Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Team Recruiting Countdown: No.19 Minnesota Golden Gophers

No. 19 Minnesota Golden Gophers (Big Ten No. 3)

2008 Haul: 30 signees, 0 Athlon Consensus 100

Scouting Report:

A 1-11 football team has no business recruiting a top-20 class, right? Well, that is precisely what Tim Brewster and his staff has done at Minnesota. The Gophers, a team that lost to North Dakota State in 2007, did not have many bright moments last season. Brewster has ensured that that is likely to change in ’08.

Of course, the high-energy coach did have one thing to offer recruits: early playing time — and lots of it. Minnesota’s defense finished dead last in the nation last season giving up 518 yards-per-game. Nearly every spot on the defense needs upgrading and Brewster certainly brought in some options.

Safety Keanon Cooper (Dallas, Texas), linebacker Sam Maresh (Champlin, Ill.) and eight JUCO prospects should help bolster that porous defense. The group is headlined by linebacker Rex Sharpe (Yuma, Ariz.), defensive back Traye Simmons (Visalla, Calif.) and athlete David Pittman (Pasadena, Calif.). The infusion of JUCO talent should help bridge the gap between the outgoing seniors and the incoming freshmen.

The offense was not nearly as pathetic as the defense. In fact, Adam Weber put up solid numbers at the quarterback position. He loses his top pass catcher and tailback, though. Brewster addressed this by landing four – potentially six – wide receivers and three, possibly four, running back prospects. Wideouts Brandon Green (Chicago, Ill.) and Vince Hill (New Berlin, N.Y.) could see time right away, as could running back Kevin Whaley (Virginia Beach, Va.).

Tim Brewster was a key component for the Texas Longhorns when recruiting Vince Young. His roots in Texas have paid off in the land of 10,000 lakes. Minnesota landed five kids from Texas including four from Skyline High in Dallas. It could be the start of a pipeline for the Gophers.

One major issue for the future must be addressed, however. The Gopher state looks to be loaded in 2009 and Brewster and company must do a better job of keeping the top kids home. Ohio State (Willie Mobley), Notre Dame (Mike Floyd) and Wisconsin (Brandon Kelly/Joe Schafer) came in and took four of the top five from the state in 2008.

Top Prospect: MarQueis Gray – QB – Indianapolis, Ind. (6-4, 220)

Gray could be as dynamic a threat from the quarterback position as there is in this class. This slightly smaller version of Terrelle Pryor is lighting quick from out of the backfield. He can accelerate into gaps and make people miss in the open field much like Pryor. He is not quite as fluid as Pryor in the open field but is just as athletic.

He might even be a better passer. He does not have the touch that Pryor has but may have a stronger arm and throw a prettier ball. He has a snap release that is quick and efficient. He will need to develop as a college passer, learning how to read coverages and make adjustments at the line of scrimmage. Overall, he is a perfect fit for the spread offense that Tim Brewster is installing in Minneapolis.

Best of the Rest:

Keanon Cooper – DB – Dallas, Texas (6-0, 195)
Brandon Green – WR – Chicago, Ill. (6-0, 175)
Sam Maresh – LB – Champlin, Minn. (6-2, 240)
Kevin Whaley – ATH – Virginia Beach, Va. (5-10, 175)
Vince Hill – WR – New Berlin, N.Y. (6-0, 195)

Sleeper: Troy Stoudermire – ATH – Dallas, Texas (5-11, 180)

Stoudermire, one of the four Skyline High products heading north, will be an instant impact player for the Gophers. He is a versatile prospect, playing quarterback in a zone read scheme for high school, but projecting as a corner, running back or slot receiver. His quickness, change-of-direction ability and speed are at an elite level. He is dynamic in the open field with the ball in his hands. He will be a factor in the return game as well.

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