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Minnesota Football Recruiting: Taking stock of the Gophers’ 2020 recruiting class

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Eight commitments in the span of three days. Now what?

Gopher Sports

Now that the dust has cleared from the weekend gold rush that saw the Minnesota Golden Gophers’ collect eight verbal commitments, let’s take a broader look at the current recruiting class and try to assess where head coach P.J. Fleck and co. might go from here as they divvy out their remaining scholarships. The expectation is that the final number will be in the low 20s.

Quarterback

Current Commits: 0
Graduating Seniors: 0

I do not expect the Gophers to take a quarterback in this recruiting cycle. Instead I expect Fleck and co. will spend the next two years maintaining the verbal commitment of Illinois quarterback prospect Athan Kaliakmanis, who is a four-star prospect and the sixth-ranked dual-threat quarterback of his class according to 247 Sports. Kaliakmanis would be a game changer for this program if the Gophers can hold on to him.

Running Back

Current Commits: 1 (Ky Thomas)
Graduating Seniors: 2 (Shannon Brooks and Rodney Smith)

The Gophers will certainly be sad to see Brooks and Smith go at the end of the year, but make no mistake, they are are loaded at the running back position for the foreseeable future with Mohamed Ibrahim, Bryce Williams, and Nolan Edmonds. So I think they’ll focus on keeping Thomas in the boat and won’t take more than one running back in this class.

Wide Receiver

Current Commits: 3 (Justin Bellido, Jonathan Mann, and Dylan McGill)
Graduating Seniors: 1 (Tyler Johnson)

Fleck and wide receivers coach Matt Simon have a solid group of pass catchers committed, but I would not be surprised to see them add one more before all is said and done. Tyler Johnson will leave big shoes to fill at the end of the year. Cameron Martinez, who was on campus over the weekend for an official visit, is the big name Gopher fans are clamoring for, although Ohio State would seem to be in the driver’s seat for his services.

Tight End

Current Commits: 1 (Austin Henderson)
Graduating Seniors: 0

Whether or not the Gophers decide to add another tight end to this class will likely depend on what Fleck’s plans are for redshirt juniors Ko Kieft and Bryce Witham. If they end up walking on Senior Day this fall, as Colton Beebe did last November, that leaves only three returning scholarship tight ends. We’ll see how it plays out. Joshua Rawlings is on the campus at the moment and would appear to be one of their top targets at the position.

Offensive Line

Current Commits: 2 (Casey Collier and Aireontae Ersery)
Graduating Seniors: 0

Anticipate at one least one, if not two, more offensive linemen in this class, as Fleck and offensive line coach Brian Callahan work to build depth behind their formidable starting five. Offensive tackle Michael Rankins is a recruit that the coaching staff would love to have in the boat, although he visited over the weekend but declined to commit while on campus.

Defensive Line

Current Commits: 2 (Melle Kreuder and Claude Larkins)
Graduating Seniors: 4 (Carter Coughlin, Winston DeLattiboudere, Tai’yon Devers, and Sam Renner)

You’ll recall that the Gophers loaded up on defensive linemen in their last recruiting class, and I think that will continue to be a priority for Fleck and his staff, if maybe not to the same degree as last year. Look for at least two more defensive linemen in this recruiting cycle. Fleck and defensive line coach Jim Panagos seem to be especially focused on defensive ends as they prepare for a future without Carter Coughlin to bolster their pass rush.

Linebackers

Current Commits: 2 (Lucas Finnessy and Cody Lindenberg)
Graduating Seniors: 2 (Thomas Barber and Kamal Martin)

This will be a transitional year at linebacker for the Gophers, as seniors Thomas Barber and Kamal Martin prepare to pass the torch to underclassmen like Thomas Rush, Mariano Sori-Marin, and Braelen Oliver. So it makes sense for Fleck to continue to reload here. Expect at least one more linebacker and I can promise you that all eyes are on Minnehaha linebacker Kaden Johnson.

Defensive Backs

Current Commits: 5 (Richard Agyekum, Michael Dixon, Jalen Glaze, Benjamin Onwuzo, and Victor Pless)
Graduating Seniors: 1 (Chris Williamson)

The Gophers have been in dire straits for some time now at the safety position outside of Antoine Winfield, Jr. and seem to have taken steps to resolve that with commitments from Michael Dixon and Jalen Glaze, in addition to three cornerbacks. Defensive back is clearly a priority in this class, especially with Winfield technically eligible to declare for the NFL after this season. I think they are probably done here, barring a decommitment.

Special Teams

Current Commits: 0
Graduating Seniors: 1 (Jacob Herbers)

The Gophers took a kicker and a long snapper in last year’s recruiting class, so don’t expect to see more scholarships spent on either of those positions, but Minnesota will need to replace starting punter Jacob Herbers, who graduates after the season.