Minnesota is coming off a 9-4 season and a Holiday Bowl win against Washington State. But with a new coach who came with plenty of fanfare, the Gophers are hoping for even bigger things in the future. And the 2017 National Signing Day class may be the biggest key for turning that hope into reality.
The Gophers found their new coach in January in Western Michigan’s P.J. Fleck. The 36-year-old went 30-22 in four seasons with the Broncos, including a 13-1 finish this season as Western Michigan reached the Cotton Bowl. Fleck quickly turned around a Western Michigan program, winning 1, 8, 8 and then 13 games in each of his seasons.
Fleck, who was officially announced as the Gophers’ new coach on Jan. 6, has less than a month to put together first National Signing Day class with Minnesota. That also means the new coach didn’t have much time to hold onto previous commits, try to flip former commitments from Western Michigan, or travel to get new recruits.
Fleck did get his work started by flipping commits who were going to Western Michigan. But that wasn’t all the work he put in during the few weeks of time between his hiring and National Signing Day.
Below is a list of Minnesota’s 2017 commits, including each players’ position rank and hometown. All rankings are from 247 Sports.
Minnesota 2017 recruiting class, rankings:
|3-star OT||Blaise Andries||38||Marshall, Minn.|
|3-star S||Kendarian Handy-Holly||38||Jackson, Ala.|
|3-star RB||Mohamed Ibrahim||62||Olney, Md.|
|3-star CB||Demetrius Douglas||76||Portland, Ore.|
|3-star CB||Adam Beck||86||Richmond, Texas|
|3-star WR||Chris Autman-Bell||122||Kankakee, Ill.|
|3-star TE||Jacob Paulson||42||Louisville, Ky.|
|3-star OT||Eric Abojei||93||Minneapolis|
|3-star OG||John Schmitz||50||Flossmoor, Ill.|
|3-star DT||Malcolm Robinson||70||Massillon, Ohio|
|3-star pro style QB||Tanner Morgan||41||Union, Ky.|
|3-star RB||Dominik London||67||Saint Paul, Minn.|
|3-star ATH||Reyondous Estes||79||East Saint Louis, Ill.|
|3-star DT||Tyrone Chambers||82||Cleveland|
|3-star TE||Nate Umlor||59||Allendale, Mich.|
|3-star WR||Harrison Van Dyne||194||Stilwell, Kan.|
|3-star DL||Boye Mafe||74||Hopkins, Minn.|
|3-star DT||Royal Silver||22||Council Bluffs, Iowa|
|3-star OLB||Trenton Guthrie||102||Pinckney, Mich.|
|3-star OT||Kyle Sassack||140||Pontiac, Mich.|
|3-star DE||Noah Hickcox||84||Rockford, Ill.|
|3-star K||Grant Ryerse||7||Saint Paul, Minn.|
|3-star dual QB||Neil McLaurin||6||Summit, Miss.|
|3-star TE||Nathan Bursch||89||Saint Paul, Minn.|
|3-star CB||Justus Harris||176||Roswell, Ga.|
|3-star DE||Esezi Otomewo||96||Indianapolis|
|2-star DT||Austin Schirk||137||Carroll, Iowa|
What is Minnesota’s recruiting class ranked?
247 Sports composite ranking: No. 56
Big Ten ranking: No. 12
Early enrollees: 3
4-star commits: 0
3-star commits: 26
Minnesota 2017 signing day schedule
The Gophers are holding a 2017 Signing Day Social on Wednesday in the DQ Club Room at TCF Bank Stadium. Doors open at 5 p.m. CT with the event starting at 6:30.
— Minnesota Gophers (@GopherSports) January 22, 2017
Minnesota National Signing Day preview, storylines
Did Fleck flip any recruits from Western Michigan to Minnesota?
Oh, did he. It didn’t take long, either. On the first day alone, six former Broncos commits flipped to follow Fleck to Minnesota. More followed soon after. The 3-star heavy group included WR Chris Autman-Bell.
Will Fleck challenge his new Big Ten West rivals?
Fleck isn’t going to back away from any rivals or challengers. That includes even the teams in the Gophers’ division. On Sunday, just a few days before National Signing Day, Fleck flipped commitments. Austin Schirck said he was flipping from Northern Iowa to Minnesota and Justus Harris de-committed from Cincinnati to pick Minnesota. Fleck and the Gophers kept the momentum going on Monday, flipping former Purdue commit Malcolm Robinson. The stockpiling of recruits pushed Minnesota toward the top in terms of quantity in the Big Ten. Going into National Signing Day, only Maryland had more commits in the league with 28.
Can Fleck expand Minnesota’s recruiting areas?
The Gophers coach picked up talented OT Blaise Andries from inside the state, but he also ventured south to get other recruits. In the secondary, Fleck & Co. got Kendarian Handy-Holly from Alabama and Adam Beck from Texas. The Gophers also got a commitment from Demtrius Douglas from Oregon. Handy-Holly is an especially impressive commit, as he had offers from Louisville, Mississippi, Florida and many others. But he’s going to Minneapolis. The Gophers won’t have one of the Big Ten’s top-5 recruiting classes this season, but considering how quickly Fleck and his staff had to work, Minnesota’s going to finish impressively.