With an exceptionally large class of Minnesotans expected to sign Division I football scholarship offers Feb. 3, staff writer Jim Paulsen selected six more Minnesotans, in addition to Eden Prairie linebacker Carter Coughlin, expected to make an impact at the collegiate level.
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Park Center • S • 6-1, 195
For all of his athletic life, Hooker saw himself playing college football. He dreamed about schools such as Ohio State or Alabama, but in truth, he was never like so many others who had his heart set on one particular college. Whoever wanted him most probably would become his football home.
“Early last spring, they didn’t know much about me but they came up and watched me work out and I ended up begin pretty high on their [recruiting] board,” the hard-hitting Hooker said. “Once recruiting started, I knew I would probably go to the team that loved me first.”
After he committed to Iowa, Minnesota and other Big Ten schools started sniffing around. It was too late.
“If Minnesota had offered earlier, they might have been at the top of my list,” Hooker said. “But I’ve never had any doubts about Iowa. I’m just ready to seal the deal and get going.”
Forest Lake • OT • 6-6, 280
Despite persistent rumors to the contrary, Kasl has no plans to back out of his commitment to Wisconsin.
He has a theory, however, about why the rumors started.
“I was a two-star recruit and I wasn’t really well-known, but after committing, 247 [recruiting site] bumped me up to four stars,” he said. “Then Vanderbilt called to see if I was still committed.”
Playing for a high school that hasn’t won a game in three years made Kasl, despite his four stars, seem like a steal for Wisconsin. He was the Suburban East Conference Lineman of the Year. At a Nike camp in Chicago last summer, he had the highest SPARQ (speed, power, agility, reaction, quickness) score of any lineman in camp. He has a 4.0 GPA and scored 33 on his ACT, which he expects will help him get into “a very good engineering school” at Wisconsin.
“It’s close enough to home, the weather is familiar, it’s a nice campus with good support from the town,” he said. “And it’s been a powerful team for a number of years.”
Chaska • OL • 6-6, 300
College: Oklahoma State
It just never felt quite right.
Kegel and his family were pleased when he initially gave a verbal commitment to Minnesota, but it wasn’t the perfect fit he had hoped.
“They already had three offensive linemen committed and had a couple of more that were close,” Kegel said. “They said if I wanted it, I needed to make a decision.”
When Jerry Kill retired as coach, however, Kegel followed his instincts and sent out feelers to other programs. His family has longtime connections to Oklahoma State, so he made a point of reaching out to the Cowboys.
A spot was open and, with Oklahoma State looking to beef up its offensive line, it made an offer. Kegel jumped at it.
“I’ll be either the fourth or fifth generation — we’re not quite sure — of my family to go there,” he said. “It feels right to me. I’m 100 percent sure I’ve made the right choice. I should have committed there in the first place.”
Monticello • OL • 6-5, 290
When he walked onto the University of Minnesota campus last May 3, a scholarship offer from the Gophers was the last thing Olson expected. After all, he was set on becoming the second family member to play at Princeton, where his brother, Birk, was a linebacker.
“It was the furthest thing from my mind,” Olson said.
Then-offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover called him to extend an offer two days later. Suddenly, playing in the Ivy League seemed much less inviting.
“I was ecstatic,” said Olson, whose physical play for the Magic resulted in 126 pancake blocks in 2015. “I always thought the kids that [Minnesota] recruited were of a different caliber than me. I always thought I would take the same path as my brother.”
Olson kept Princeton as a fallback and inquired to see if it was still interested when Kill retired, but his commitment to Minnesota never wavered. “I never once thought seriously about reopening my commitment,” he said.
Mayer Lutheran • OT • 6-6, 285
It wasn’t until he entered high school, when he got a whole lot bigger, that Sam Schlueter decided football was his future. Until then, he was a three-sport athlete whose favorite sport happened to be whichever one he was playing.
“One day, it was baseball. The next, it was basketball, The next, football,” Schlueter said. “When I got to high school, that’s when I knew I wanted to play football.”
But Schlueter played for Mayer Lutheran, a school with fewer than 200 students and scant football cred. “I knew I was going to have to work harder to get noticed,” he said. “It wasn’t until I went to a Gophers camp and they saw my athleticism that things really took off.”
The thing that excites Schlueter the most is the opportunity to bring the Gophers to new heights alongside a large contingent of fellow Minnesotans expected to sign with the U.
Eden Prairie • DB • 5-8, 175
The assumptions come often, because of his size or where he comes from, but J.D. Spielman isn’t listening. He’s busy preparing to shock his doubters.
Eden Prairie coach Mike Grant knows a thing or two about football. Grant calls Spielman “the best football player I’ve ever coached,” referring to Spielman’s ability to do something special every time he touched the ball.
Spielman’s uncle Chris, a former Detroit Lion, showed a tape of J.D. to Mike Riley, then head coach at Oregon State. Riley looked at the film and said, ‘‘That’s Jacquizz Rodgers,” comparing Spielman to the former Oregon State scatback now with the Chicago Bears. When Riley took over at Nebraska, he immediately put two assistants on Spielman’s trail.
“He knows people wonder if he would be the same type of player in Texas, California or Florida,” said his father, Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman. “J.D. has a chip on his shoulder to prove people wrong.”
Staff writer David LaVaque contributed to this report.