NCF On The Trail: Minnesota Golden Gophers

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

November, 19, 2014
Nov 19
10:38
AM ET
video
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.

Best of the visits: Big Ten

November, 16, 2014
Nov 16
11:02
AM ET
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.
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.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Big Ten's top recruiting visits 

November, 14, 2014
Nov 14
9:00
AM ET
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.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Best of the visits: Big Ten

November, 9, 2014
Nov 9
11:42
AM ET
video
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?


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Jerry Kill rebuilding Minnesota his way 

October, 31, 2014
Oct 31
10:00
AM ET
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."


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

video
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:


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Best of the visits: Big Ten

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
9:47
AM ET
Minnesota and Purdue ended up stealing the show over the weekend within the Big Ten. The two programs went back and forth with touchdowns, interceptions and exciting plays.

The Gophers were the home team and pulled out the victory in front of a few important visitors on Saturday.

Athlete Alex Barnes is still on the board and made his way to campus for the game. He chose a good game to visit for as the atmosphere and weather were both great.
Barnes could either be a running back or end up on defense, so his versatility would be useful at Minnesota. The Gophers also had a big defensive lineman in attendance with 2015 defensive end Anree Saint-Amour. Northwestern had a big game at home as well, hosting Nebraska. While the Wildcats got off to a good start, the second half was a different story in the loss to the Huskers.

It was still an exciting atmosphere and a good game for prospects to see the program up close.

The coaches made an offer before the game with 2016 defensive end Khalid Kareem, who traveled from Michigan for the visit. The biggest game of the weekend, though, was probably Ohio State and Rutgers. The Buckeyes were the home team and as usual, they had a ton of big recruiting targets on campus.

The coaches secured a commitment from 2016 tight end Kierre Hawkins and had the opportunity to impress a few other potential commits as well.

One of the bigger 2015 prospects on hand was offensive lineman Josh Wariboko, a former Oklahoma commit, who took an official visit to Ohio State on Saturday. Wariboko put an X in place of the letter M in his tweet, following suit with the Ohio State coaches as a shot at rival Michigan.

The Buckeyes got a double-dip visit with brothers Daniel and Josh Imatorbhebhe on Saturday as well. Daniel is a 2015 tight end while Josh is an ESPN Jr. 300 wide receiver, ranked No. 162 overall in the 2016 class. Getting both prospects on campus at once was a bonus for the Buckeyes and Josh will be a big target for the next class.

Big Ten's top recruiting visits 

October, 17, 2014
Oct 17
9:00
AM ET
Ohio State faces off against Rutgers this weekend, and the Buckeyes are going to be hosting some big-name prospects as well. A few other Big Ten teams will have important visitors on campus, but none bigger than Ohio State’s list.

Rutgers at Ohio State


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

The DMV (D.C./Maryland/Virginia) has developed into one of the most competitive areas in the country, so what recruiters do the best job in Washington D.C.? Plus, can Minnesota keep one of the top juniors in the country at home?


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten 

October, 14, 2014
Oct 14
10:00
AM ET
There weren't too many big games within the Big Ten this past weekend, but that doesn't mean there wasn't any recruiting news. Offers were extended, commitments were made and decommitments were contemplated.

We take a look at the week that was and what could happen in the future within the conference.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

video
Ole Miss, Tennessee, Texas and Texas A&M are trying, but it’s going to take a lot to get Penn State defensive tackle commit Adam McLean to change his mind. Plus, James Franklin's ability to spread the Penn State brand in Washington, D.C., was on full display Monday afternoon.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Early Offer: Could LSU lose RB pledge? 

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
11:00
PM ET
video

Should LSU fans be worried that Tigers running back commit Nick Brossette plans to take official visits to other schools, and South Carolina's defense is about to get even better thanks to JUCO linebacker Davon Durant?


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Unlike the ACC or SEC, the Big Ten hasn't taken an official position on an early signing period. Many Big Ten coaches see the benefits, but there has been no united front.

Here's a bit of advice: The Big Ten coaches should band together about an urgent recruiting item, but not the early signing period.

The Big Ten must campaign for official visits to be moved up. No other league is affected more by population shifts that have created dense pockets of top recruits located far from its footprint. The Big Ten is expanding its recruiting reach, especially to the Southeast, but its proximity to many talent bases remains a significant obstacle.

If the Big Ten can't get prospects to its campuses before decisions are made, it will continue to fall behind in the recruiting race.

[+] EnlargeBo Pelini
AP Photo/Nati HarnikEarlier official visits would be a boon to Bo Pelini and Nebraska, as the Cornhuskers have to recruit nationally because of a limited local talent base.
"The first thing we have to do is get kids on campus earlier," Michigan coach Brady Hoke told ESPN.com. "I'm sure our friends in the Pac-12 and the SEC would rather not that be the case. They'd rather have kids come in to Ann Arbor if it's winter.

"But I think it would help the guys from distance and the guys from those climates to come on campus to see what it is like."

NCAA rules state that prospects can't begin taking their five official visits -- paid for by the schools -- until the start of their senior year in high school. But many recruits make their college choices much earlier.

The accelerated recruiting cycle has minimized the significance of official visits. Many prospects commit after taking unofficial visits, for which they pay their own way. But the distance between Big Ten schools and the highest concentrations of elite prospects makes it challenging for recruits and their families to fund long, expensive trips.

"Since the trend is for early commitments, it makes sense that it favors schools located in population bases that produce a lot of players," said Big Ten Network analyst Gerry DiNardo, a former coach at Indiana, LSU and Vanderbilt. "So how do you combat that? How does a kid from Atlanta get to Lincoln, Nebraska, in the summer on their own expense?"

DiNardo views Nebraska as the FBS school most impacted by accelerated recruiting cycle. Nebraska always has recruited nationally because of its small local population base, but former coach Tom Osborne -- "a tireless recruiter," DiNardo said -- capitalized on the fact that recruits made their choices after an official visit to Lincoln.

Huskers coach Bo Pelini acknowledges earlier official visits "would help us."

"When you take official visits away from the equation, it really hurts a place like Nebraska," DiNardo said. "So early signing day has to be partnered up with official visits in a prospect's junior year.

"If just the date moves up without official visits, it sets the Big Ten even further behind."

DiNardo notes that a program such as Ohio State is less affected by the official visits timetable because it has a large local talent base that can easily reach its campus. But other Big Ten programs must cast a wider recruiting net.

It's especially true for programs in the western part of the league: Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

"It gives some of the schools that aren't surrounded by a lot of schools or a lot of places, it gives us a chance," Minnesota coach Jerry Kill said. "But I don't know if that's going to happen or not. People in Texas aren't going to vote for that because they never have to leave Texas."

Most Big Ten coaches interviewed by ESPN.com favor earlier official visits but want clear guidelines. One question is timing.

Several coaches mention late May or early June as the ideal time because many recruits already are touring schools unofficially and most staffs are conducting on-campus camps.

"With the way people are traveling around right now, it might be good to afford a prospect to take a couple of visits in June," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "Also, I think it'd be great to afford at least a parent the opportunity to join that prospect and make it part of the official trip."

Coaches say the parental component is critical.

"Sometimes kids just don't have the means to be able to get here, and they definitely don't have the means to have their parents come," Pelini said. "Hopefully, they'll change that. It's too big of a decision for a 17-year-old or 18-year-old kid to make without his parents or somebody being there."

[+] EnlargeMark Dantonio
Eric Francis/Getty ImagesMark Dantonio wants an early official-visit period, but would prefer for it to be in a limited window instead of spanning the entire spring and summer.
Both Pelini and Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio want a limit on the number of official visitors schools could have in the spring. FBS teams can provide up to 56 official visits, but Dantonio rarely uses more than half of the allotment.

"It's not just carte blanche," Dantonio said. "I would make it a two-week window and cap those numbers."

Allowing 10-20 early official visits could work. Dantonio and Pelini also think prospects should be allowed to take multiple official visits to the same school.

Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen favors an earlier signing date in December, but he needs more clarity on official visits -- when they would take place, and for how long.

"I have to look at quality of life for my coaches," Andersen said. "Are we willing to take 4-5 weeks away in the summer? I don’t want to do that."

Added Purdue coach Darrell Hazell: "You lose your life. The month of July, you need a little bit of decompression time."

The first two weeks in June makes the most sense. Create a dead period in July so coaches can take time off.

It also doesn't mean official visits in September and October will stop. Andersen can talk about Wisconsin's "Jump Around" and show videos, but, he said, "there’s nothing like being there."

Big Ten teams still will have the chance to showcase their stadiums, facilities and campuses during football season. But they can't afford to wait that long for far-flung prospects to arrive, especially when they can afford to bring them in sooner.

"It would help everybody," Hoke said. "The other conferences aren’t just staying in their region, either."

That's true, but the Big Ten has the most to gain, and pushing for change won't be easy.

"If that thing ever goes to a vote, everybody is going to say is that the Big Ten is just complaining," Indiana coach Kevin Wilson said. "They'll keep rallying their troops because they want to keep those kids at home."

The Big Ten coaches must rally, too. Otherwise, the recruiting gap will widen.

SPONSORED HEADLINES