The 2016 Gopher football recruiting class was an elite class. It was a combination of some very talented local kids mixed with a few from around the country who proved to be elite as well. The group dubbed themselves the Empire Class after a summer weekend gathering, hosted by Carter Coughlin.
The Empire Class wanted to be different. They wanted to choose Minnesota and make a difference, establishing a new set of expectations for the program. And they did. This class became the foundation for the remarkable 2019 season and many went on to be drafted as they continue to play on Sundays.
The Minnesota kids - The list of the local kids who were significant contributors to the Gophers throughout their careers. This was all just from ONE class, these guys were multi-year starters and significant contributors.
- Carter Coughlin
- Tyler Johnson
- Sam Schleuter
- Connor Olson
- Kamal Martin
- Thomas Barber
- Seth Green
The rest of the class - then there were some pretty significant names added to this class to help me it special.
- Antoine Winfield Jr
- Coney Durr
- Kiondre Thomas
- Ko Kieft
Think this was a special class? Six recruits who heard their name called in the NFL Draft. Great individual accomplishments who came together to form the core for what was arguably the best Gopher football season we have seen in our lifetimes. Imagine getting 10+ kids who all make a significant impact on your program with every recruiting class.
Now imagine if there’s an opportunity for an Empire 2.0!
Or perhaps this is the Dynasty Class? Whatever the name, this is another recruiting cycle where the Minnesota talent is deep, this could be the makings of another special class. And so far, recruiting is going very well for the Gopher football staff. As we sit today the Gophers have offered the top 9 recruits in the state. Five of them have verbally committed to Minnesota while the other 4 are still deciding.
- Emerson Mandell - OT - Irondale - uncommitted
- Daniel Freitag - WR - Bloomington Jefferson - uncommitted - more likely to play basketball in college, but might play both
- Wyatt Gilmore - DE - Rogers - uncommitted
- Koi Perich - S - Esko - committed - was thought to be a very strong Wisconsin lean, but is solidly a Gopher
- Jidi Abasiri - DL - Prior Lake - committed
- KhiJohnn Cummings-Coleman - WR - Coon Rapids - uncommitted
- Mo Saine - DT - Eden Prairie - committed
- Mason Carrier - LB - Detroit Lakes - committed
- Simon Seidl - xx - Hill Murray - committed
So as you can see the Gopher staff has done a really nice job of securing some of the top names in the state thus far. Koi Perich was a fantastic commitment to get this early and he is leading the charge to get more Minnesota kids to jump on the boat.
There are two names on that list who are key. If they both decide to row the boat with the others, this becomes Empire 2.0. If they choose to go elsewhere to play college football, then this is still a really nice class of local kids, but maybe doesn’t earn a catchy nickname. (or we delay their arrival here
Wyatt Gilmore and Emerson Mandell are THE keys. Freitag is listed as the #2 recruit in the state, but he is transferring to a prep school that does not have football. So he will be focussed solely on basketball during his senior season and the likelihood he plays P5 football is dwindling.
Gilmore is being pursued by a number of very high-profile programs. An explosive defensive end who is adding a lot of strength and weight. He has offers from Miami, Kansas St, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Oregon and Missouri. He has taken unofficial visits to Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas State. But the social media pressure from the current Gopher commits has been persistent.
Mandell has unofficially visited this past week and the Irondale offensive lineman would be a massive addition to this class. He has been on the Minnesota campus several times and has offers from Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Penn St, Missouri and others.
But it isn’t just about the local kids. The original Empire Class also sprinkled in an All-American, a FB who made an NFL team and contributed as a rookie and some important contributors. So what about the rest of this 2024 class?
Zahir Rainer is a safety from Virginia who I am very excited about. He was considering Virginia and Stanford to go along with several other strong P5 offers.
Riley Sunram is an interior of the OL the Gopher staff secured out of North Dakota. He is an athletic IOL who had offers from Miami, Nebraska, Kansas, K State, Missouri and others.
And there will be more. As the staff continues to recruit, this really is potentially turning into another special class.