not his strength at this point and that will need to be cleaned up, but his drive off the line and ability to get out in space should serve him very well in the Gopher offense.
I would envision Andries redshirting for a year as he continues to add strength and learn techniques at this level before earning himself the RT job and holding it for a few seasons.
Impact on Other Prospects?
Unsure. The current class of incoming freshmen and the redshirt freshmen has several offensive linemen. Last year's class was very heavy on linemen before the coaching change saw the team part ways with two of their verbal commitments reducing the class to just 2 incoming freshmen. I would anticipate that his class will have a few more linemen in it and this commitment should not have any impact on other recruits at this point.
There are two other offensive linemen locally. Eric Wilson of Benilde St. Margaret's is a guard and this commitment should have zero impact. Eric Obejei of Robbinsdale Cooper is a T/G prospect and the Andries commitment should not preclude the Gophers from accepting his verbal as well.
Given that it is early April, this is the time of year when programs take the "no-brainer" commitments. Guys you are unsure about? You wait till camps in the summer to evaluate. This one, is a no-brainer. Forget that Andries is a Minnesota kid, forget that he is the top rated kid in Minnesota. He would be a "take" no matter where he is from and he would have been a take for several other high-major programs. This is a great get for the Gopher staff and a great way to kick off the 2017 class.