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P.J. Fleck just signed the best Minnesota Football Recruiting class ever

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It’s official, this class is excellent.

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Oregon State Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Early in April when the Gophers were off to a hot start in recruiting I took a look at what had me excited about the early trends in this year’s recruiting class. At the time I wrote it, I really thought Fleck was building a great recruiting class. Now that every commit but Logan Richter (greyshirting until 2019) has sent in their letter of intent, I’m very pleased to say what I think is obvious:

This is the best recruiting class Minnesota has ever signed.*

*In the internet recruiting era, because we can’t factually claim to know that this class is better than the one Clarence Spears put around noted plow lifting hero Bronko Nagurski

I think this is true for three main reasons:

  1. The foundation of the class is the strongest in Minnesota history
  2. The staff closed by adding (and holding) 4 stars, not two stars.
  3. The average recruit rank and rank by offer breakdown are the strongest in Minnesota history

Building with a strong foundation

Coach Fleck and his staff continued to sustain the trend I was most excited about by bringing in a class that is simply better in terms of its “floor” quality level. In April it was clear Fleck was signing a better top to bottom class than any coach before him. The only question was whether he could sustain it or if he’d have to do some typical Minnesota things.

Usually Minnesota rounds out a class with a larger number of low three stars or even two star recruits. This year though, Fleck and his staff put together a class where 96% of the commits (24 of 25) ranked higher than Minnesota’s average recruit ranking for the last 5 years (.8318). That’s absurd.

Here are some visuals to give you a sense of what we’re talking about. Fans tend to think of the two best previous classes in Minnesota history as 2008 and 2016. There are a variety of reasons this is is sketchy** but nonetheless, that’s what most Minnesota fans think of when they think of the best classes in school history. The 2018 recruiting class puts those classes to shame.

Looking at these box plots it should be abundantly clear that the 2018 class is stronger top to bottom. The previous “best classes” both have tails that stretch into 2 star territory and that include outliers beyond those tails. Additionally, you can see how tightly grouped the 2018 class is to its program best 247 composite average recruit rank of .8609.

Here are the same classes visualized another way. The 2018 class has more recruits clustered together near it’s average and the staff did it without having to fill the class with “reach” players. And that wasn’t the only thing that was new for the Gophers with this class.

**There are a couple of reasons for saying this: 1) 2009 jumped 2008 after 247 changed their composite formula after absorbing score, 2) recruiting rankings pre-2010 just aren’t all that great for a variety of reasons including there weren’t as many people doing the work an ESPN never rated the JUCO and military academy guys Brewster liked to sign, 3) Tim Brewster didn’t bother to figure out whether he could get his guys on the field before recruiting them.

Closing hard, closing strong

In addition to all time great “floor” in the class, the Gophers also closed out their recruiting by adding a lot of talent to their ceiling. And they did it by doing things Minnesota isn’t supposed to be able to do:

Previous staffs didn’t close out their classes by getting a Curtis Dunlap to leave Florida behind and come to Minnesota. Previous staffs didn’t hold on to a talented kid like Rashod Bateman when Kirby Smart and his home state Georgia Bulldogs put on the full court press. Previous staffs didn’t land massive athletic human beings who were taking official visits in the fall to Georgia and Alabama like Fleck & Co. did with Daniel Faalele.

I loved this class before the late additions to the commit list. But its worth noting that those late additions are also a big part of what make this class stand out more nationally and it gives Fleck and his staff something to build on moving into the 2019 cycle.

Best by the numbers

Before today, the best class in the internet recruiting era for Minnesota was the 2009 Brewster class. That class had an average 247 composite recruit ranking of .8603. The 2018 recruiting class has an average recruit rank of .8609. Do that tiny little difference at the end really matter in the real world? Almost certainly not. But when you combine it with the fact that...

  • this class has better overall quality as noted above
  • the 2009 class was a massive bust that produced only 3 contributors (seriously, think on how messed up that is)

...then I have no issues taking the “numbers win” and being happy with it.

Seriously though, when you’re talking ten thousandths of a point in recruiting rankings you end up splitting a lot of hairs that may or may not mean a lot. So it’s also worth noting that this class got more top offers from top Power 5 schools than any other in Minnesota’s history. In fact, the offer list was so strong that it bested the last 5 recruiting classes COMBINED.

NOTE: Having embeded his Twitter wisdom this is where I strongly encourage you to also read Matt’s recap of the class over at Still Got Hope. After you finish reading this of course. His data viz is really sexy.

What do you get when you combine a class that the recruiting service composite says is your best with a class that the folks who track only offers says is your best?

Your best class ever.

What does it all mean?

This is the part where I note that Fleck and his staff still need to coach the players and that having the best recruiting class in Minnesota’s history in December of 2017 doesn’t automatically mean you’ll be winning more games in the future (obvious statement is obvious). But I will always feel more confident knowing that we just signed our best incoming class ever for the three biggest areas of need (OL, DL, and WR) than I would if we were being out-recruited by Rutgers right now.

At the end of the day, I think the class accomplishes the following:

  • It gives the team an big boost of talent at key playmaking positions like QB and WR while also filling some key depth holes immediately.
  • It gives Fleck and his staff a strong core of talented guys to build from in the coming seasons, not just next year.
  • The way the Gophers closed creates a massive amount of buzz around the program (see “How the Gophers signed this class” type articles from the national staff at 247 among others)
  • Signing the full class today means Fleck and his staff get a jumpstart on recruiting the 2019 class (4 extra weeks that they wouldn’t have had in previous years).
  • It gives fans something to be excited about heading into the offseason.

TL;DR

This is the best recruiting class Minnesota has ever signed. You should be excited, even if you think caring is creepy and that recruiting rankings are suspect.