Sid Hartman: U has had trouble keeping players

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 30, 2011 - 11:27 PM

Jerry Kill has scrambled to get a full recruiting class, but he's also hampered by previous signees' departures.

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New Gophers coach Jerry Kill.

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

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Wednesday, new Gophers football coach Jerry Kill and his staff hope to sign 24 to 27 high school seniors to letters of intent to play for the maroon and gold beginning this fall.

Kill hopes to recruit some good players, but since he wasn't hired until Dec. 5, he has had a very short period to recruit, similar to when the Gophers hired Tim Brewster in January 2007.

Kill has another disadvantage, because following Brewster's firing Oct. 17, Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi's instructions to interim coach Jeff Horton and the staff were to keep in touch with the 12 players who already had committed to the program, but not to try to add any new recruits.

So from the day Brewster was fired, other college coaches went after players who had said they would play for the Gophers, while Horton and his staff could not try and line up any new commitments.

Fortunately, unless some of those Brewster recruits change their mind before Wednesday, the Gophers expect to sign 10 of the 12 players who originally had committed to the program while Brewster was here.

Another problem facing Kill and his staff is that many of the players Brewster recruited over the previous four years left school for various reasons, including academics, leaving Kill with some 71 players on scholarship, short of the maximum of 85 allowed by the NCAA.

Toward the end of the 2010 season, the Gophers traveled with only 50-some players because of the shortage on the roster of players who had left or were injured.

Checking on players who signed with Brewster in his first recruiting class in 2007, the Gophers football public relations department found that 25 didn't complete their eligibility at Minnesota. The 2008 class had eight and the 2009 class had 10.

Mason had problem too

Dave Mona did a study in September 2007 that looked back at the final four recruiting classes of Glen Mason, who was replaced by Brewster that January. According to the study, the Gophers had 90 scholarships accepted over those four years. Of those 90 players, only 42 were on the 2007 team the day it faced Ohio State, a retention rate of 47 percent.

While not the type of coach who makes excuses, Kill did point out coming in late did change how he and his staff recruited for this upcoming class.

"Our evaluation has had to speed up; I don't like doing things on a three-week, month deal," the new Gophers coach said Sunday. "I like recruiting kids a year out so I can find out every single ounce about them.

"But it is what it is, I think we've done a good job of bringing some people in. We've got to make sure we can get them in the boat, so to speak, but I think at this point from where we were at when we took the job, I think so far, so good. But there's a lot of things that can happen in the next three or four days."

Like I've said many times regarding the Gophers' lack of a Big Ten title since tying with Indiana in 1967, there are some problems at Minnesota. The figures above help tell the story.

Kill will have to overcome the same problems that Mason, Brewster and other coaches have had trying to win here. I have a hunch he already has found some problems he didn't have at Northern Illinois, with a number of key Gophers players not doing well academically last semester.

What's the problem? Well, when you recruit at Minnesota, if you want to win, previous coaches before Kill have said that you have to gamble with kids who might not make it academically or for other reasons.

Jottings

• One good thing for the Gophers recruiting class is that quarterback Max Shortell of Bishop Miege High School in Mission, Kan., stayed with the program after committing early despite the fact that Ohio State made a strong pitch for him.

• Pro Football Weekly came out with its All-NFL team earlier this month, and no Vikings were on it. The running backs picked were Arian Foster of the Texans and Jamaal Charles of the Chiefs. Adrian Peterson was left off the list.

• Andre Hollins, the Memphis White Station High School basketball player who has signed with the Gophers, scored his 2,000th career point on Jan. 25, finishing with 28 points in a 70-60 victory over Whitehaven. The 6-1 Hollins has scored as many as 47 points in a game this season for White Station, which is 19-4.

• The Wisconsin football team normally has good luck recruiting Minnesota, but this year the Badgers got only one player -- potentially a good one, though, in Tyler Marz, the 6-8, 280 pound tackle from Springfield.

• Junior guard Devoe Joseph, who left the Gophers earlier this month and decided to transfer to Oregon, is now practicing with the Ducks. He can either sit out part of next season before playing out the year as a senior, or he can sit out the entire 2011-12 season and play a full year in 2012-13. With point guard Al Nolen possibly out for the rest of the season because of a broken foot, the Gophers really miss Joseph, who stepped up last season after Nolen was ruled academically ineligible to play the second semester. You really wonder why Joseph decided to transfer. The only good thing for the Gophers from his departure is that they will have another scholarship available next year.

• Former Braham star Noah Dahlman is having one of the best offensive seasons in college basketball. According to ESPN.com, the 6-6 senior at Wofford is the 16th-leading scorer in the NCAA, averaging 20.6 points per game. He also has the seventh-best shooting percentage of all qualified players in the NCAA, shooting a stellar 63 percent from the field. What's most impressive about his shooting is that of all the players in the top 10 in field goal percentage, only he has attempted more than 200 shots, with 270 attempts on the season. The Terriers, who lost to the Gophers at Williams Arena to open the season, are 9-2 in Southern Conference play and lead the South Division.

• Former Gophers coach Dan Monson continues to make improvements at Long Beach State and currently has the 49ers leading the Big West at 8-2 in conference play after defeating Cal State Fullerton 75-60 on Saturday. Last season, the 49ers came just short of making the NCAA tournament, but they are looking like the league favorite this season.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. • shartman@startribune.com

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