Gophers' 2014 recruiting class looks to be Kill's best

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 5, 2014 - 10:54 AM

The U has added talent and addressed a glaring need at receiver.


Minnesota Gophers head football coach Jerry Kill.


They haven’t won every recruiting battle, of course, but Jerry Kill and his Gophers staff have drawn praise for the class they’ll unveil Wednesday on National Signing Day.

From all accounts, it’s the best of Kill’s four classes at Minnesota, a group that includes some notable high-ceiling talent and addresses a key need at wide receiver.

If highly touted Minneapolis Washburn running back Jeff Jones picks the Gophers, as he is expected to do Wednesday morning, there will be some celebratory fist pumps around Dinkytown.

“I think [Kill’s] in the process right now of enhancing the roster with more speed, more athleticism,” ESPN national recruiting director Tom Luginbill said. “It’s just not something you do overnight by waving a magic wand. It’s a process.

“And if you don’t believe in [Kill’s] process, then you haven’t been paying attention to his history. Because all he’s done is won.”

One of Luginbill’s 39,400 Twitter followers wondered this weekend why any recruit would willingly pick Minnesota, with its frigid weather. Luginbill replied, “Jerry Kill might be one of the top five coaches in [college football] right now.”

Luginbill explained his point in a conference call this week.

“You’re talking about a guy that has won everywhere he has been,” Luginbill said. “And everywhere he was prior to getting there, they were not winning. And he hasn’t been at places that were easy to win. You ever been to DeKalb, Illinois?”

That’s a reference to Northern Illinois, where Kill’s three recruiting classes finished 112th, 91st and 83rd nationally, in the rankings. But the Huskies went 11-3 in Kill’s third season and are 35-7 since he left.

At Minnesota, Kill’s two most recent classes ranked last in the Big Ten, and 72nd and 61st nationally, according to

This year, coming off an 8-5 season, the Gophers have climbed the rankings with a flurry of late signings. As of Tuesday, their class ranked 54th nationally, according to, and ninth in a 14-team Big Ten that now includes Maryland and Rutgers.

“It already is Kill’s best class,” said Zach Johnson, who runs, a affiliate. “They’ve got some kids who in my opinion could be big-time players.”

Jones tops the list. He verbally committed to the Gophers last February but kept his recruiting options open. After he was named co-MVP of the Under Armour All-American Game last month, Jones got invited to visit Florida and Michigan, but those schools later canceled. ranks Jones as the nation’s 44th-best recruit and No. 7 running back, but he still needs to qualify academically to play Division I. Washburn coach Giovan Jenkins said Jones is close but needs to lift his grade-point average by two-tenths of a point and raise his ACT score by one point.

Officially, Jones’ three finalists are Iowa State, Minnesota and Tennessee, but Johnson and others are confident the Gophers will get him.

“Minnesota doesn’t get a kid like that if he’s not local, and if the helmet schools [top programs from around the country] aren’t backing off for some reason,” Johnson said.

Besides Jones, the Gophers will keep two other scholarship players in state — Owatonna defensive lineman Andrew Stelter and Wayzata tight end Brandon Lingen. However, two offensive linemen from Minnesota are heading to the SEC — East Ridge’s J.C. Hassenauer to Alabama and Chanhassen’s Frank Ragnow to Arkansas.

The Ragnow decision stung the Gophers because they had worked hard to keep him home, and he kept them as a finalist until Friday.

“It hurts to lose two linemen from their own state, but they made up for it with their out-of-state catches,” said Tom Lemming, a recruiting analyst for CBS Sports Network.

One of those catches is Connor Mayes, a center from Van Alstyne, Texas, who played in the U.S. Army All-American Game. He’s the brother of Gophers lineman Alex Mayes.

“If [Connor Mayes] wouldn’t have committed to Minnesota so early, he could have played virtually wherever he wanted,” Johnson said. “He turned down offers from Oklahoma, TCU — where he’s got some family history — Texas A&M, Texas Tech. Everybody wanted this kid.”

Gaelin Elmore, a tight end from Somerset, Wis., had offers from Wisconsin and Nebraska but stuck with the Gophers.

“It’s not too often that Minnesota beats out Wisconsin for a recruit that the Badgers want out of Wisconsin,” Johnson said. “This is probably the first case that I can remember in 12 years.”

Jerry Gibson, a 6-3 athlete from Theodore, Ala., gave the Gophers a scare when he visited South Carolina last weekend, but all indications have him signing with Minnesota. He could wind up playing tight end, defensive end or linebacker.

“Gibson, if they can hang on to him, is outstanding,” Lemming said. “He’s a guy who could play right away as a freshman.”

The Gophers knew they needed wide receivers, especially since their top two at season’s end — Drew Wolitarsky and Donovahn Jones — were both true freshmen. It took until this past week, but the Gophers wound up getting three receivers that ranks as three-star recruits — Melvin Holland Jr. (from Ashburn, Va.), Isaiah Gentry (Cincinnati) and Conner Krizancic (Mentor, Ohio).

“Not only do I like them, I think they complement each other perfectly,” Johnson said.

Kill can’t comment on specific recruits until they sign their official letters of intent. He is scheduled to address the media at 4 p.m. Wednesday. Barring any last-minute changes of heart by recruits, he’s expected to be in fine spirits.

  • related content

  • Minnesotans heading to Division I schools to play football

    Thursday February 6, 2014

    Here's a list of the state's high school seniors who plan on playing Division I football and the schools they...

  • Chart: The Gophers' 2014 recruiting class

    Wednesday February 5, 2014

    .height{white-space:nowrap;}A closer look at the players who signed letters of intent with the Gophers on Wednesday. The star ratings are...

  • Read the replay: National Signing Day Live Blog

    Tuesday February 4, 2014

    The top high school football players in Minnesota and elsewhere made their college choices official on Wednesday.

  • Christensen: ESPN's Luginbill gives Kill rave reviews

    Tuesday February 4, 2014

    Tom Luginbill explained why he thinks Kill might be one of the five best college football coaches in the country.

  • Minneapolis Washburn running back Jeff Jones — a four-star recruit who would be the gem of the Gophers’ class — will announce his decision today. He verbally committed to the U last February but kept his options open.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Baltimore 2 FINAL
Detroit 15
NY Yankees 5 FINAL
Philadelphia 5
Northeastern 1 FINAL
Boston 2
Miami-Fla 1 FINAL
Miami 7
Pittsburgh 8 FINAL
Toronto 7
San Francisco 4 FINAL
Oakland 9
Cleveland 0 FINAL
Cincinnati 10
Boston College 0 FINAL
Boston 1
Arizona State 0 FINAL
Arizona 4
Boston 79 FINAL
Cleveland 110
LA Lakers 103 FINAL
Charlotte 104
Sacramento 124 FINAL
New York 86
Houston 96 FINAL
Atlanta 104
Utah 93 FINAL
Memphis 82
Washington 91 4th Qtr 0:29
Chicago 95
Milwaukee 51 3rd Qtr
Denver 55
Nashville 1 FINAL
New Jersey 3
Calgary 3 FINAL(OT)
Philadelphia 2
Washington 5 FINAL
Columbus 3
Buffalo 0 FINAL
Tampa Bay 3
Toronto 3 3rd Prd 1:11
Florida 2
Ottawa 2 3rd Prd 5:39
Minnesota 2
NY Islanders 1 3rd Prd
Dallas 0
Anaheim 2 2nd Prd 8:21
Arizona 1
Los Angeles 2 1st Prd :59
Edmonton 0
San Jose 3 1st Prd 11:57
Vancouver 0
Ole Miss 82 FINAL
Alabama 74
Eastern Mich 67 FINAL
Ball State 60
Kent State 81 FINAL
Bowling Green 80
Ohio 66 FINAL
Buffalo 93
Georgetown 60 FINAL
Butler 54
Toledo 77 FINAL
Central Mich 85
Rhode Island 59 FINAL
Dayton 75
Youngstown St 67 FINAL
Detroit 77
North Carolina 81 FINAL
Georgia Tech 49
Loyola-Maryland 45 FINAL
Holy Cross 62
Iowa 77 FINAL
Indiana 63
Akron 63 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 70
Army 52 FINAL
Navy 56
Maryland 60 FINAL
Rutgers 50
Kennesaw St 54 FINAL
USC Upstate 90
Jacksonville 63 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 81
Lipscomb 76 FINAL
Northern Ky 73
Stetson 67 FINAL
North Florida 81
Wright State 57 FINAL
Ill-Chicago 60
Western Mich 63 FINAL
Northern Ill 65
Nebraska Omaha 80 FINAL
North Dakota 78
Houston Baptist 71 FINAL
Abilene Christian 83
NC State 34 2nd Half 12:48
Clemson 33
Texas A&M 29 2nd Half 14:29
Florida 30
Kentucky 35 2nd Half 18:28
Georgia 35
West Virginia 42 2nd Half 17:00
Kansas 30
Auburn 44 2nd Half 11:43
Missouri 41
Michigan 44 2nd Half 10:08
Northwestern 41
Villanova 29 2nd Half
Creighton 30
Longwood 55 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 63
Charleston Southern 39 FINAL
Presbyterian 47
Coastal Carolina 54 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 68
UMass Lowell 60
West Virginia 55 FINAL
Kansas State 59
Texas 79
Fresno State 53 2nd Half 11:47
Air Force 32
San Jose St 43 2nd Half 10:00
Boise State 72
Nevada 43 2nd Half 8:47
Colorado State 48
UNLV 31 2nd Half 12:54
San Diego State 41
Wyoming 48 2nd Half 7:20
Utah State 47
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Who is the best center on a Twin Cities sports team?

Weekly Question