Joe Christensen covered Major League Baseball for 15 years, including three seasons at the Baltimore Sun and eight at the Star Tribune, before switching to the college football beat. He’s a Faribault, Minn., native who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1996. He covered Jim Wacker’s Gophers for the Minnesota Daily and also wrote about USC, UCLA and the Rose Bowl for the Riverside Press-Enterprise before getting this chance to cover football again.
Email Joe to talk about the Gophers.
Heading into the final weekend before National Signing Day (next Wednesday), here are some quick thoughts on the Gophers class:
* All 23 of their commitments currently have three-star rankings in the 247Sports.com composite index, which combines all the major recruiting rankings into one.
* The five offensive linemen in this Gophers class have an average height of 6-foot-6 and an average weight of 294. That's the average. Here's a closer look:
Nick Connelly (Red Wing) 6-7, 275
Bronson Dovich (Chaska) 6-6, 290
Tyler Moore (Houston North Shore) 6-4, 300
Quinn Oseland (Springfield, Ill., Sacred Heart) 6-6, 310
Ted Stieber (Akron Archbishop Hoban) 6-6, 295
"I think the headline of the class has to be the offensive line," said Zach Johnson, who runs GopherIllustrated.com, a Rivals affiliate. "Look at the guys they're bringing in. Offensive linemen don’t come to campus anymore at 6-4, 230 pounds, and you’ve just got to wait three years to get them up to playing weight."
Here's my overview of the full class. We'll have much, much more on this next week.
The Gophers pulled one of their biggest recruiting coups of the past year Wednesday night, when they convinced safety Dior Johnson, from Southfield, Mich., to commit one day after he de-committed from Wake Forest.
The Gophers now have 23 players committed in this year's class, and Johnson is the first one with a four-star rating from Rivals.com. He also had offers from Illinois and Indiana.
The 6-2, 195-pound Johnson is a high school teammate of Ray Buford, another highly-rated defensive back who committed to the Gophers in December. Coach Jerry Kill and defensive backs coach Jay Sawvel had in-home visits with both Buford and Johnson on Wednesday night. Johnson announced his decision on Twitter.
Had a great in home visit with Coach Kill. No doubt where I want to play, I'm committing to the U of 〽️innesota pic.twitter.com/ejEBbma5OX— YeaThatsHim (@ThatBoyDior) January 29, 2015
The Gophers were determined to add defensive linemen to this year's recruiting class, and they got one Tuesday from the same high school that produced Gophers receiver KJ Maye and defensive tackle Gary Moore.
Mose Hall, a defensive tackle from Mobile (Ala.) Murphy High School, gave the Gophers a verbal commitment. Rivals.com rates Hall as a three-star recruit who also had offers from Maryland, Illinois and Wake Forest. He is the Gophers' 22nd commitment for the 2015 class. He announced his decision on Twitter:
The Gophers continued rounding out this year's recruiting class Monday, when they got a commitment from Bryce Witham, a tight end from Grand Rapids (Mich.) West Catholic.
The 6-4, 240-pound Witham is a consensus three-star recruit who also had reported offers from Central Michigan, Southern Miss and Toledo. He is the Gophers' 21st commitment in this year's class. Witham announced his decision on Twitter:
Proud to say that I have committed to the University of Minnesota and will be a Golden Gopher!!!!! #Blessed#Glory2God pic.twitter.com/hiPpY0OMaB— Bryce Witham (@Bryce_Witham) January 27, 2015
Veteran recruiting analyst Tom Lemming honored Jerry Kill with National Coach of the Year honors last week on CBS Sports Network. Lemming also recognized Gophers recruiting director Billy Glasscock as one of five national directors of operations of the year.
Lemming told me today that Urban Meyer and Nick Saban have been repeated winners of his National Coach of the Year award, and he wanted to recognize Kill. Jimbo Fisher was another finalist.
"I take everything into account, how you built it up from scratch," Lemming said. "[Minnesota] was down in the dumps for a long time, and [Kill's] doing it the right way, evaluating and developing the top prospects.
"It’s a lot easier to build up Ohio State or Alabama or Florida State -- the other three finalists in our coach of the year thing. I just thought he made more of an impact than they did at their schools and actually made a bigger jump than they did."
Lemming had good things to say about several of the recruits in Minnesota's 2015 class. A sampling:
QB Demry Croft: "Nobody knows about him. I’m only an hour away from [Rockford, Ill.], so I go up there and I’ve seen him. I love the kid. He’s got great potential. He’s that good. He could be a big, big time guy. He could be the guy that could lead them to a Big Ten championship someday."
DB Antonio Shenault: "He's another big-time, four-star kid out of Chicago. Legit cover corner. He’s got terrific all-around ability."
OL Quinn Oseland: "He has an excellent offensive line coach at Sacred Heart-Griffin [in Springfield, Ill.] State champs again this year. Quinn Oseland has potential to be an All-American at Minnesota."
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