MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – When Jerry Kill was hired as the University of Minnesota football coach, he said one of his early goals was to close the borders on in-state recruits.

He got that ball rolling early in his tenure as Mankato West quarterback Phillip Nelson, arguably the top quarterback in the state, committed to play football for Kill at Minnesota. He’s already graduated high school and enrolled in his first semester at Minnesota.

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Landing Nelson was a great start, but Kill landed his biggest recruit yet on Thursday.

Andre McDonald, a star wide receiver at Hopkins, announced Thursday night that he will attend Minnesota and play football for the Gophers. McDonald has been touted as the top recruit in this year’s class and has been the best receiver in the state for some time.

McDonald originally committed to Minnesota, then de-committed to reconsider his options. He eventually gave a verbal commitment to Vanderbilt, but then went back on that after a coach there left the program for a job at Illinois.

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The most recent reports before Thursday indicated that he wouldn’t finalize his decision until Feb. 1, which is National Signing Day for Division I football recruits. He’s playing in the International Bowl that day, so he announced the decision early.

Nothing is official until he signs his letter of intent on Wednesday, but this is a great sign in Kill’s early time with the Gophers.

McDonald scored 17 receiving touchdowns and had more than 1,500 yards receiving in his senior year at Hopkins. He led the state in both categories.

In looking at the Gophers depth chart at wide receiver, McDonald has a chance to make an impact right away as a freshman. DaJon McKnight, who led the team in receiving this year, is gone to graduation. Returning is a combination of players who can make plays, including Brandon Green, Malcolm Moulton, Marcus Jones and Devin Crawford-Tufts, but nobody who has emerged as a leader of the receiving corps.

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McDonald’s commitment isn’t about one great player coming to play at Minnesota. It’s about a much larger picture for Kill in getting the Gophers back to respectability in the Big 10 and keeping the best players in Minnesota from leaving the state. Landing McDonald is a great start.