MINNEAPOLIS — Last year, Gophers football coach Jerry Kill was able to keep some of the state’s best recruits in Minnesota. His 2012 recruiting class included 10 in-state players.
This year, the Gophers’ 2013 class has just one Minnesotan. But according to Allen Trieu of Scout.com, that’s not necessarily an indictment on Kill and his staff, but rather an indication that the state’s talent pool in this year’s class is down compared to previous years.
“I’d say in general, the state probably didn’t have as many BCS level guys as they did last year, and the top couple ended up going elsewhere,” said Trieu, a Midwest recruiting analyst for Scout.com. “But there just weren’t as many guys in the state this year that I think stayed into that Big Ten/BCS level category as they had the year before.”
The lone Minnesotan committed to the Gophers’ 16-player class this year is Chris Wipson, an outside linebacker from Wayzata High School. Scout.com gives the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Wipson a three-star rating and has him ranked as the fifth-best recruit from the state of Minnesota.
Wide receiver James Onwualu from Cretin-Derham Hall was the top-ranked recruit in Minnesota this year. He committed to Notre Dame. Eden Prairie linebacker Jack Cottrell will play for Boston College, safety Malik Rucker from Robbinsdale Cooper High School is committed to Iowa and cornerback Keelon Brookins of Tartan High School will cross the state border to play for Wisconsin.
Last year, the Gophers landed seven of the top nine recruits in Minnesota, including the No. 2 recruit in offensive lineman Jonah Pirsig and the state’s top quarterback in Philip Nelson. Yet while the Gophers didn’t have as much success recruiting in-state kids this year, Trieu says Minnesota’s 2013 class is just as strong, if not stronger, than last year’s.
“I think they’re still mostly recruiting the same kinds of kids. I think looking at his last two classes, they’ve had some good ones,” Trieu said. “I actually think this one might be (Kill’s) best one, although last year’s was pretty good. I think he has a little bit of a difficult job recruiting at Minnesota, but I think they’ve done a great job so far.”
Minnesota’s 2013 class includes seven players rated as three-star recruits by Scout.com. Among them is Berkley Edwards, a running back from Chelsea, Mich. His older brother is New York Jets wide receiver Braylon Edwards, who starred at the University of Michigan. Edwards had offers from several other schools, including Iowa and California, but chose the Gophers.
“He comes from a background where his dad played in the NFL, his brother plays in the NFL,” Trieu said of the 5-foot-9, 185-pound Edwards. “He kind of knows what it takes, hard-working kid, track kid, weight room kid. I don’t know if he’s got a shot to play right away, but I certainly think that’s a kid that will contribute down the line.”
Trieu also likes Alex Mayes, an offensive lineman from Texas who was the most recent commitment to the 2013 class, and Owen Salzwedel, a three-star defensive end from Beaver Dam, Wis. Trieu also mentioned the name of Nate Wozniak, a 6-foot-9, 250-pound tight end from Indiana, as a player to watch.
“He had an offer from the Miami Hurricanes; he had an offer from Purdue,” Trieu said of Wozniak. “For them to get that kid late, 6-foot-9, plays tight end, might turn into an offensive tackle, so definitely some size there.”
The Gophers had five quarterbacks on the roster this year but will be losing two next season — senior MarQueis Gray to graduation and sophomore Max Shortell, who will transfer. Minnesota added one quarterback in this year’s recruiting class in Chris Streveler, a two-star recruit from Woodstock, Ill. He’ll join Philip Nelson, Mitch Leidner and Dexter Foreman as the fourth quarterback on the roster.
In all, Minnesota added seven offensive players, eight defensive players and one kicker. Scout.com has Minnesota’s recruiting class ranked No. 82 overall and last in the Big Ten. The Gophers are one of just three Big Ten teams to not land a four-star recruit, along with Iowa and Purdue. Kill’s recruiting class last year was ranked 67th overall and 11th out of 12 teams in the Big Ten.
“In all honesty, rankings wise I think they’re going to finish towards the bottom of the Big Ten rankings,” Trieu said. “But I think there’s a bunch of teams that are clustered in the middle where the classes anywhere from six to 12 are pretty close. Depending on how a couple of these guys who are considered more of the sleeper type turn out, that could really push the class one way or another. The true value of a class isn’t really found out until two to three or four years in the future.”