Andre McDonald is staying home to play college football, but said he's not willing to settle for 3-9 seasons like the Gophers have suffered through the past couple of years.

"With this [recruiting] class, with the talent they're bringing in and the work ethic the coaches demand from the players, I expect some big things at Minnesota. We're going to win games. We're going to win bowl games," the Hopkins receiver pledged shortly after announcing he will sign a letter of intent with the Gophers next Wednesday. "I'd even like to win a national championship."

Whew. Well, can't blame a teenager for thinking big. And you can't blame McDonald for being excited over taking his place in an impressive haul of Minnesotans who next week will sign on to play with Coach Jerry Kill, including highly rated prospects such as Mankato West quarterback Philip Nelson and Blue Earth offensive lineman Jonah Pirsig.

McDonald was the first of them to commit to the Gophers last February, but he changed his mind over the summer, choosing Vanderbilt instead. Even when he was sure that's where he was headed, McDonald said Kill and his staff stayed in touch, letting him know that even if he wasn't going to be a Gopher, they cared about his future.

"They told me to finish the year strong. They cared about me, even when I was committed to Vandy," said McDonald, who piled up 1,253 yards and 17 touchdowns for the Royals. When the coach who recruited him left Vanderbilt, McDonald reconsidered, and visited Minnesota and UCLA while he mulled his choice.

Vanderbilt didn't feel right anymore, and he decided UCLA was too far, and he realized Wednesday he was certain.

"I got all my doubts, all my what-ifs, out," he said. "I'm not disappointed [about Vanderbilt]. Like my grandfather says, every lost dog finds its way home."