Logan Richter, Perham
Defensive line • 6-4, 291 • College: Minnesota
It’s not where he comes from — a small town in northwestern Minnesota — it’s where few blockers prevent him from going. Richter forced his way into opposing backfields and P.J. Fleck’s plans with solid size, flexibility and leverage.
Richter gets off the ball well, puts offensive linemen in reverse and creates problems. He told Ryan Burns, who runs GopherIllustrated.com, the local Scout affiliate, “I met with [Gophers] defensive coordinator Robb Smith and defensive line coach Bryce Paup, and they both were telling me that they love how I’m able to bend and move at 6’4” and 291 pounds. I owe a lot of that to my coaches at Perham High School. They love how low I can stay to the ground and be powerful with that, and then also with how aggressive I am.” Richter, given a three-star rating by Rivals.com, committed to the Gophers in March. He had no additional offers.
DAVID LA VAQUE
Brevyn Spann-Ford, St. Cloud Tech
Tight end • 6-7, 240 • College: Minnesota
Text messages came during the fall from Gophers coach P.J. Fleck and assistants Brian Callahan and Matt Simon, all reminding the St. Cloud Tech senior of what was really important.
“They would say, ‘Become a better leader today,’ ” said Spann-Ford, who took the advice to heart.
St. Cloud Tech coach Gregg Martig, who just finished his 23rd year with the Tigers’ program, wrote that Spann-Ford “goes out of his way to make sure even the least talented and often marginalized kids feel valued.”
The only freshman to start for the Tigers in Martig’s tenure, Spann-Ford recorded career numbers of 176 catches, 2,657 yards and 38 touchdowns. Good athletic ability — he also plays basketball — and size make him a matchup problem for defenses.
He welcomed comparisons to former Gophers tight end Maxx Williams, a former John Mackey Award finalist.
“I hope to be a threat like that,” said Spann-Ford, rated a three-star prospect by Rivals.com.
DAVID LA VAQUE
Jacob Smith, Rosemount
Offensive line • 6-6. 305 • College: Brigham Young
The Rosemount senior verbally committed to Brigham Young University in Utah about 18 months ago, giving him two high school seasons worth of next-level feedback.
Smith, a 6-6, 305-pound mountain of a guard, got high marks this fall from BYU offensive line coach Mike Empey for consistent and physical play.
Such praise became a goal after what Smith called a “patchy” junior season. He rebounded to earn Star Tribune All-Metro second team honors this fall.
“I really strived to play at a high caliber and I think I accomplished that,” said Smith said, given a three-star rating by Rivals.com.
Smith garnered interest from Arkansas, Iowa State, Iowa, Northwestern, Oregon, Purdue, and Wisconsin. His early verbal commitment to BYU did not dissuade some schools, including Minnesota, from making another push. Smith said he last heard from the Gophers in August. They got the same response: Smith belonged to the Cougars.
DAVID LA VAQUE
Nathan Boe, Lakeville North
Offensive line • 6-4, 270 • College: Minnesota
This whole college football thing has kind of taken Nathan Boe by surprise.
It’s not that Boe doesn’t love the sport. But until the last couple of years, playing football in college was never his priority.
“My goal was always just to be the best Panther I could be,” he said, invoking the name of the Lakeville North mascot.
Boe’s drive, determination and work ethic have pushed him far past his modest goals. He’ll sign a national letter of intent with Minnesota at 7 a.m. Wednesday, the earliest time allowed (“There’s a contest to see who can get their signings in the quickest,” he said). He’s on pace to graduate early and will be enrolled at the U in time for spring football.
“I never thought I had college potential. When people started talking to me, I thought ‘This is so cool. I’m throwing everything I’ve got into this.’ I was so focused on being the best Panther I could be, I became one of the best linemen in the state.”
Josh Aune, St. Paul Highland Park
Defensive back • 6-2, 200 • College: Minnesota
If P.J. Fleck has an enthusiasm doppelganger among his recruits, Aune would be it.
While other expected signees are rowing the boat with vigor, Aune is manning every oar on a ship plowing through high seas.
“When I got the offer from the Gophers, it was a dream come true,” Aune said. “I committed right away. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”
A versatile athlete, Aune has been projected as a defensive back and a linebacker. A member of the U’s Spirit Squad might also be a good fit.
“From the moment I committed, it’s been motivation for me,” he said. “This is for something bigger, for the Minnesota movement. It felt good to have the pressure off my shoulders, but at the same time there’s more pressure because I want to be good for my team.
“I can’t wait to put on the uniform,” he said. “To have my dream come to fruition and become a Gopher feels really, really good.”
David Alston, Woodbury
Defensive End • 6-5, 225 • College: Nebraska
In terms of measurables, Alston ticks off the boxes needed to play linebacker/defensive end at a Big Ten school: Tall, explosive, with good straight ahead speed, a knack for using leverage on a pass rush and enviable lateral mobility.
Alston is considered a three-star prospect by most recruiting services, which list him among the top two or three recruits in Minnesota. He had 16 Division I offers to sort through before committing in September to Nebraska.
So the question is: How did the Gophers miss out?
Some believe Alston’s skill set doesn’t mesh with the defensive system. It can’t hurt that Nebraska, despite its recent woes, is still a desirable place to play.
Since making his choice, Alston has remained quiet about his commitment. The Cornhuskers’ change in head coaches, from Mike Riley to Scott Frost, may have cast a shadow over his commitment, but at this point his scholarship offer remains solid.