GopherDigest answers your questions in this week's football mailbag...
BigMoeU asks: Sounds like Howard looked good at WR in camp and will stay there... Hmielewski is in the mix... Edwards has a long time offer... Tyler Johnson says they want him at WR... A handful of out of state offers... What happens with each of these guys?? In the past two classes we went for big late bloomers and hit home runs both years with Gentry, Gant, Holland, Register and Still... Filling up early on little guys has me curious about what their plan is... Your thoughts on WRs??
Alright let's start out with a longer question.
I believe it's all but set in stone now that Phillip Howard stays at receiver after what the coaches saw in person last week. A much much natural position and I think he's a more explosive K.J. Maye in the making. Drew Hmielewski is going to have to wait a bit more for his offer as I think a couple guys like J.D. Spielman and Bailey Edwards could be close and there aren't a ton of spots for receivers left. I almost believe that Hmielewski may be above Edwards on the list now, but we'll see. Tyler Johnson is a guy who may end up not having a spot if he keeps waiting to decide on what sport he wants to play in college. He's still up in the air between basketball and football and instead of going on visits this month, he's been hitting the AAU circuit, so if Minnesota gets a commitment from a guy like Spielman, the Gophers may be full and Johnson may have to look elsewhere.
Well as you listed, all of the freshmen receiver are huge with the smallest being Melvin Holland at 6'3, so you have another five guys taller than him. With KJ Maye graduating after this season, the Gophers need a couple of smaller guys to work in the slot as Eric Carter is the only other guy who fits that mold. The staff also knows they need guys who are ready to play right away and I think Spielman and Howard could absolutely play early on.
petedogg22 asks: It seems JD Spielman keeps getting discussed as either a slot receiver or a corner, but then the size concern comes up. Is the coaching staff not open to playing him at running back?
I don't think running back is really an option for Spielman as his skill set is really more as a returner and wide receiver. I think you can throw out the possibility of Spielman playing defensive back at Minnesota as I can't see Sawvel taking a guy under 5'8". Wide receiver and returning makes sense as he's very elusiveness and has legitimate speed. I'd be concerned about Spielman being a 15-20 carry guy with his size and feel that he's better suited to get 5-10 touches a game as a returner and receiver at Minnesota.
gophmeister asks: You said this was the most well attended camp this past weekend. Was the talent level among the participants higher too?
We seem to have a bunch of WRs on the cusp of either committing or getting an offer. What's the pecking order among the guys with offers and what has to happen for Hmielewski to get an offer?
Is Carter Coughlin the most important commit of the Kill era?
I'd say this past weekend's junior elite camp had the most participants since Kill has been here AND the most talent, especially out of state. The Gophers had top recruits from Michigan (Richard Bowens), Kansas (Trevor Kent), Colorado (Christian Cumber) and Oregon (Demetrius Douglas) on campus Sunday, which is truly unheard of for Minnesota. Plus a few in-state shined out that were more off the radar such as Ezekiel Ott and Blaise Andries, so I'd say it was a definite success Sunday.
My opinion on the pecking order for receiver would be:
1) JD Spielman
2) Dredrick Snelson
4) Bailey Edwards
The reason I like Spielman over Snelson is because he's an in-state recruit whom the staff saw in person with other Big Ten offers. The reason I have Hmielewski over Bailey is because I think he had a better workout than Edwards this summer and he's more polished, even though he doesn't have an offer. For Drew to get an offer, I think time has to keep passing by. That means Spielman and Edwards continue to wait things out and by the time October comes by and Minnesota has seen some senior film on him, they could be very inclined to offer.
I think Carter is probably the most important recruit, but maybe not for the reason you think. The Gopher staff couldn't have benefited anymore from a top 100 talent like Carter for their best in-state class in over a decade. Carter has been a leader for this class and recruits have absolutely noticed him staying home over Ohio State and Oregon and asked themselves, if he's doing it, why should I. Coughlin has done everything in his power to promote the Gophers as best he can and it's showing in Kill's best recruiting class to date.
5844cx asks: Since we "already" have 11 commits, is Kill telling people to wait (such as all the WR recruits?) to slow down recruiting, leave more scholarships open in the fall? Ordinarily I would have expected one or two commits coming out of the BBQ already.
Are we going to break ground on the practice facility in September?
What are the chances we are able to hold onto all of our coaches (Sawvel? Claeys?) after we win the Big Ten West this year and play on New Years Day for a second straight year?
Projected starting offensive line for the opener vs TCU?
I don't think he's telling any of these recruits to slow down, in fact, I expect another flurry of commits here before the season. It started with Webber last night and I think potentially three more happen before the TCU game. It's just very unusual for Minnesota under Kill to have so many commits, but it's a large part because of this extremely talented in-state class, which is an anomaly for the Land of 10,000 lakes.
Breaking ground in September isn't probably likely right now, but I do expect it to happen before the end of the season.
I have a hard time thinking that any of these coaches leave after how many years they've all been together. From talking with sources over the years, I can't see a way either coordinator, Tracy Claeys or Matt Limegrover leave Jerry Kill. They've gone through so much together and money isn't always everything to those two. I'm not even too worried about Jay Sawvel either as the only places I'd worry about would be a Michigan school or Ohio State, but those aren't likely. Multiple guys on staff have been offered coordinator positions at other schools over the years and have turned them down, maybe it's too good of a school to pass up on this winter, but I don't see it happening.
LG: Jon Christenson
C: Brian Bobek
RG: Josh Campion
RT: Jonah Pirsig
Bones1228 asks: Do you believe there will be any somewhat significant changes in the offensive philosophy this year? I know we won't all of a sudden become a spread team, but could we see a higher pass:run ratio? More short passes and bubble screens? More outside runs with Rodney Smith and Edwards? etc.
Somewhat significant changes is probably a good way to put it as I think all of what you said is likely to happen to a degree. With David Cobb and Maxx Williams gone, obviously the Gophers have to replace the top two pieces of their offense last year and it's not going to be just one guy at each position who does so.
I do believe they'll be a higher pass to run ratio than last year, but maybe just by a few percentage points. A couple big reasons as to why are Leidner being an upperclassman now and trying figure out the balance between Rodrick Williams and Rodney Smith in games this year. KJ Maye also figures to be my top candidate to replace as the lead target getting and playmaker for Minnesota and he excels in the short to intermediate game. Jeff Jones figures to receive a lot of opportunity at receiver and bubble screens were one of his best plays in the spring.
GustieGopher asks: Regardless of position, who would you guess are the Gophers' top 10 recruiting targets?
Additionally, consider adding a percent chance of them wearing maroon and gold in the future.
I want to preface this by saying last time I put percentages beside recruits, it didn't end well for me at all, so I won't do that, but here's my list of top targets.
1) Antoine Winfield
2) Albert Okwuegbunam
3) Vincent Calhoun
4) JD Spielman
5) Terrance Corbett
6) Andre Polk
7) Kamal Martin
8) Terrell Lucas
9) Walvenski Aime
10) Simeon Smiley
I'll highlight a couple names starting with Mr. Winfield on top of the list here. I know that he was just offered less than a week ago now, but the impression he made on the Gophers staff is quite a doozy. Sources have told GopherDigest that multiple members of the staff want Winfield extremely bad and are really hoping to land his services in a few weeks time. Okwuegbunam and Calhoun have visited and the Gophers are in the thick of things for both. A name that may surprise on this list is Walvenski Aime and I'll have more on him later this week.
Ritter66 asks: How did we lose Deniro Laster? I thought his ceiling seemed high this year. Now he lands in the SEC at Kentucky, weird.
If you had to name three starters at LB today, who would they be?
Can Nick Rallis contribute this year?
I don't think Laster would have played really significant snaps during his career unless there was an injury. The Gophers have a lot depth at linebacker now between Jack Lynn, De'Vondre Campbell, Jonathan Celestin, Everett Williams, Cody Poock, Nick Rallis and even freshman Julian Huff. That's an entire two deep that I think was ahead of him coming out of spring ball and he wanted to find a place where he could get more playing time and Kentucky was that place for him. I think he's a good ball player, but I don't think he made a large enough jump forward last year and was passed by some guys on the depth chart this spring because of it.
Three starters for TCU: I'd say Jack Lynn, De'Vondre Campbell and Everett Williams.
He's dealing with a little bit of knee swelling right now, but the expectation for him to be ready for fall camp in two weeks.
benthere2 asks: I think we all know about the first OL but who is second and third string? How are the young OL like Rasmussen and Stieber working out, are they looking to crack into the 2 deeps?
Last question for the mailbag as I don't want it to turn into a novel, I'll answer the remaining questions next week so no worry.
The only guy I think that is set in stone to start on the OL as of right now is Josh Campion. All the other guys are going to have to battle in camp, which is great to push each other. Considering I posted my starting line above, here's my guess at the guys behind them:
Tackle: Foster Bush, Alex Mayes and Quinn Oseland
Guard: Conner Mayes, Joe Bjorklund, Isaac Hayes
Center: Jon Christenson (he'd slide over from guard) and Tyler Moore
I think Rasmussen needs another year to put on weight as he's still pretty lean and Stieber I think will redshirt too. Nick Connelly is a guy I heard this weekend as already put on 15 pounds since getting on campus and should be around 295-300 by the time bowl practice comes around, which should be very interesting spring ball next year. I think Minnesota does redshirt all of their freshmen OL this year, some may travel like Moore and Oseland, but I think they're played only as a last resort.
Football Mailbag 7/22
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