Gophers

Prep Blog: National Signing Day Big For Gophers

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Jeff Wald Jeff Wald
Jeff Wald started as a Web Producer at WCCO-TV in April of 2011....
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – High school football will be in the spotlight Wednesday as it’s National Signing Day for college recruits all across the nation.

Prep recruits can make their verbal commitments official when they sign their letter of intent to attend college and play on scholarship. In the past, it hasn’t been a big day for Gopher fans to celebrate. Not even Tim Brewster, a known recruiter, had huge success recruiting for the Minnesota program even with a brand new stadium.

Jerry Kill has been around for a little more than a year, and he’s already got that trend changing. Out of the top 11 seniors in the 2012 recruiting class, nine are headed to play for the Gophers. As many as 28 players could sign letters of intent Wednesday between incoming freshman and junior college transfers.

Kill got verbal commitments fairly early in his tenure from Jonah Pirsig of Blue Earth and Isaac Hayes of St. Thomas Academy, two standout offensive linemen.

Phillip Nelson, arguably the top quarterback in the state, is expected to sign with the Gophers on Wednesday. But his biggest prize yet came last Thursday, when Hopkins star receiver Andre McDonald announced he was coming to the Gophers to play football. McDonald originally committed to Minnesota, then de-committed and said he was headed for Vanderbilt, but that changed when a receivers coach there took a job in Illinois.

Right now, the only locks in the class are Nelson, Pirsig and Hayes as all are currently enrolled in the spring semester at Minnesota and will be at spring football camp.

Among the other top local recruits that are expected to sign with the Gophers on Wednesday are Lakeville South quarterback Mitch Leidner, Blaine’s Duke Anyanwu, Waconia’s Max Williams, Edina’s Nick Rallis and Wayzata’s Ben Leuer.

Recruiting services have ranked Minnesota’s 2012 class 12th in the conference. While that sounds disappointing, we must remember that Kill said his rebuilding project won’t be finished overnight, it’s a four to five-year plan. Kill will also land some junior college transfers to fill voids where younger players aren’t immediately ready.

The bottom line is that several of Minnesota’s top high school seniors had plenty of opportunity to play for other schools, but chose to stay home. Kill has delivered what Brewster could not: A sense of stability and honesty. That goes a long way for an athlete when it comes to their college decision.

In his introductory news conference as the Gopher football coach, Kill said he needs to close the state borders and win the local recruiting battle. I’d say 10 out of the 12 best in the state isn’t a bad start. Now we just need to practice patience, something that Gopher fans have been doing for far too many years.

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