Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Gopher Gab: Meet the 2012 Recruiting Class

By Jason Rossow of

The 2012 Minnesota Gopher recruiting class has a local theme, and a defensive backfield theme, and a JUCO theme. 

There are 10 kids FROM Minnesota that were given scholarships and at least another three joining the team as  “preferred walk-ons”. In the past 10 years, Minnesota players staying home have had a lot of success at Minnesota, so here’s to that trend continuing. Marion Barber, Eric Decker, Matt Spaeth, Mark Setterstrom, Ben Utecht, Thomas Tapeh, Adam Weber, Dom Barber and Marcus Sherrels are kids raised in the Gopher state who have gone on to the NFL. Looking back at recruiting classes, I couldn’t find any Gopher classes with more local kids. NDSU just won the FCS National title and beat the Gophers with a bunch of kids who were not good enough to be offered by Tim Brewster & Co. (or as I like to refer to them: Gopher rejects). In fact, no other BCS team in the country kept as many top 10 (rivals) recruits as the Gophers did in their home state with 7-of-10.  They really only lost out on one of the 10, as one kid had just moved here, and one (No. 10) wasn’t offered.

The defensive backfield was the single greatest weakness on a bad 2011 team. The biggest addition to the defensive backfield isn’t a newcomer, but rather the good news on Troy Stoudermire receiving a medical red-shirt and granted a fifth year of eligibility. There are seven defensive secondary players committed to the 2012 class and another two players listed as “athletes” that may end up back there. Three of the eight D-backs are JUCO transfers. Coach Kill said the purpose of JUCO’s is not for depth, but rather to plug an immediate need. 

Speaking of JUCO’s, there is a total of SIX in this year’s class.  For comparison the other eleven teams in the Big10 have a total of 12 (even with Indiana's six). Good teams don’t rely heavily on JUCO’s. Along with the three defensive backs, Minnesota also added a running back, defensive tackle and wide receiver from the JUCO ranks.

Overall, the national rankings are going to show a very bad recruiting class for Minnesota.  Rivals ranks Minnesota 12th out of the 12 Big10 teams and Scout ranks them 11th. Kill has won at every level he’s ever coached, and for some strange reason (i.e., drinking Gopher Kool-Aid by the gallon), I think he’ll have success at Minnesota with low-end recruits. IF, he can somehow breakthrough into a consistent winner with lesser talent, higher-rated recruits will suddenly start showing up at Minnesota. 

There are five recruits that will headline this class. Four of the five are FROM Minnesota.  Andrew McDonald out of Minnetonka was the pre-season No. 1 Minnesota recruit. He might be the most Big10-ready of the five, and could be an immediate starter at wide receiver this fall. The non-Minnesotan in the top five is another wide receiver, Jamel Harbison (ESPN 4 star) out of North Carolina. He and McDonald will battle each other and the current Gophers for immediate playing time. Jonah Pirsig might be the second largest creature in Blue Earth behind the Jolly Green Giant statue. At 6’8 and 300lbs., with agile feet, it’s easy to see why he could pretty much have named the school of his choice. Isaac Hayes (St. Thomas Academy) is an offensive guard who is listed by ESPN as one of the top 150 players in the nation!  Last but not least is my favorite recruit of the Gophers class, quarterback Phillip Nelson of Mankato. He already graduated high school and is a student at the U this spring.  Nelson posses the perfect combination of accurate passing and running ability. Tom Lemming, the most trusted recruiting name in the country, ranks Nelson as the second best QB in America.  In unrelated Gopher news, former sixth-string quarterback Moses Allipate has moved to Tight End and has lost 30 pounds. For a FULL analysis of EVERY recruit in the Minnesota class a player by player breakdown, read on.

Andre McDonald, WR
Minnetonka, Minnesota
3-STAR (Rivals), 3-STAR (Scout), 4-STAR (ESPN)
(Also Pictured Above)
6’2-6’3 / 200-210 lbs.
Offers: Arizona, Illinois, Iowa, Iowa St, Michigan St, Ohio St, UCLA, and Vanderbilt
40: 4.47-4.51 
Rivals: No. 3 recruit in Minnesota, 68th WR in the nation
Scout: 75th WR
ESPN: No. 2 in Minnesota, No. 37 WR, No. 25 region
Strengths:  Hands, Route Running, Catching in traffic

Jason’s Thoughts:  McDonald is very impressive on film. He should be able to compete immediately for a starting job. He reminds me of former Viking Sidney Rice in his ability to go get the ball at the right time and come down with it in traffic. He doesn’t have world-class speed, but has the perfect body to be a solid receiver at this level and possibly the next. His recruiting was a bit of a process… He committed to the Gophers early and then de-committed, saying Iowa was his leader. He then committed to Vanderbilt, and later opened his options back up. He finally chooses the “U” over UCLA and Vanderbilt as his two other finalists.

Isaac Hayes, G
Mendota Heights, Minnesota
6’2-6’3 / 270 lbs.
Offers: Virginia Tech, Boise St, Oregon St. and other Non-BCS
40: 5.1
Bench: 270 lbs.
Squat: 435 lbs.
RIVALS: No. 39 Guard, No. 59 MN recruit
SCOUT: No. 75 Guard
ESPN: No. 112 player in the nation, No. 9 Guard, No. 8 player in the region, No. 1 player in MN
Strengths: Run Blocking, Pass Blocking, Space Blocking, Toughness

Jason’s Thoughts:  Hayes is an ESPN top-150 recruit which is a “big deal”. At St. Thomas Academy, he was an all out stud. He seemed to do everything well for a lineman. He has good footwork, uses his hands well, and does well both run and pass blocking. He’s a touch short and needs to add strength. I see a redshirt season in 2012, and a long career and the likelihood of being a multi-year starter.

Jamel Harbison WR
Charlotte, North Carolina
5’11-6’0 / 181-191 lbs.
Offers: Clemson, North Carolina St, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest and West Virginia
40: 4.8
Shuttle: 4.5
Vertical: 32.4
RIVALS: No. 28 ranked in North Carolina
SCOUT: No. 151 WR
ESPN: No. 28 ranked WR, No. 89 Regional, No. 10 State
Strengths:  Hands, Speed, Catch in Traffic, YAC

Jason’s Thoughts:  Harbison’s commitment to the “U” never seemed locked up until signing day as he became more and more sought after later in the process. He might be listed as 5’11 and running a slowish forty time, but from his video’s Harbison is a beast. He runs routes well, has great hands, and is very good at getting yards after first contact. I look for Harbison to challenge for a starting spot immediately at the “U”.

Phillip Nelson, QB (P-S) 
Mankato, Minnesota
6’2- 6’3 / 212-216 lbs.
Offers: (none)
40: 4.48
Bench: 275
Squat: 405
Vertical: 30
GPA: 3.6
RIVALS: No. 15 Pro-Style QB in nation, No. 2 MN recruit
SCOUT: No. 46 QB in the nation
ESPN: No. 94 QB in the nation, No. 185 recruit in the region, No. 7 in the state
Strengths: Accuracy

Jason’s Thoughts: I watched Nelson play in the state semifinals last fall. He ran a more complex no huddle offense than I’ve ever seen at the Minnesota High School level. His greatest asset is his throwing motion.  He gets rid of the ball VERY quick and is pretty accurate. He also has a very good speed. Nelson graduated high school early and is already enrolled at the “U”. I see him red-shirting next fall and battling Max Shortell for the starting spot the following season. Don’t be fooled by Nelson having no other offers. Similar to Tommy Olson last year, Nelson made it clear early on that Minnesota was his choice. Tom Lemming (who is to college recruiting what Mel Kiper is to the NFL draft) ranks Nelson as the No. 2 overall QB in the country!  Nelson is originally from Wisconsin and his father played for the Badgers. 

Jonah Pirsig, OT 
Blue Earth, Minnesota
6’8"-6’9" / 290-300 lbs.
Offers: Auburn, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Iowa St, Miami, Michigan, Michigan St, Ohio St, & Wisconsin
RIVALS: No. 6 MN recruit
SCOUT: No. 35 OT
ESPN: No. 52 OT, No. 43 recruit in the region, No. 4 in the state
Strengths: Run blocking/Toughness

Jason’s Thoughts: Pirsig was an important recruit in that he is a Minnesota kid staying home, and choose MN over other finalists Iowa & Wisconsin. Losing home grown talent to USC or Notre Dame doesn’t hurt nearly as much as lining up across from them the next four years in your rival's uniform. Thankfully, Pirsig will be wearing the right colors! When watching film on Pirsig it’s easy to see why he could have basically picked his school of choice. He’s 6’8, with a wide frame, and is surprisingly very light on his feet. Playing at Blue Earth he didn’t see much for competition, however. Pirsig excelled at run-blocking, and I believe will one day anchor the left tackle spot. He needs a good year or two working on building strength and technique and the sky is the limit for his body.

Jack Lynn, OLB 
Lake Zurich, Illinois
6’2"-6’3" / 205 lbs.
Offers: Many Non-BCS D1 schools
RIVALS: No. 27 state
SCOUT: No. 102 OLB
ESPN: No. 171 OLB, No. 349 Regional, No. 52nd State
Strengths: Tackling

Jason’s Thoughts: Lynn played WR and DE in high school. He will be used by the Gophers likely at OLB. I think he’ll almost certainly red-shirt to add size to his frame. He has a good sized body, and has a great motor on the field (theme with Kill’s recruits), but I think he lacks the skill to be a solid player in the near future.

Jordan Hinojosa, DT 
Miami, Florida
6’3" / 265-275 lbs.
Offers: Michigan State, Wake Forest, West Virginia
40: 5.23
Shuttle: 5.79
Vertical: 23inches
SCOUT: No. 111 DT
ESPN: No. 133 DT, No. 730 regional, No. 262 state
Strengths: Pursuit

Jason’s Thoughts: I really like Hinojosa. He plays EXTREMELY hard, and has great height and size already. He has a nice offer list as well. Look for a redshirt season to work on technique and add strength, and then we could see a lot of Hinojosa the next 4 years.

Nick Rallis, S 
Edina, Minnesota
5’11"-6’0" / 200-205 lbs.
RIVALS: No. 9 ranked MN player
ESPN: No. 119 safety, No. 228 region, No. 10 state
Strengths: Zone Coverage/Run Support

Jason’s Thoughts: Nick is the brother of starting linebacker Mike Rallis. Nick had actually committed to Brewster’s staff many moons ago. Rallis is a very tough kid that played both ways at Edina. He reminds me a LOT of his brother minus the hair. He is going to be either a safety or OLB at the next level. He lacks all the measurables to be recruited by high-end programs.

Lincoln Plsek, DE
Waco, Texas
6’3"-6’4" / 235-240 lbs.
40: 4.7
Offers: Air Force, Army, Rice, Stephen F Austin
ESPN: No. 102 DE, No. 174 Region, No. 135 State
Strengths: Run Defense

Jason’s Thoughts:  Plsek played both ways in HS, and could end up at TE for the Gophers.  I still see him being given a shot mainly at DE, however. A typical Kill-type recruit yet again… not overly flashy, but makes plays, and is another lunch bucket type of player.

K.J. Maye, Athlete
Mobile, Alabama
5’10" / 175-193 lbs.
Offers: Kentucky and many non-BCS teams
ESPN: No. 95 athlete, No. 36 state, No. 426 region
Strengths: Versatility

Jason’s Thoughts: He played QB in High School and actually looks like he could play QB at small D1 or D2 school. He will come to the Gophers as either a DB, or more likely a slot receiver. He is very quick and elusive, but has a VERY small frame. His high school film reminds me most of current Gopher Troy Stoudermire, who also was a HS QB. However, Stoudermire, although short, has much more solid build. His video on youtube is long, but the first play at the 30-to-38 second mark is worth the watch.

Rodrick Williams Jr., RB
Lewisville, Texas
5’10"- 5’11" / 215-220 lbs.
Offers: Iowa, Utah
SCOUT: No. 138 RB
ESPN: No. 88 RB, No. 279 region, No. 222 state
Strengths: Power, Hands

Jason’s Thoughts: Williams Jr. reminds me of current Gopher Donnell Kirkwood.  He is the short and stocky build and keeps his legs moving. He also catches the ball well out the backfield. His speed isn’t real good for Big10 level, and for a bruising type of back needs a little more strength. I see him red-shirting, with starting potential in his upperclassman years. Side note: Williams is a top-rated Heavyweight Wrestler in Texas.

Mitch Leidner, QB (P-S) 
Lakeville, Minnesota
6’4"-6’4.5" / 220-225 lbs.
40: 4.9
Bench: 270
Squat: 350
Scout: No. 56 QB
ESPN: No. 110 QB, No. 224 Region, No. 9 state
Strengths: Reads

Jason’s Thoughts: Leidner also graduated HS early and is enrolled at the “U” and will take part in spring practice. He has great size, and is tough to bring down. He seems a little robotic and not overly smooth throwing. With his great size, if he can’t work his way up the QB depth chart, he would likely be moved to Tight End.

Antonio Johnson, S 
Cleveland, Ohio
5’11"-6’0" / 185-190 lbs.
40: 4.5
Vertical: 35 inches
Offers: Akron, Ball St, Buffalo, Eastern Mich, Kent St., Toledo
Rivals: No. 43 Safety
Scout: No. 180 OLB
ESPN: No.132 state, No. 157 safety, No. 307 region
Strength: Run support

Jason’s Thoughts: Johnson committed to Ball St. prior to having a Gopher offer. Johnson also played RB in high school. I am high on Johnson and think he could be a solid defender for the Gophers.  Of course, all these D1 prospects look like studs when you’re the most athletic kid on the field. But Johnson looks the part of a legit safety.

Maxx Williams, TE
Waconia, Minnesota
3-STAR, 3-STAR, Unranked
6’3"-6’4" / 220-225 lbs.
40: 4.75
Bench: 305
Shuttle: 4.27
Vertical: 33 inches
GPA: 3.6
SCOUT: No. 49 Tight End

Jason’s Thoughts: Yet another Minnesota kid committed to the Gophers. He’s intriguing to me as his name Maxx has two x’s, and he looks like Sherman from the American Pie series.  Williams looks a bit small on the field. He shows good leaping ability and good hands. I think Williams ends up starting at TE for the Gophers at some point.

Scott Ekpe, DT 
Lewisville, Texas
6’3"-6’4" / 250-265 lbs.
40: 4.8
Bench: 310
Squat: 515
SCOUT: No. 175 DE
ESPN: No.142 Position, No. 339 region, No. 267 state
Strengths: Lateral Range, Pass Rushing, Size

Jason’s Thoughts:  Ekpe played the nose in a 3-4 in HS. He has a frame to be a DT in college. He is a long ways from being a viable DT in the Big10 and will need lots of coaching and time in the weight room. Fortunately, Ekpe joins Nelson and Leidner as December high school grads and will get an extra spring practice session with the team.

Alex Keith, DE 
Columbia, Missouri
6’3"-6’4" / 205-235 lbs.
ESPN: No. 192 position, No. 313 region, No. 19 state
Strengths: Pursuit

Jason’s Thoughts: Yet another Kill recruit with a good “motor”.  He also has a nice frame for a DE. He seems like he plays a little tight and upright, but hopefully some good coaching will help with that.

Duke Anyanwu, Athlete/WR
Blaine, Minnesota
6’2"-6’4" / 200-225 lbs.
40: 4.96
Shuttle: 4.95
Vertical: 26.0
Offer: Air Force
Scout: No. 291 WR
ESPN: No. 289 WR, No. 17 state, No. 392 region

Jason’s Thoughts: Anyanwu lined up everywhere in HS including QB, RB, WR & LB/Safety.  While he looks like a man amongst boys on film, he is pretty slow for a D1 receiver. It will be a work in progress no matter what position he ends up at. Anyanwu is very young and not highly recruited. He may end up gray-shirting, meaning he doesn’t start with the football team officially until Jan. 2013, leaving him five years to play four at that point. Basically fudging the NCAA rules and getting two years to red-shirt.

Roland Johnson, DT
Butler Community College (South Carolina)
3-STAR, 2-STAR, Unranked
6’1"-6’2" / 285-295 lbs.
Offers: Indiana, other non-BCS schools
Strengths: Disruptiveness

Jason’s Thoughts: Johnson has less than ideal size for the D-Tackle. His height and arms length could limit his success. Like so many of Kill’s recruits, is known for a hard work ethic and relentless motor. As a JUCO will provide immediate depth on the D-line. He could even be used at DE.

Briean Boddy, CB
Coffeyville Kansas Community College
3-STAR, 2-STAR, Unranked
5’11" / 175 lbs.

Jason’s Thoughts: He has three years of eligibility remaining, had four picks and three fumbles recovered last fall as well as was a key return man for Coffeyville. I like JUCO transfers a lot more that have three years vs. two. 

James Gillum, RB
Perkinston Mississippi Gulf Coast CC
3-STAR, 2-STAR, Unranked
5’11" / 195 lbs.
Offers: Louisiana Tech

Jason’s Thoughts: Gillum was recruited by Kill’s staff at Northern Illinois out of high school.  He ran for over 1,000 yards in both of his seasons at Miss Gulf Coast CC. Gillum might be the most impactful recruit of the class next season. He could end up on the bench or be the No. 1 RB—I’m not sure where he’ll stack up.

Martez Shabazz, CB
Athens, Texas (Trinity Valley CC)
3-STAR, 2-STAR, Unranked
5’10"- 5’11" / 165-170 lbs.
Offers: Baylor & Non BCS Schools
40: 4.36

Jason’s Thoughts: Shabazz was clocked as the fastest player for all defensive players by ESPN. He has two years of eligibility remaining and will compete immediately for a starting corner position. I have not seen video of Shabazz.

Damarius Travis, S
Pensacola, Florida
3-STAR, 2-STAR, Unranked
6’1" / 185-194 lbs.
40: 4.67
Shuttle: 4.75
Vertical: 27.9
Offers: Florida International, Western Michigan

Jason’s Thoughts: No video, but based on the Gophers secondary, depth is great. And Florida HS experience is a plus, too.

Youshoub Timss, DT
Fort Walton Beach, Florida
2-STAR, Unranked, 3-STAR
6’2" / 260-270 lbs.
Offers: Syracuse & many non-BCS teams
ESPN: No. 83 Position, No. 171 State, No. 497 region
Strengths: Strength (funny)

Jason’s Thoughts: He lined up at end a lot in his video and clearly doesn’t have the body shape or speed to be an end in college. The good news is he appears very strong. He has a lot of technique refining, and adding 20-30lbs to be a solid DT producer in the Big10. From his interview he seems like a great kid!

Jeremy Baltazar, CB
Brenham, Texas (Blinn CC)
2-STAR, 2-STAR, Unranked
6’0" / 195-196 lbs.
40: 4.4-4.5
Bench: 365
Squat: 425
Shuttle: 4.32
Offers: 2 Non-BCS

Jason’s Thoughts: Baltazar is projected as a cornerback, but has the strength and size to move to safety if needed. He has two years of eligibility remaining.

Isaac Fruechte, WR
Rochester CC
2-STAR, 2-STAR, Unranked
6’2"-6’3" / 205-210 lbs.
40: 4.4
Bench: 270
Squat: 400

Jason’s Thoughts: Fruechte graduated from Caladonia, Minnesota and played one season at RCTC. He sat out this season allowing him three years of eligibility at the “U”. I am very excited about Fruechte and think he will do surprisingly well. He’s also the roommate of Phillip Nelson, which reminds me of the last two Minnesota kids that were QB/WR roommates, Weber and Decker.

Eric Murray, CB
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
2-STAR, 2-STAR, Unranked
5’11"-6’0" / 173-180 lbs.
Rivals: No. 4 ranked player in Wisconsin

Jason’s Thoughts: Murray ranks as the No. 4 prospect out of Wisconsin and is a low profile recruit, which shows that Minnesota High School football is superior to the Drunken Sconnies.  No video of Murray.

Ben Lauer, OT
Plymouth, Minnesota
Unranked, 2-STAR, Unranked
6’6"-6’7" / 260-270 lbs.
Offers: North Dakota, North Dakota St.
Scout: No. 169 OT

Jason’s Thoughts: Another local kid with great size. It took me half way through his video to figure out who was being highlighted (not a good thing). But with his frame, and a good work ethic, he could be a factor down the road.

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