Gopher Football coach PJ Fleck gave his first National Signing Day Press Conference on Wednesday to the assembled Minnesota media. Fleck game an opening statement and then talked about his new 25 student-athletes before taking questions. All together, Fleck talked for nearly an hour about his team.
#Gophers coach PJ Fleck spoke for 37 minutes introducing the recruiting class and stopped to take sip of water at 33 minutes.— Andy Greder (@andygreder) February 1, 2017
Here is a summary of what Fleck had to say:
- He stressed over the course of his press conference just how important he takes recruiting. He mentioned how hands on he has been and praised his staff multiple times for their efforts in the two and a half weeks they have had to put a class together.
- He stressed the power of keeping Minnesota kids home. He praised the Minnesota football community for producing quality talent and wanting to represent “their U”
- He continues to stress the important of recruiting within a 7-8 hour radius of campus. being able to strongly recruit the big cities—Kansas City, St. Louis, Chicago—and finding the farm kids who may fall through the cracks.
- He stressed bringing winners into the program. Finding kids who played on championship teams who allready know how to win and how to be successful even before they set foot on campus. “They have to be a winner before they can actually be a winner”
"If you add up the record to all of these players, they're 214-72. 5 state champions. These guys have the mindset to give it all."— Minnesota Football (@GopherFootball) February 1, 2017
- Said that Minnesota brought in lots of “Howphers”—players who have heart, spirit, soul and an unconquerable will to be the best at anything you do, athletically, academically, socially and spiritually.
- Minnesota will target three sport athletes. Fleck likes their abailty to show success and compete in several arenas.
Fleck then went into describing his recruits by player group:
- Offensive Line: He started by dropping a bomb—that the Gophers will have only 6 six!! offensive linement healthy for spring practice. The Gopher players had 19 surgeries in the offseason and the O-line was hit hardest.
Talked about Blaise Andries—the #1 recruit in the state of Minnesota and once again stresses keeping them in state. Talking about Kyle Sassack’s length and how he will fill out to be about 310 pounds and compete at the tackle spot. John Michaal Schmitz—ranked as the #1 center in the Midwest and I can see why. One of the toughest football players I have ever been around.
- Tight Ends: When you think of the University of Minnesota—you think tight ends. Nathan Bursch--#1 tight end in Minnesota...starting to see a theme. Jake Paulson—this kid is just absolutely fearless. He is a special player. Nate Umlor—He probably set the record for unofficial visits ever—came to Western Michigan 18-19 times-has an unconquerable will.
- Running Backs: We have two elite running backs on our roster right now in Rodney and Shannon. Mohamed Ibrahim—a mix of Barry Sanders and Christian Okoye. He will make you miss, but will run you over at the same time. We need to have elite running backs—not just one or two but a plethora. Dominik London- extremely productive back--#1 running back in Minnesota—keeping them in state
- Wide Receivers: Chris Autman Bell-Gamechanger. Suffered a finger injury this season and missed all but one game-Fleck glad he did because he think he would have lost him to a much bigger program if he hadn’t—thinks that highly of him. Compared his hands to Mohammad Sanu of the Atlanta Falcons. Demetrius Douglas- He will play wideout, but you could possibly see him on the defensive side of the ball or returning punts. Harry Van Dyne- From Kansas City—that will be a hotbed for us in recruiting. Downfield thread, incredible speed—one of the steals of the class.
- Quarterbacks: Losing a senior QB that’s one of the biggest questions we have on our team. When of the better open competitions in the country. Ray Estes—first kid in his family to go to college. Explosive, hard worker. Huge arm, incredibly elusive. He has the ability to do lots of things and we will use him on our team somewhere. Talks about McLauren but not nearly in the same glowing fashion as Estes or Morgan—you can tell he’s only there because he has to be. Tanner Morgan-an incredible decisive decision maker—incredibly accurate.
- Defensive Line: A huge position of need. Signed 6 kids this year and will sing another 6 in 2018. Stressed that Minnesota currently does not have an underclassman on the roster at defensive tackle and only one junior. The hardest position to find in college football. Noah Hickox—huge passion for the game. Amazing courage. The type of person and player we want representing the University of Minnesota. Esezi Otomewo—Big O. High ceiling-still learning how to play the game. Cant wait for Bryce Paup to get a hold of him and develop him. Boye Mafe-#1 DE in Minnesota. Can be an elite pass rusher. Malcolm Robinson- Incredibly smart-great leader. Austin Schirck—The sleeper of the class. He’s special. I don’t know how he got out of Iowa—but I’m glad he did. Royal Silver-Run Stopper and pass rusher. Not usually a juco guy, but when we need to fill a void we can bring someone in.
- Defensive Backs: Who knows how many defensive backs we will have going into the spring and next season. Got three db, and I think we hit on all of them. Need to find the right people and we think they are. Adam Beck- Very versatile. Can play safety or corner. Justus Harris- 43” vertical. Only 5’10 but can play 6’3. “Mighty Mouse with Buttery Hips” Incredible cover skills. Knows how to win. Ken Handy-Holly-We were worried about one school coming in late to try and snipe him—but they didn’t so that’s great for us. Smooth heavy hitter. “Candy” Handy. Already have marketing lined up—Candy being passed out in the stands when he makes a big hit.
- Linebackers: Only took one—LOVE where we are at at linebacker—Kamal Martin and Carter Coughlin—pure leadership. Trenton Guthrie-allready put on 10 pounds in the strength program since arriving. Perfect for this culture.
- Kicker/Punter: Grant Ryerse—One of my favorite players. ELITE. 4.13 GPA. Allready set a charity on his own. An example of the serving and giving we want in our culture.
Fleck finished his press conference by answering questions from reporters. He was asked about using the leftover scholarships the Gophers still have after losing a few recruits late in the process. Fleck said they are still waiting to see if one player will quailify (Eric Abodje) and that they will look and keep an eye out for any potential players still available who can help immediately.
Fleck was asked about playing freshmen. He said he loves to play freshmen and put them into the fire immediately.
"I love to play freshmen. You've got to fail before you succeed. Embrace the past and move on." -Coach, on playing freshmen.— Minnesota Football (@GopherFootball) February 1, 2017
If you don’t want to play early—don’t come to the University of Minnesota.
He finished by discussing how he wants to create a national recruiting base for Minnesota that will bring the Gophers a Big Ten Title. It starts at about the 45:00 mark in the press coference video below, and its worth a watch. It will make you feel very optimistic about the future of Gopher Football. Good things are ahead.