ZIMMER: Fleck, Gophers made strides to becoming ‘ELITE’

ZIMMER: Fleck, Gophers made strides to becoming ‘ELITE’

For Head Coach P.J. Fleck, the standard – from the moment he walked on campus – was to build an ‘ELITE’ program at the University of Minnesota. Having just 25 days to build his first recruiting class, it was reported that Fleck and members of his staff started to blaze the recruiting trail for his second class almost immediately.

Wednesday morning, Gophers fans were treated to an early, and hopefully, “elite” christmas present.

The Gophers announced their 2018 recruiting class comprised of 25 commits from across the country during the NCAA’s first-ever early signing day period. Recruits have until Friday to sign thier letter of intent before having to hold off on making thier commitments official until Feb. 7. Minnesota’s 25 commitments compiled the program’s best class since 2008 according to 247sports.com’s composite rankings.

The Gophers come in the rankings 28th in the country and sixth in the Big Ten. A sign that could be telling in the near future is that the current class sits atop the conference’s West Division, ahead of both Wisconsin (No.35) and the Iowa Hawkeyes (No.39).

Staying home

In recruiting, it’s never a bad thing to grab the most coveted recruit that may not be from your general location. However, when rebuilding – even reloading – what has been a stable pipeline, it’s critical to be able to lock down the state’s top recruits.

Minnesota did just that so far.

Five recruits that don from the state of Minnesota announced they will be staying close to home to continue their playing career. The first to announce was Eden Prairie product Benny Sapp III. Since his initial commitment, the state’s No. 2, No. 5, No. 6 and No. 7 recruits are all locked into becoming “ELITE.”

Here is the current haul from the state of Minnesota.

TE   Brevyen Spann-Ford   St. Cloud Technical   (6-6, 233) ***

  • Rated No. 37 positional, No. 2 state

CB   Benjamin Sapp III   Eden Prairie   (6-0, 183) ***

  • Rated No. 68 positional, No. 3 state

ATH   Josh Aune   Highland Park   (6-1, 201) ***

  • Rated No. 102 positional, No. 6 state

OC   Nathan Boe   Lakeville North   (6-4, 250) ***

  • Rated No. 28 positional, No. 7 state

Logan Richter, a three-star recruit from Perham senior high also committed to the Gophers as a gray-shirt. The 6-foot-4, 291-pound defensive tackle was rated as the state’s No.5 recruit.

Joining the five minnesota commits were 21 other recruits from all across the country.

2018 Commitments

(*All rankings referenced from 247sports)

Florida (5)

Thoughts: Minnesota was able to snag a trio of Top 50 recruits at thier respective positions from the sunshine state. Even more impressive is that Fleck’s staff was able to lock in a pair of recruits that were also teammates along the offensive line, a unit that was desperately looking to add not just physical size, but depth.

OG   Curtis Dunlap   IMG Academy   (6-4, 368) ****

  • Rated No.6 positional, No. 34 state

OT   Daniel Faalele   IMG Academy   (6-8, 400) ***

  • Rated No. 30 positional, No. 73 state

RB   Bryce Williams   Cardinal Mooney   (6-0, 190) ***

  • Rated No. 46 positional, No. 129 state

SDE  Mayan Ahanotu   Berkeley Prep   (6-3, 246) ***

  • Rated No. 55 positional, No. 181 state

CB   C. J. Smith   Duncan U. Fletcher   (6-1, 175) ***

  • Rated No. 104 positional, No. 187 state

Georgia (5)

Thoughts: The Gophers were looking to add some offensive weapons for whoever will be under center come 2018 and they may have found one in Rashod Bateman. Bateman chose the Gophers over 24 programs, 8 of those programs coming from a Power 5 conference.

WR   Rashod Bateman   Tift County   (6-1, 180) ****

  • Rated No. 62 positional, No. 39 state

RB   Nolan Edmonds   Alpharetta   (5-10, 206) ***

  • Rated No. 28 positional, No. 60 state

RB   Terrell Smith   South Gwinnett   (6-0, 170) ***

  • Rated No. 63 positional, No. 70 state

SDE   Abi Okonji   South Gwinnett   (6-2, 238) ***

  • Rated No. 41 positional, No. 84 state

OLB   Braelen Oliver   Douglas County   (6-1, 218) ***

  • Rated No. 66 positional, No. 93 state

Ohio (4)

Thoughts: While the four recruits that committed to the University of Minnesota were not offered by the home state Buckeyes, Ohio State did at least show interest in a trio of them.

WDE   Alex Reigelsperger   Wayne   (6-3, 247) ***

  • Rated No. 24 positional, No. 19 state

WR   Jornell Manns   Mansfield   (5-10, 187) ***

  • Rated No. 113, No. 30 state

OG   Austin Beier   St. John’s Jesuit   (6-5, 285) ***

  • Rated No. 29 positional, No. 36 state

OLB   Thomas Rush   Marysville   (6-3, 209) ***

Rated No. 75 positional, No. 46 state

Illinois (2)

Thoughts: Minnesota was able to score a pair of commitments from a pair of Top 50 recruits from the state. Defensive tackle Elijah Teague was a highly-touted recruit, garnering nearly 20 offers from Power 5 conferences and six from Big Ten schools — not counting the offer from Minnesota.

DT   Elijah Teague   Marist   (6-2, 289) ***

  • Rated No. 33 positional, No. 6 state

LB   Mariano Sori-Marin   (6-2, 223) ***

  • Rated No. 49, No. 28 state

California (2)

Thoughts: According to 247sports, Gophers commit and California native Vic Viramontes is the No.1-rated quarterback recruit in the state and the No. 3 recruit overall, making him arguably the most important commit for the 2018 class.

DT-QB   Vic Viramontes  Riverside C.C.   (6-2, 230) ***

  • Rated No. 1 positional, No. 3 state (No. 22 national)

OT   Jason Dickson   Diablo Valley   (6-7, 309), ***

  • Rated No. 7 positional, No. 5 state (No. 47 national)

Michigan, Missouri, Texas (1)

WR   Erik Gibson   Martin Luther King (Detroit, MI)   (6-1, 200) ***

  • Rated No. 140 positional, No. 26 state

OT   Grant Norton   Camdenton (Camdenton, MO)   (6-8, 255) ***

  • Rated No. 108 positional, No. 13 state

OT   Jack Yost   First Baptist Academy (Dallas, TX)   (6-5, 300) ***

  • Rated No. 100 positional, No. 157 state

Quick hit

It’s hard not to like the haul that Fleck and his staff managed to nab for the program. They desperately needed depth in the trenches and were able to do that. Especially the offensive line. With all the injuries that plagued the unit during the 2017 season, it was becoming clear that during the final surge of recruiting that the Gophers were going to need to find recruits that have the potential to be role players or even potential starters out of the gate. I believe they have done that.
Offensively, what’s not to like about the talent that will be joining the weapons portion of the offense. Bateman and Spann-Ford are commits that could potentially push for playing time and should be big time targets in the red zone. With Spann-Ford’s frame, I could see the potential to have a role similar to how Iowa utilizes Noah Fant. He has great size and could be a “tweener” at the tight end position. Although, he has the athleticism to play outside of the formation.

It was reported that Fleck and his staff would start blazing the trail for the 2019 class in the coming days. In fact, per a report from the Pioneer Press; Andy Greder, they have already received a pair of huge commitments for the 2019 class.

Eden Prairie quarterback Cole Kramer took to Twitter thursday morning to announce that he will be a Gopher for the 2019 class. Shortly thereafter, Owatonna running back and Minnesota’s Gatorade Player of the Year Jason Williamson, who is also a standout safety announced he would be joining as well.

Williamson rushed for 2,316 yards and 38 touchdowns while leading Owatonna High School to a 5A state title last month. Both recruits were rated as three-stars by 247sports.

It’s early, but the wheels are already starting to be in motion as to what Gophers fans may get used to what is the norm during the recruiting process with Fleck at the helm.





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Joshua Zimmer
Josh Zimmer is the Lead NFL Draft analyst for NGSC Sports as well as serving as a contributor for NHL coverage.

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