The Gophers kept Louisiana cornerback Coney Durr, but lost Florida receiver Dredrick Snelson over the noon hour Wednesday, completing the suspense that hung into national signing day.
Tracy Claeys’ first recruiting class as Gophers head coach includes 20 players, filling most of the team’s stated goals.
Nineteen players signed Wednesday morning, including two who hadn’t announced they were committed to Minnesota until signing day – quarterback DeMarcus Williams (from Jackson, Al.) and defensive end TaMarion Johnson (Southfield, Mich.).
Williams gave the Gophers a second dual-threat quarterback in this class to go with Seth Green. Johnson gave them a third defensive lineman to with Merrick Jackson (Iowa Western Community College) and defensive end Taiyon Devers (Georgia Prep Sports Academy). Johnson, a consensus three-star recruit, also had offers from Purdue and Iowa State.
The Gophers had an outside chance to land Arkeem Byrd, a three-star running back from Savannah, Ga., but he chose Wake Forest. The same applied to Daniel Thomas, a three-star safety from Montgomery, Al., who wound up picking Auburn.
The rest of the morning went as hoped for the Gophers, as the officials signings came in this order: Conner Olson, Antoine Winfield Jr., Carter Coughlin, Phillip Howard, Kamal Martin, Drew Hmielewski, Ko Kieft, Thomas Barber, DeMarcus Williams, Vincent Calhoun, Kiondre Thomas, Sam Schlueter, Tyler Johnson, Kobe McCrary, Tai'yon Devers, Seth Green, Merrick Jackson, Garrison Wright and TaMarion Johnson.
The noon hour offered a true glimpse of 2016 recruiting for Gophers fans, as the signing ceremonies for Snelson and Durr were both aired live on Periscope.
Snelson had committed to the Gophers in August. In a recent interview with Rivals.com, he said, “This is for my Gopher fans -- don’t ever question my loyalty to them.”
But the receiver from Flanagan High School in Pembroke Pines, Fla., had three hats on the table – and none of them were from Minnesota. The hats were from Central Florida, Maryland and Penn State. He wound up picking Central Florida.
UCF went 0-12 last season but recently hired former Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost as head coach. Snelson is rated as a four-star receiver by Rivals and ESPN, and a three-star by Scout and 247Sports. Without him, the Gophers still have tried to bolster their roster with three in-state recruits: Phillip Howard (Robbinsdale Cooper), Drew Hmielewski (Marshall) and Tyler Johnson (Minneapolis North).
Moments after Snelson made his decision, Durr made his decision at Dutchtown High School in Geismar, La. The consensus three-star recruit had committed to the Gophers in December but visited North Carolina two weekends ago and Virginia Tech last weekend.
His decision came down to Minnesota and Virginia Tech. Durr wound up choosing the Gophers.
Durr is viewed as a potential replacement for departing senior cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun. And Thomas, from (Fort Smith, Ark.) is viewed as a replacement for the team’s other starting cornerback, Eric Murray.
Throw in Winfield, and the Gophers have to like their haul at cornerback. This class has no apparent safeties, but the 6-2, 180-pound Tyler Johnson is a candidate to play there if things don't work out at wide receiver.
Another key need for the Gophers was along the offensive line. They addressed that long-term with Schlueter and Olson. And two players who could step in immediately as starting guards are Garrison Wright and Vincent Calhoun.
Claeys has a press conference scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Meanwhile, here is a link to the full Gophers class.