Nine recruits have decommitted from the Gophers since Jerry Kill retired in late October, but new coach Tracy Claeys has added several key commitments, too.
Less than three weeks from national signing day, Claeys’ staff is pushing for a strong finish with 18 players committed and a goal of filling up to 10 more spots.
“For people feeling a little unrest over some of these decommitments, keep in mind, this would still be the best class the Gophers have had since Jerry Kill and Tracy Claeys got there,” said Ryan Burns, who runs GopherDigest.com, a division of Scout.com.
As of Wednesday, the Gophers were at No. 42 in the Rivals.com national recruiting rankings, No. 41 on Scout.com and No. 40 in the 247Sports.com composite rankings.
But three defensive backs decommitted from the Gophers last weekend. And Dredrick Snelson, a four-star wide receiver from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who committed to Minnesota in August, is widely expected to flip to Miami (Fla.) or Maryland.
Jay Johnson, the Gophers’ new offensive coordinator, and wide receivers coach Brian Anderson, plan to visit Snelson on Thursday, as soon as college football’s one-month recruiting dead period ends.
“I don’t think Dredrick Snelson signs with Minnesota come signing day [Feb. 3],” Burns said. “But the staff’s going to give him their best shot.”
Snelson is friends with Elijah and Elisha Daniels, twin brothers from a rival Fort Lauderdale high school. The twins had committed to play defensive back for the Gophers before decommitting Saturday. Burns thinks the Daniels brothers will end up at Maryland. They are scheduled to visit College Park, Md., along with Snelson, on Jan. 22.
The other defensive back to reopen his recruitment last weekend was Elijah Battle, who had flipped his commitment from West Virginia to Minnesota last month. Battle couldn’t graduate from Dodge City (Kan.) Community College in time to transfer to Minnesota this month, so the Gophers needed to move on.
Recruiting turnover is common when there’s a coaching change. Claeys was a longtime defensive coordinator under Kill and kept most of his staff, but the equation still has changed for recruits — as well as the staff.
At quarterback, for example, Kill had a commitment from Tony Poljan, a 6-6, 230-pounder from East Lansing, Mich., whom other schools such as Nebraska have recruited to play tight end. Claeys is looking for more mobility from his quarterbacks, so the Gophers and Poljan mutually parted ways.
The Gophers have since landed Seth Green, the former East Ridge quarterback who originally committed to Oregon before falling into Minnesota’s lap. Green is one of the headliners of the recruiting class now, along with Eden Prairie linebacker Carter Coughlin.
“At defensive back, they’re still sitting very well, even without the Daniels brothers,” Burns said.
From this class, Burns said Coney Durr, from Geismar, La., is a “bigger, more explosive version” of outgoing senior cornerback Briean-Boddy-Calhoun. Burns also said Kiondre Thomas, from Fort Smith, Ark., could be the next Eric Murray. Then there’s Antoine Winfield, the son of the former Vikings cornerback, who was timed running the 40-yard dash in 4.27 seconds last June at an Ohio State camp.
The Gophers would love to keep Snelson, but Burns thinks they still have good wide receiver talent in this class from three in-state recruits: Robbinsdale Cooper’s Phillip Howard, Marshall’s Drew Hmielewski and Minneapolis North’s Tyler Johnson.
As for what’s next, the Gophers are expected to make a strong push for Forest Lake offensive lineman Patrick Kasl, who is committed to Wisconsin. After all, it’s not just recruiting season, it’s flipping season.