For the first time in a decade, the Gophers basketball and football programs have signed top-30 recruiting classes in the same year.
The 2008 classes for football and men’s basketball were among the best in the country. The same can be said about the classes Gophers basketball coach Richard Pitino and football coach P.J. Fleck have put together for 2018.
Fleck’s 2018 football recruiting class on the first-ever early football signing day was ranked 29th nationally and sixth in the Big Ten on Wednesday afternoon. It was the first time the program had the highest-ranked recruiting class in the Big Ten West Division, including over rivals like Wisconsin and Iowa.
“I know he’s really excited. And not just from a ranking standpoint,” Pitino said at his Wednesday press conference in preparation for Oral Roberts. “Again, (rankings are) always hard to project. I know he’s excited about what his staff was able to do. The type of people he brought in with time. He’ll develop those guys. They’ll fit what they’re trying to do.”
After the early signing period for basketball in November, Pitino made a splash locally and received high marks nationally for a landing Cretin-Derham Hall center Daniel Oturu, DeLaSalle guard Gabe Kalscheur and Orono forward Jarvis Omersa. Oturu, Kalscheur and Omersa joined for a 2018 basketball recruiting class ranked 27th by 247Sports.com.
“The three guys we’ve signed, I don’t know where we’re ranked, but we feel like we got a really good class,” Pitino said. “So it’s an exciting time for football and basketball.”
The $166 million Athletes Village project opening next month helped both Pitino and Fleck in their current recruiting classes.
“I think this is really, really exciting time for men’s basketball and football,” Pitino said. “Certainly, we’re having success that took some time to build. The facilities part of it that’s going to open up in a couple weeks. Bringing student athletes in there, it’s got that ‘wow’ factor that we have not had here.”
Gophers fans are salivating over the newly signed quarterback Vic Viramontes and other top recruits who inked letters of intent Wednesday, including four-star wide receiver Rashod Bateman and 6-foot-9, 400-pound offensive lineman Daniel Faalele.
But Pitino said landing highly-rated classes in consecutive years is what will ultimately turn Fleck’s football program around, just like it did in basketball. The Gophers’ 2016 class with four-star prospect Amir Coffey and Michael Hurt was ranked No. 30 nationally by 247Sports.com. The year before that Pitino signed a class ranked 34th, which included current starters Jordan Murphy and Dupree McBrayer.
“His staff is really, really good,” Pitino said. “I know P.J. is really into recruiting like most head coaches are. He’s done a great job of it. It’s all about consistency, for him and for us. You’ve got to do it every year. Because what happens is when you build two, three, four classes in a row – that’s when you can sustain injuries. They didn’t have any depth this year. You could tell. He talked about it all the time. I don’t know football obviously as well as he does, but the more recruiting classes, good recruiting classes, solid ones like he’s building on right now the better off that program is going to be.”