National expert says Gophers' Kill 'has to put a fence around Minnesota'

  • Article by: JIM PAULSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 15, 2012 - 6:45 AM
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Cretin-Derham Hall’s James Onwualu is “the only really good kid this year” in Minnesota, according to Tom Lemming.

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

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The reporting and speculation about high school football recruiting has become big business over the past 15 years, and perhaps no one has had a greater influence on that booming interest than Tom Lemming.

The Chicago native has been scouting high school football players since 1978, with "The Lemming Report" on the CBS Sports Network, which is the most recognizable name in the genre.

We spoke with Lemming while he was traveling to Starkville, Miss., for Saturday's game between Mississippi State and Tennessee.

Q: What is the biggest recent change in recruiting?

A: Spread offenses have created a specific category for athletic quarterbacks. Five years ago, the top 10 quarterbacks I ranked were pro-style. Last year, I think nine of the top 10 were athletic quarterbacks.

Q: Is that just a trend or is the spread here to stay?

A: Oh, it's a trend. Everything is trendy. As soon as defenses figure out how to stop the spread, you'll a return to pro-style quarterbacks.

Q: What is your impression of Minnesota prep football?

A: Minnesota is actually better than most people give it credit for. There is more talent there usually than Wisconsin, Iowa, Indiana. It's just a matter of corralling that talent and keeping it at home.

Q: That doesn't bode well for the Gophers this year. Only one of the top players in the state, Chris Wipson, a linebacker from Wayzata, has committed to Minnesota.

A: Well, this is a down year for Minnesota. It might not matter that much. I think [Cretin-Derham Hall's] James Onwualu, who's going to Notre Dame, might be the only really good kid this year. Most of the rest of the Minnesota talent is developmental.

Q: What is your view of Jerry Kill's recruiting efforts?

A: I think he's on the right track. I travel all over the country, and I'm seeing the name Minnesota pop up on kids' lists where it never popped up before. Again, they have to keep the home state talent at home. He has to put a fence around Minnesota.

Q: So things are looking up?

A: I think so. People just have to be patient. I've heard that Kill is developing good relationships with Minnesota coaches. That's important. They have to establish themselves. Right now, the best kids start looking to go elsewhere. If he keeps them at home, things will get better. Heck, Barry Alvarez did it at Wisconsin. So it can be done.

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