If you’re like me, you follow Gopher recruiting news closely enough to have a general idea of how well things are going overall. You know the names of the top recruits, but some of the other names you’ll wait until signing day to learn more about. And you don’t tweet at recruits.
But for you, the most important thing is this: will the talent level on the field be increased by this recruiting class?
MV is clearly the charts and graphs guy around here, and you should absolutely go back and read yesterday's piece: PJ Fleck's 2018 Recruiting Class is Minnesota's Best
But today, I’d like to give you three bullet points, that you, casual Gopher fan who doesn’t tweet at recruits, can use in daily conversation to show those around you that you know just enough to be dangerous when it comes to Golden Gopher recruiting.
**Important Note: These comments are valid as of Tuesday evening, December 19, 2017. Things could still change before the ink is on the Letters of Intent, but as of now, I hold these truths to be self-evident, or sumsuch.
#1: Recruiting Absolutely Matters
In October our friend Frothy wrote a piece
on this very website (which is still FREE) that “highlighted” the top 25 Gopher recruits since the beginning of the internet recruiting era. I’m not going to reinvent it here, but you should look at the list. It's an amazing read if for nothing other than the "Holy crap, I remember that name! What happened to that guy... OMG..." moments.
Last month the Ghost of MV produced some #content
. As shocking as the news was that a ghost could produce material of such quality, what was not shocking was the conclusion of the article: the Gophers lose more than they win against teams who have a better base of talent.
I'll be honest, I didn't realize our dearth of talent in recruiting was so sustained. Yes, Jerry Kill and his staff did a very good job of bringing kids in and coaching them above their star ranking, but at the nd of the day, lack of talent loses.
The numbers prove that teams with better talent, from a recruiting rankings standpoint, beat the Gophers more often than not. The real upshot here is that recruiting absolutely matters, and that is why what PJ Fleck and his staff have done with this class is so important.
Increasing the level of the talent pool at Minnesota is how the Gophers are going to get better.
#2: This Class Moves the Needle
If you take another look at Frothy’s top 25 recruits in the internet recruiting era again, you’ll see that it is littered with 2008 & 2009 recruits. These happened to be Brewster’s first years of full recruiting and 14 of the players on the pre-2018 top 25 list are from those classes.
This is where I remind you that Brewster's prowess as a recruiter was absolutely never in question. Tim Brewster was, and continues to be, one of the top recruiters in the nation. This point is not up for discussion. Joel Maturi was right that Minnesota needed a coach that could increase our recruiting profile, what he forgot is that someone has to coach those kids once they are on campus.
Of the 14 players in those two classes, I’d argue that only five contributed in any meaningful way: Traye Simmons, Keanon Cooper, MarQueis Gray, Ra'Shede Hageman & Michael Carter. Carter is maybe a stretch since he only had one real season on the field, but the fact that we have to stretch to find a fifth player who contributed out of 14 recruits is telling.
This is where I remind you that Tim Brewster was not a good Head Football Coach.
If you reshuffle the deck to include the current verbal commitments to the 2018 Gopher football recruiting class, four recruits would join the top 25: Curtis Dunlap (#6), Rashod Bateman (#17), Daniel Faalele (#20), and Victor Viramontes (#23).
Adding these players to the list pushes the previous bottom four off the list, including three 2009 recruits (Kerry Lewis, Bryant Allen, Hassan Limpscomb), leaving four recruits from that class in the Top 25.
The top 3 classes, ranked by total Top 25 Gopher recruits, after reshuffling to include the 2018 class, in the internet recruiting age are:
1. 2008 - 7 recruits
2. tie: 2009 - 4 recruits
2018 - 4 recruits
I think it's fair to say that 2008 was an outlier from a recruiting standpoint, and as we know much of that class, along with the 2009 class, didn't pan out (as you'll hear more about below) and thus didn't move the needle for the program.
We know the reason for this is because while the recruiting ability was there for Brewster and his staff, the coaching and teaching part was not.
The difference with PJ Fleck's staff is two-fold. #1: They can coach, they have a plan, and they have a path to execute that plan. #2: PJ Fleck has done this before and he's done it with greater obstacles that he has at Minnesota.
(Editor's Note: Special thanks to Mr Frothy Gopher who helped me round out this piece by writing the following...)
#3: Pump Ya Fist Today, but Watch for Attrition
Top to bottom, this is the best recruiting class in the modern era; but we could have said the same thing in 2008 and 2009. The dagger in those years was attrition. Guys either never showed up to campus or left after a year or two because they never saw the field.
I mean, Clint Brewster is in our top ten recruits ever, and the most offense he's generated is through inflating the rankings of every Michigan commitment over at 247.
It's easy to be happy about this class, but check in on who's on the roster when conference play starts next year. The prevailing trope is that Minnesota's only shot at landing high-end players is by taking dudes with marginal academics or, uh, social skills. Thus, the risk of spectacularly flaming out is pretty high.
It feels like Fleck's class is pretty solid in that regard: a lot of high-character guys who will be coaches on the field and in life. But retaining the top-end talent from the 2017 and 2018 classes will largely dictate whether #2019itty.