In case you’ve been hibernating for the winter, Minnesota Golden Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck and co. signed their entire recruiting class back during the early signing period in December. As a result, today’s National Signing Day is not what it used to be.
But rather than let the day pass without notice, we’re taking this opportunity to the highlight the incoming class of preferred walk-ons. It’s no guarantee that any of them will see the field in their college careers at Minnesota, but former walk-on and current linebacker Blake Cashman is proof that it’d be a mistake to count them all out.
Here we go:
Hometown: Norseland, MN
Scholarship Offers: Cincinnati, Illinois, Pittsburgh, Southern Miss, and Western Kentucky
247 Sports Recruiting Profile
Zack is the clear headliner of this group for a number of different reasons. He is the son of Scott Annexstad, who played football for Minnesota from 1982-83, and the brother of current walk-on wide receiver Brock Annexstad. Zack spent the last two seasons enrolled at IMG Academy in Florida, where he supplanted Rutgers commit Artur Sitkowski as starting quarterback during the middle of their senior season. After he committed to Minnesota, Zack also helped Fleck and co. recruit offensive linemen Curtis Dunlap and Daniel Faalele.
The capper is that Zack turned down scholarship offers from FBS programs so that he could accept a preferred walk-on spot with the Gophers. In a Q&A with 247 Sports ($), he said he chose Minnesota because he wants “to be different.”
“Most people want to take the easy route nowadays. I am out to be different. A lot of people think I am crazy for my decision, and that is okay. Nothing has ever been given to me. Also, I want to compete. I want to compete with the best of the best.”
Tinch will be a preferred walk-on for football, but will receive a full scholarship to run track for Minnesota, as well. As a high school senior, he recorded 70 reception for 964 yards and nine touchdowns, and returned two kickoffs for scores.
McNeil is a multi-sport high school athlete — football, basketball, and baseball — who also functioned as a versatile multi-position player for his football team. He has played defensive end, defensive tackle, tight end, wide receiver, and quarterback. McNeil is expected to play tight end at the college level, but that could change.
Oppedal camped with the Gophers last summer, which is where Fleck offered him a spot as a preferred walk-on. He accepted the offer that same night. He comes from the same high school as Gopher alumnus Jonah Pirsig. His high school coach describes him as “a big, strong kid who’s able to move people and who will work extremely hard.”
Oppedal told the Fairmont Sentinel that being a Gopher is a dream come true:
“It’s kind of hard to turn down an offer from somewhere where you’ve been dreaming of playing,” Oppedal said. “I think it’s exciting because not a lot of people get to play at that high of a level, especially around here.”
Kern was a two-way starter in high school on the both the offensive and defensive lines. For now, Kern appears a good bet to end up at defensive tackle, but the coaching staff has also discussed the possibility of a future on the offensive line. We’ll have to wait and see.
Prior to his senior season, Roane gained 30 pounds to increase his strength. Like Oppedal, Roane caught the attention of Fleck and co. at camp last summer, particularly when he excelled in agility drills with his added weight. He subsequently offered a preferred walk-on spot. The Gophers’ coaching staff views him as an edge rusher at defensive end.
Hometown: St. Paul, MN
Scholarship Offers: Air Force, Drake, South Dakota State, Tennessee Tech, and Wyoming
247 Sports Recruiting Profile
Janes played tight end and linebacker at Mounds View, but current Gophers defensive coordinator Robb Smith has said that he expects Janes to come in and contribute primarily at linebacker and on special teams. He was a “late” addition to this class, having accepted a preferred walk-on spot from Fleck and co. last week.
The scouting report from Kohl’s Kicking:
Walker recently attended the 2017 Midwest Spring Showcase. He showcased his leg strength well once again by averaging 67.25 yards per kickoff. His field goals technique was improved he hit some good footballs during the drill work at camp. Cleaning up rotation and keeping his toe down longer through contact should help increase his accuracy. Walker attended the 2016 Midwest Spring Showcase Camp. His KO’s were his strength and with refined ball striking he could see some big increases.
The scouting report from Chris Sailer Kicking:
Snapping wise, when Michael is on, he is REALLY on and can dominate his class. Love to see him focus on getting his eyes all the way through with each snap. When he gets his eyes/head through, he is unstoppable and could easily earn a TOP 12 spot at VEGAS 30 this May. Potential is off the charts for Michael. Keep a very close eye on him.
Yeah, I have no idea who Chris Sailer is, either.