With the summer now in full swing and Gopher camps wrapped up for the month, GopherDigest takes a look at our projected class for the Gopher Football team for defense.
Defensive tackle: Two projected (one committed in Minnesota's Jojo Garcia)
Minnesota really doesn't need two tackles this class with only Robert Ndondo-Lay graduating, but with Garcia not a sure thing to make it because of some academic issues, the Gophers could afford to take two to make sure they at least have one this class. Garcia was the first commitment of Jerry Kill's 2016 class and he was the first four-star commitment as well. There's still a very real chance that Garcia does make it, but the Gophers could afford some insurance for the class by taking one more.
Top Target: Michigan defensive tackle and Iowa commit Cedrick Lattimore
Minnesota had a chance to see Lattimore live at the Sound Body Sound Mind camp in Michigan a few weeks ago and he walked away with an offer shortly after. At 6'5", 265 pounds, Lattimore is very explosive for a guy his size and that's something this Gopher staff values. From speaking with Lattimore after his offer, he definitely has interest in Minnesota despite his Iowa commitment and it'll be interesting to see when, not if, he visits Minnesota. With the Gopher staff having a lot of success in Michigan recently, it wouldn't be a surprise to see the staff pull off another good year there.
Other top options
1) New Market (Ala.) Buckhorn defensive tackle JaQuize Cross
2) Fort Scott (Kan.) JUCO defensive tackle Walvenski Aime
3) Howard (Kan.) defensive tackle Isaiahh Loudermilk
4) Santee (S.C.) defensive tackle Jabari Ellis
Besides Lattimore, defensive tackle options are relative long shots right now. Cross had the Gophers as his leader for the last few weeks until Kentucky offered late last week and I'd be surprised if he chooses the Gophers on the 10th of July. He's camped and visited Kentucky with his family, while he's yet to see Minnesota, so we'll see how things play out there. Aime was committed to Miami until recently and things are now back on an even playing field. He's set up an official visit to Kentucky for July and word is that Minnesota is going to try and set one with him soon as well. Loudermilk is maybe the biggest long shot of this group as word is that he wants to stay closer to home if he can, but he recently told GopherDigest that he wouldn't rule out a visit to Minnesota, but that it would have to be an official.
I think if Minnesota doesn't get Lattimore to flip from Iowa, that the eventual second defensive tackle will come from someone not offered yet and it'll probably a name that'll surface this fall. It could be Ellis as Minnesota saw him live at the same Sound Body Sound Mind and have been showing some serious interest in him of late.
Who does Minnesota get? JoJo Garcia and TBD
Defensive End: Three/four projected (Zero committed)
Top Target: Blinn community college defensive end Tralund Webber
Webber finished his first official visit to Minnesota over the weekend and told GopherDigest that if he wasn't already setting up visits to other schools prior to his Gopher visit, that he'd shut things down and commit to Minnesota. While that's fine and dandy, Webber still will be taking official visits elsewhere, so the Gophers will have to remain on him, but they have a comfortable lead at this point. Minnesota will be losing Theiren Cockran and Alex Keith to graduation this fall and with only two defensive ends behind them with game experience, bringing in a JUCO DE for this 2016 class is essential and Webber is at the top of the list.
Other top options
1) East Limestone (Ala.) defensive end Terrance Corbett
2) Opelika (Ala.) defensive end Zo Bridges
3) Miramar (Ala.) defensive end Terrell Lucas
4) Miami (Fla.) defensive end and Miami (Fla.) commit Joshua Uche
5) Columbia (Mo.) defensive end Jerrion Nelson
6) Hutchinson (Kan.) JUCO defensive end Joe Henderson
7) Butler County (Kan.) community college defensive end Tramal Ivy
It was a tough couple of weeks here for the defensive end pool for the Gophers staff as targets Houston Miller and Gary Overshown have committed to Texas Tech and TCU respectively and getting them to flip from their home state schools is going to be a very tough sell. Corbett is one who could see the Twin Cities as soon next month as the Minnesota staff is working on getting he and his family to visit for the BBQ on the 18th. Corbett may have some hesitations about the location from home, so he'll be one we'll be monitoring closely. Bridges is another defensive end who could be visiting next month with his teammate and tight end target Kyle Fourtenbary and Minnesota would love to add both Opelika targets. Lucas is a strong Michigan lean at this point after receiving an offer after one of their satellite camps in Florida, but Minnesota will work hard to try and get him on a visit this fall. Uche is another that'll be a tough sell being a Miami commit committed to Miami, but with over 20 commits for the Canes already, Golden could tell some currently committed to look around. Nelson is one name to watch if Minnesota decides to extend another offer as word is that Phelps is very high on the Missouri product.
GopherDigest has heard that Minnesota only wants one JUCO defensive end this class and with the Gophers sitting well with Webber right now, I don't anticipate anything significant happening with Ivy or Henderson until the fall. If you see another JUCO defensive end visit with Webber still undecided, know that it's time for Webber to make a move or his spot at Minnesota could be gone.
Who does Minnesota get? Tralund Webber, Terrance Corbett, Zo Bridges and TBD
Linebacker: Two to four projected (Two committed in Thomas Barber and Carter Coughlin)
Top Targets: Florida linebackers Andre Polk and Brock Miller, plus Alabama's Jeremiah Moon
Sources have told GopherDigest that these three linebackers in Miller, Moon and Polk top the wishlist for linebackers coach Mike Sherels. Miller received a Gopher offer a couple weeks ago now and he wants to take an official visit to Minnesota this fall, but Mississippi State, Virginia and Virginia Tech have all caught Miller's eye prior to the Gopher offer and Sherels and company have some work to do if they want to land him. Moon has Minnesota is his top five schools that were recruiting him the hardest last month, but a source told GopherDigest that his interest has dropped off a bit as it looks like Moon will stay in the SEC country and head to Auburn or either of the SEC schools. Polk looks like the most likely of the three options to become a Gopher at this point in time. Coach Claeys and Sherels saw Polk live this past spring and have been showing a lot of interest since and want to get him on campus as soon as possible.
If Minnesota doesn't get any of these three targets, the Gophers don't have to take a third or fourth with this 2016 class as only De'Vondre Campbell is graduating. So Coach Sherels and the rest of the Gophers staff can afford to be selective.
Who does Minnesota get? Thomas Barber, Carter Coughlin and Andre Polk
Cornerback: Two projected (One committed in Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) corner Elisha Daniels)
Top Target: Pensacola (Fla.) Catholic corner Simeon Smiley
Other top options
1) Dutchtown (La.) corner Coney Durr
2) Huber Heights (Ohio) corner and Kentucky commit Tobias Gillum
3) Fort Smith (Ark.) corner Kiondre Thomas
4) Odessa (Texas) corner Desmon Smith
5) Hoover (Ala.) corner P.J. Hall
Minnesota has a lot of ways they can go in defensive back recruiting for the 2016 class. They have the Daniels brothers from Florida committed, but there's been some questions about how truly committed they are as they both plan on taking official visit elsewhere. The top guy on GopherDigest's board for Coach Sawvel is Florida' Simeon Smiley as he is an extremely versatile player who could play either corner or safety with his size, length and speed. If his academics are up to par, look for him to visit the Twin Cities this fall. Durr comes from the same high school as 2015 CB signee Alonzo Craighton, so the Gophers could have a leg up here. Curr is a great playmaker and remind me of Briean Boddy-Calhoun as a high school player. Gillium received his offer from Sawvel after Sound Body Sound Mind and sources have told GopherDigest that he could visit Minnesota as soon as this summer potentially. It'll be an extremely tough get though none the less to get Gillium from Kentucky. Thomas just got his Minnesota offer last week after he got on Sawvel's radar after running a 4.3 with his size and tape at the TCU camp. Thomas camped at Arkansas last weekend and if the Razorbacks offer, it could be a done deal for their in-state recruit. Smith and Hall are two others to keep an eye on for official visits this fall.
Who does Minnesota get? Elisha Daniels and Coney Durr
Safety: Two projected (One committed in Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) corner Elijah Daniels)
Top Target: Ohio safety and Pitt commit Tony Butler
Other top options
1) Minneapolis (Minn.) North athlete Tyler Johnson
2) Katy (Texas) safety Collin Wilder
3) Largo (Fla.) safety Brandon Drayton
Again, this is the same situation as corner with the Daniels brothers possibly looking elsewhere, but they're scheduled to visit Minnesota next month to camp and for the BBQ, so I'm betting on Coach Kill and staff shutting things down then. Butler had Coach Z and Sawvel at the Raw Talent Camp earlier this month to talk with him and Minnesota is close to securing his last official visit spot. Johnson is the local option with offers from Iowa and Wisconsin and we project his potential spot to be safety at Minnesota. If I had to bet, I think Johnson makes the call to stay home before the end of the summer. Wilder and Drayton are also two names to keep an eye on this fall.
Who does Minnesota get? Elijah Daniels and Tyler Johnson
Total projected number on offense: 10-13
GopherDigest Projected Class: Defense
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