Wednesday morning marked the beginning of the new, three-day early signing period, and coach P.J. Fleck and the Gophers hit the ground running.
Minnesota entered the day with the No. 27 ranking in the 247Sports.com composite rankings, and was poised to have its best ranking since No. 26 in 2008 and had the potential to have its first top-25 recruiting ranking. The Gophers completed its class with 25 players signing their national letters of intent on Wednesday. A 26th player who had committed, Perham, Minn., defensive tackle Logan Richter, will enroll in January 2019 as a "grayshirt'' and count toward the 2019 class.
Wednesday morning, the Gophers moved up to No. 26 in the 247Sports composite rankings, which considers several major media rankings. In its own rankings, 247Sports had the Gophers No. 22.
The first player to sign his letter of intent with the Gophers was three-star cornerback Terell Smith of South Gwinnett High School in Snellville, Ga., shortly after the signing period opened at 6 a.m. Central. He started a group of signees from the Eastern time zone.
Smith, who also had offers from Notre Dame and Louisville, was followed closely by three-star defensive end Mayan Ahanotu of Berkeley Prep in Tampa, Fla., and four-star offensive guard Curtis Dunlap Jr. of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. Dunlap, who originally committed to Florida, is the highest-rated player in the Gophers’ Class of 2018
Four-star wide receiver Rashod Bateman of Tift County High School in Tifton, Ga., followed around 6:10 a.m. The Gophers fended off late SEC offers from Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina to secure Bateman’s services.
The Gophers’ Ohio connection started pouring in at 6:15, with linebacker Thomas rush of Marysville, receiver Jornell Manns of Mansfield and guard Austin Beier of St. John’s Jesuit in Toledo putting pen to paper, at least electronically. A few minutes later, defensive end Alex Reigelsperger of Wayne High School in Huber Heights, Ohio, became a Gopher. Reigelsperger originally committed to Kentucky.
Two more Georgians followed, defensive end Abi Okonji of South Gwinnett and running back Nolan Edmonds of Alpharetta. Edmonds is ranked 28th nationally among running backs in the Class of 2018.
Wide receiver Erik Gibson of Martin Luther King High School in Detroit, cornerback C.J. Smith of Duncan U. Fletcher High in Neptune Beach, Fla., and running back Bryce Williams of Cardinal Mooney Academy in Sarasota, Fla., signed by 6:30 a.m.
Shortly after 6:30, the largest player in the class committed to the Gophers: 6-8, 400-pound offensive tackle Daniel Faalele of IMG Academy. The native of Australia is a three-star recruit who played his first season of varsity football this fall. He was followed by IMG teammate Zack Annexstad, a quarterback to committed to Minnesota as a preferred walk-on.
Linebacker Braelen Oliver of Douglasville, Ga., also signed shortly after 6:30. All 15 of the players committed to the Gophers from the Eastern time zone had signed their letters of intent.
Shortly after 7 a.m., players from the Central time zone began signing their letters, and the first was tight end Brevyn Spann-Ford of St. Cloud Tech, followed by offensive tackle Grant Norton of Camdeton, Mo., and defensive tackle Elijah Teague of Marist High School in Chicago.
By 7:15, linebacker Mariano Sori-Marin of Providence Catholic in New Lenox, Ill., and offensive tackle Nathan Boe of Lakeville North had signed. Eden Prairie cornerback Benny Sapp III, St. Paul Highland Park athlete Josh Aune and Dallas First Baptist Academy offensive tackle Jack York followed.
One twist among players who verball committed was Richter, who announced via Twitter that he was "grayshirting,'' meaning he would enroll at Minnesota in January 2019. That dropped the Class of 2016 down to 25.
The final two players to sign, after 9 a.m. Central, were two junior college transfers from California: offensive tackle Jason Dickson of Diablo Valley College and quarterback Vic Viramontes of Riverside City College.