On May 1, those watching the 10 o'clock news might have thought the sky was falling when it comes to Gophers football recruiting.
Edina junior offensive tackle Quinn Carroll, the top-ranked Minnesota recruit in the Class of 2019, announced live on KARE-TV that he had chosen Notre Dame over the Gophers, among others. Angst quickly followed, with a "Here we go again" theme emerging as another big one got away.
But if you look a little deeper, you will see that coach P.J. Fleck and his staff are having a solid recruiting spring. As of Friday, the Gophers had 11 verbal commitments for the Class of 2019 — the most among Big Ten teams — and recruiting website 247Sports.com rates the Gophers' class 18th nationally and fourth in the Big Ten. That ranking will fluctuate as teams add or lose commitments, but Minnesota's quick start follows the Class of 2018 that ranked among the top 25 in December.
"It's going very well," Fleck said Wednesday during the St. Cloud stop of the Gopher Road Trip. "Kids want to come to Minnesota. You're not just waiting until the very end. People want to be here, and they should."
Josh Helmholdt, a recruiting analyst for Rivals.com, has been impressed.
"Two things I like about what they're doing right now: Not just hitting Chicago but having success with top prospects in Chicago and the general Illinois area," he said. "And supplementing it with JUCO prospects, especially in a situation that Minnesota's in right now — a rebuilding situation."
The top-rated commit is four-star defensive end Jason Bargy of Momence, Ill. Bargy is ranked No. 2 overall in Illinois, No. 191 nationally and the No. 13 weakside defensive end by 247Sports. The Gophers beat out Iowa, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Notre Dame, among others, to land him.
"Minnesota doesn't have anybody who looks like him at defensive end right now," said Ryan Burns, publisher of GopherIllustrated.com. "He's is a legitimate 6-4, he is a legitimate 255, 260 pounds. He's got an 11.3 100[-meter dash] time at 255 pounds, which is just silly."
According to ESPN analyst Tom VanHaaren, Bargy's commitment gives Fleck three top-200 prospects in the past two classes, joining 2018 commits offensive lineman Curtis Dunlap and defensive end Alex Reigelsperger.
Another impressive Gophers get: three-star offensive tackle JJ Guedet of Washington, Ill., who committed in March and has shined in camps. He is 6-7 and 282 pounds, and agile, Helmholdt said.
"He looks like how you want a feature left tackle to look like," he said. "… They don't have to peel a bunch of weight off him before they start building him back up."
Fleck and his staff also recruited a pair of junior college defensive tackles to fortify that position. Keonte Schad of Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls is a 6-4, 275-pounder, and Chris Daniels, a former University of Texas player who spent this past season at Copiah-Lincoln C.C. in Wesson, Miss., is 6-3½ and 315. Schad is ranked No. 2 among junior college DTs, Daniels No. 4.
"P.J. doesn't want to go junior college; he doesn't want to go Bill Snyder at Kansas State, who seemingly signs eight to 10 [JUCO] guys," Burns said. "But he also knows he has to win."
The Gophers have one quarterback committed in the Class of 2019: Eden Prairie's Cole Kramer. "What I like about him, he's a gamer," Helmholdt said. "… I like the moxie and mentality I see." Also on Minnesota's radar: Jacob Clark, a 6-5, 210-pound pro-style QB from Rockwall, Texas, who has offers from Cal and Iowa.
Kramer and Owatonna athlete Jason Williamson were the Gophers' first 2019 commitments, and Helmholdt says those ties are key to program growth.
"If there's an area for improvement, it's putting a wall up around the state and dominating in your own backyard," Helmholdt said. "That's tough to do when you have a guy like Carroll who everybody in the country's coming after. … But you've got to start doing it.''