NCF On The Trail: Minnesota Golden Gophers

Best of the visits: Big Ten

January, 18, 2015
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We are in the final contact period before signing day, which means official visits are upon us. This weekend was an important one for the Big Ten, as plenty of top targets were on campuses. The visiting prospects took to Twitter and social media to document their trips.

Here is a look at the visits from the eyes of the recruits:

It wouldn’t be a visit weekend without cookie cakes, so to kick this post off properly, Northwestern commit Simba Short shared his cookie cake spread while on his visit to see the Wildcats.


Cookie cakes are the way to any recruit’s commitment.

Michigan State doesn’t have much to fill in the 2015 class, but linebacker Anthony McKee is one prospect the coaches would still like to land. McKee took a visit to see the Spartans this weekend and is slated to make it out to Wisconsin and Minnesota as well.


Maryland only had a few official visitors on campus in commit Adam McLean and Oseh Saine, who committed on his visit this weekend.


Offensive lineman Quarvez Boulware also committed to Maryland this weekend, but he came up on an unofficial visit.

McLean took to Twitter to show off the entertainment side of his visit at a restaurant.


While the Terps gained the most from their visit weekend, there is no denying Michigan had the biggest prospects on campus.

The Wolverines hosted ESPN 300 prospects Roquan Smith and Chris Clark as well as South Carolina commit Damon Arnette and defensive end Shelton Johnson.

Smith is the No. 29-ranked prospect in the country and became immediately interested when Michigan hired defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin. The Wolverines vaulted into his top list, and Smith set up this visit to see what Michigan has to offer.


Smith will decide on signing day, and as of right now Michigan will be on his short list for that decision.

The Wolverines are also on the short list for Clark, who was committed at one point. He has UCLA and Michigan in his top two and still has a visit to see the Bruins next weekend before deciding.


The two uncommitted prospects were joined on the visit by a few Michigan commitments, including safety Tyree Kinnel.


The visit was just as important for Kinnel as the uncommitted prospects because Kinnel got a chance to help recruit, but he also got the opportunity to build a relationship with the new coaching staff in person.

Penn State’s big visit weekend won’t be until next weekend, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t an exciting weekend for the Nittany Lions. Coach James Franklin posed with Flavor Flav at Penn State's basketball game. Flav later tweeted he has a cousin on Penn State’s basketball team.


Illinois had a good opportunity to get a few 2016 prospects on campus as it waits for a few big 2015 visitors next weekend. Offensive lineman Nik Urban made the trip and tweeted he was too small for his car, a problem most offensive linemen likely have.


Iowa also hosted a 2016 target in running back Toren Young, who took to Twitter to express his feelings on the visit.


Minnesota still has a few big 2015 targets left in this class, and one was on campus this weekend in defensive tackle Jamal Milan. Milan still has a visit to Illinois on Jan. 23 and will make his decision on signing day between the Gophers, Illinois, Indiana and Iowa State.

==To The Airport  for my official visit= at the University of Minnesota ==(=

A photo posted by @bigmanmal on

Top early enrollees: Big Ten 

January, 14, 2015
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The Big Ten has quite a few prospects enrolling in January, which means there is potential for those prospects to get a head start on their college careers. With every team looking to fill holes and add depth, here is a look at the five most important early enrollees within the conference.

Minnesota was one game away from playing in the Big Ten championship game but couldn't get past Wisconsin for a berth in the game. The Gophers had an excellent season at 8-4, though, and are looking to build on that success in the near future.


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Midyear additions:  Minnesota

December, 18, 2014
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Minnesota has signed one junior college player to a national letter of intent and three high school recruits to financial aid agreements, according to the program's official site GopherSports.com. The additions include:

Jacob Huff, S
HT: 5-10 WT: 205
Positional Rank: #59 S
Stars: 3

Julian Huff, ILB
HT: 5-11 WT: 220
Positional Rank: #36 ILB
Stars: 3

Tyler Moore, OG
HT: 6-5 WT: 336
Positional Rank: #56 OG
Stars: 3

Charlie Rogers, S
HT: 6-1 WT: 205
Positional Rank: #7 S (JC)
Stars: 3

Top sleeper commits: Big Ten 

December, 17, 2014
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Five-star and ESPN 300 prospects create the most buzz, but with more than a hundred FBS programs competing for talent it takes more than just those top-rated prospects to have success. Rosters are built largely with prospects who enter college with little fanfare, but their development and contributions are key. Every year we see prospects who flew under the radar but developed into some of their conference's top players.

Throughout our evaluations we come across many players who show promise and are great additions based on their upside for development and/or scheme fit.

Here are five commitments in the Big Ten who we feel are unheralded but additions worth keeping an eye on:


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Early Offer: Hokies score super sleeper 

December, 16, 2014
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Once again, Frank Beamer has landed an under-recruited prospect with “unlimited potential.” Plus, how much progress has been made by the committee looking into whether or not there should be an early-signing period?


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Big Ten bowls have recruiting implications 

December, 9, 2014
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Whether it's the extra practice or the extra exposure, it's always a positive for a team to get a bowl bid. The Big Ten has 10 teams playing in bowl games this season, and beyond the obvious, there are some recruiting implications for a few of the teams within the conference.

Here is a look at what teams might benefit from the bowl game they will play in and why they could see a positive impact on the recruiting trail.


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ESPN Jr. 300: What to know in the Big Ten 

November, 19, 2014
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The ESPN Jr. 300 has been updated with new rankings, and there are a ton of Big Ten commits and targets on the list. To help break down the movement and implications, here is all you need to know about the top list and the Big Ten conference.


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Best of the visits: Big Ten

November, 16, 2014
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In one of the coldest games of the season, Ohio State and Minnesota squared off in a back and forth match that ended with a Buckeyes win. The snow and cold might have impacted the play on the field, but it didn’t stop Minnesotans from enjoying the day.

The weather also didn’t keep the prospects from visiting as there were quite a few recruits in attendance.

He wasn’t visiting as a Minnesota target, but Ohio State five-star commit Jashon Cornell decided to attend the game to watch his future team in Ohio State. The Minnesota native didn’t have too far of a drive, but it takes some dedication to sit in that weather.
The Gophers did have some of their own targets on campus, too, including offensive lineman Tyler Moore. There is no confirmation if his mother's name is Mary, but there is confirming that Tyler enjoyed his trip. The Gophers weren't the only team to deal with bad weather as Wisconsin also had snow and frigid temperatures. While it was an excellent game to watch, Florida native Andre Smith made it very apparent he was aware of how cold it was. Offensive line commit David Moorman was also at the game and got the chance to do a little recruiting. Moorman spent some time ESPN 300 offensive lineman Jalen Merrick, who is also from Florida. Penn State wasn't hosting a marquee opponent in Temple, but it didn't stop some of the bigger prospects from coming out to the game. ESPN Jr. 300 wide receiver Brad Hawkins came out for the match and tweeted a picture from his seats. Hawkins is one of the bigger receiver targets along the East Coast, ranked No. 239 in the ESPN Jr. 300, so he will be a focus for the Nittany Lions in the future.

Since the East Coast and surrounding areas are so important to Penn State, it was a huge visit with ESPN Jr. 300 defensive back Eric Burrell out of Maryland. Burrell is ranked No. 80 in the 2016 class and was also on campus with 2017 offensive lineman Jordan McNair.

Maryland ended up losing its game to Michigan State, but once again it was a good game to have recruits on campus for. Some of the prospects in surrounding areas, including ESPN Jr. 300 tight end Naseir Upshur took a visit this weekend. The Terps also had some official visitors, including defensive lineman Wesley Annan.

Because of its location, Maryland has some unique selling poins for recruits, some of which Annan was able to check out for himself. Annan got to check out the Lincoln Memorial since it's so close to campus. There aren't many other schools that can boast that type of experience for recruits.

Big Ten recruiting more mobile quarterbacks 

November, 14, 2014
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Long gone are the days where the Big Ten is filled with statuesque quarterbacks and signal-callers with no mobility. The conference has shifted to follow national trends utilizing more athletic quarterbacks within the offense.

Of the 16 prospects committed to Big Ten teams with the potential to play quarterback, 11 consider themselves passers first who can make plays with the run.

That attribute has become very valuable to coaches across the board including within the conference.


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Big Ten's top recruiting visits 

November, 14, 2014
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A lot of the big visit weekends have come and gone for Big Ten teams, but there are still a few important weekends left. With a few big games, including Ohio State facing off against Minnesota and Nebraska taking on Wisconsin, there are still some big visiting prospects to talk about.

Nebraska vs. Wisconsin:

The Badgers are hosting the Cornhuskers in this matchup of two top-25 teams on Saturday. The Badgers will have a few commitments on hand in David Moorman, Andrew James and Brandyn Lee among others.

The commits will have the opportunity to help recruit a few of the visiting targets including teammates Andre Smith and Chris Barr.

Offensive lineman Jalen Merrick and cornerback T.J. Griffin will also be in attendance for the big game.

This is a good situation for Wisconsin as it should be an exciting game and atmosphere for the prospects, but the visitor list is small enough that the coaches can give a lot of personal attention to the uncommitted targets.


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Best of the visits: Big Ten

November, 9, 2014
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Michigan State had a marquee home game against Ohio State on Saturday, and that brought in a ton of visiting prospects.

One of the more sought-after recruits was ESPN 300 linebacker Ricky DeBerry, who was on his official visit for the big game. DeBerry was also with current Michigan State commit Felton Davis, another Virginia prospect.


Since this was such a big game featuring these two schools, it was only natural that a few Ohio prospects made their way to the game. That included 2016 defensive back Tyrece Speaight, who spent some extra time on campus.


The game brought in prospects from all over the country, but since the state of Michigan is so important to the Spartans, it was also a big opportunity to impress the in-state prospects. Cass Tech offensive lineman Michael Onwenu tweeted a picture from his seat during the game, giving a good glimpse of the view.


Another big in-state offensive lineman, Michael Jordan, was in attendance for the game.


Jordan has an offer from both Michigan State and Ohio State, so it gave him an opportunity to check out both programs. The Spartans didn’t win the game, but the atmosphere and excitement definitely made an impression on all the prospects on hand.

Minnesota has been on a roll this season, and the Gophers had an exciting game themselves Saturday against Iowa, winning 51-14.

The Gophers won the Floyd of Rosedale rivalry trophy and gave a few visiting prospects the opportunity to pose with the infamous pig.


Minnesota commit James Johannesson also got in on the action after the game, capturing a photo with a few of the current players in the locker room.


Northwestern faced off against Michigan Saturday and had some important prospects on hand as well.

One of the hottest prospects in the Midwest for the 2016 class is defensive end Khalid Kareem out of Michigan. Northwestern was Kareem’s first offer and he has since blown up with what seems like daily offers.

Kareem had already taken one trip to see the Wildcats and took another trip to see the team play the Wolverines.


Northwestern hosted a few other visitors for the game, including receiver Elijah Ball, who took a scenic shot of the stadium during the game.

Kansas State and TCU battle in one of the biggest games of the weekend, and Horned Frog coach Gary Patterson said both teams have been built off a comparable recruiting philosophy. Could landing ESPN 300 Junior recruit Jovanny Garcia start a trend for Minnesota?


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Jerry Kill rebuilding Minnesota his way 

October, 31, 2014
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Jerry KillTrevor Ruszkowski/USA TODAY SportsJerry Kill has been patient when recruiting -- waiting for the right type of players as he rebuilt the Gophers.
Minnesota coach Jerry Kill has taken over three football programs since 2001 and has brought all three to see winning records by his third season. That stat is why Kill has people talking about his ability to resurrect programs and rebuild teams in a short period of time.

At Southern and Northern Illinois and now Minnesota, none of the three schools had more than three wins the season prior to his hiring, yet Kill has still managed to turn each around.

Kill says there isn't a secret formula to his success, but that he and his staff follow a pretty similar process no matter where they are. A big part of that process is recruiting and evaluating the right prospects.

"I think the big thing is we recruit to what we need and what we believe in. We want length and speed period," he said. "We always feel like we can build them up in the weight room, but if they can't run then we don't want them. We want people that are going to work and we do a lot of background checks."


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With a few weeks of senior film to evaluate, ESPN’s scouts have updated the ESPN 300. We are around the midpoint of the season as well, so teams are looking to finish off their classes and fill any remaining needs.

There is plenty to discuss at this point in the Big Ten. Here are five things to know within the conference:


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