Thursday, February 4, 2010

Gopher Football Signing Day Misses Top Target, Yet Yields Talent

Look, I absolutely hate college football signing day.

The whole recruiting process sucks to begin with. Coaches fly around the country in pursuit of high school players, woo these kids with smooth talk and prospective exposure, and then talk about how he will be the missing cog in the building of something special or in keeping tradition. Keep in mind, these are 16-18 year-old kids who are still developing and nobody knows how they will end up as students and football players. And, of course, we always hear about how these kids are students first and athletes second.

Despite my hatred of signing day, it is a big deal for many, and sites like,, and Tom Lemming's site have made recruiting serious and sophisticated business. I admit that I had the Gophers live blog of signing day going when I got into my office at 6:30 Wednesday morning.

As expected, the Gophers missed out on their top target, Cretin Derham-Hall behemoth offensive lineman Seantrel Henderson, who committed to USC - but did not sign his letter, waiting until the fallout of the Trojans' potential NCAA violation process. Coach Tim Brewster pursued Henderson aggressively and by all accounts did a good job selling the program to him. However, the Gophers were always a long-shot for a guy who was ranked by Lemming as the top recruit before his sophomore year. That the Gophers were even close at the end is a miracle and should not be used as another strike against Brewster - there are plenty of legitimate ones to cite and this is not one of them.

There were no surprises in the Gophers' class of 2010, which has been viewed by many as Brewster's most critical to date. The Rivals site ranks the Gophers' haul at #50, while Scouts has them checking in at #68. There is little science here; for example, Rivals has Wisconsin at #86 while Scouts has them way up at #33. I guess that's just proof that nobody really knows what the hell they have.

Either way, the Gophers' class is middle-of-the-road in the Big Ten. The big guys (Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, et. al.) are at the top as usual, but Michigan State scored a big coup by getting the conference's only five-star recruit (DE William Gholston) to break into the top division of the Big Ten.

The Gophers' class is solid, if not spectacular, and definitely addresses some acute team needs. Four-star recruits Lamonte Edwards (Woodbury LB) and Jimmy Gjere (Irondale OL) head the class and it's nice to see two of the state's top recruits behind Henderson stay home. Both should have solid careers in the maroon and gold, and one may see Gjere getting some looks come fall. The Gophers signed five offensive linemen, which was a huge disappointment in 2009 and needs immediate improvement this fall. Solid three-star Florida running backs Donnell Kirkwood and Devon Wright also come in highly-touted and should help an experienced core which features juniors DeLeon Eskridge, Duane Bennett, and Shady Salomon.

Perhaps the most intriguing recruit signing Wednesday is 6-7, 342 lb. offensive lineman Johnathan Ragoo of Opalocka, FL. The three-star recruit comes in with a solid reputation and definitely has the size to play at this level.

It was a decent recruiting class for Brewster at first glance. However, the 2003 class which included Brandon Owens, Laurence Maroney, Amir Pinnix, Ernie Wheelright, Tony Brinkhaus, Logan PayneDesi Steib, and John Shevlin didn't generate a lot of buzz right away, either. Also, WR Paris Hamilton was rated as a four-star recruit that year, and he didn't do much.

Brewster's role will be to coach this group. The sheer measure of this class will be how well they perform at Minnesota, and that part is on Brewster and his staff.

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