GopherDigest takes our best shot at projecting the 2016 class for Minnesota

GopherDigest takes our best shot at projecting the 2016 signing day class for Minnesota heading into Thanksgiving weekend.

Quarterback: (One projected, one committed)

Tony Poljan: No concern here as Poljan has been committed to the Gophers since late May and already took his official visit to Minnesota for the Michigan game. Poljan just wrapped up his senior season and every indication that his family has given me is that Tony is now ready to be a Gopher. Especially with the news that Claeys will be sticking around. 

I do believe that Minnesota will take another quarterback this class with Chris Streveler's move to wide receiver, leaving the Gophers with only two quarterbacks on scholarship. The question is, whether that will be a preferred walk-on or a scholarship. The only guy to me worth mentioning at this time is former East Ridge QB Seth Green, but until something concrete about Green's status with Minnesota, I have to leave him out. He is the front runner in my eyes if Minnesota decides to offer another quarterback in this class.

Running back: (One projected, zero committed)

The top name to full this spot remains Georgia's Arkeem Byrd. Byrd took his official visit for the Michigan game and has the Gophers on top. With his season now over, I'm not exactly sure what the wait is for Arkeem unless he's waiting to see what other offers come around. Unless an SEC school comes calling, I do expect Byrd to absolutely be the top target to watch for Minnesota at running back.

The two names to keep an eye on to me right now if Minnesota decides to go a different direction than Byrd are SMU RB commit Dae Williams and JUCO RB Kobe McCrary. Williams is big power back from Oklahoma that's heard from a few of the recruiting coordinators in recent weeks and McCrary spoke on the phone with RB coach Pat Poore last week about a January official visit. 

Wide receiver: (Four projected, four committed)

Phillip Howard has been committed to the Gophers since March and I have zero concerns about him not signing with Minnesota . A more explosive KJ Maye.

Drew Hmielewski is another Minnesota recruit who's deciding to stay home. Could play defensive back, but I'd definitely consider him a wide receiver at this time. 

Tyler Johnson chose the Gophers over Wisconsin and Iowa and can't wait to stay home in Minnesota. Johnson is committed as a "true athlete" in the eyes of the coaching staff at this time, but for now, I'll put him with the wide receivers.

Dredrick Snelson loved his official visit to Minnesota for the Michigan game and considering a "firm" commitment to the Gophers at this time. Could I see that changing? Sure. Depends a lot of who is hired at Miami (Fla.) as Snelson has already committed there previously, his cousin is the starting tailback and he goes to school in a Miami suburb, so those three things will have to be taken into consideration, but per the word of Snelson and his mother, they both loved their Minnesota visit and are solid commitments. 

Tight end: (One projected, zero committed)

The top option has quickly become Missouri tight end Chase Allen who has picked up three Big Ten offers (Minnesota, Illinois and Indiana) in the last seven days. Allen, one of the Midwest's fastest rising prospects made the decision of playing football over basketball in recent weeks and thus his recruitment has taken off. Allen is a very versatile athlete at 6'7" 220 pounds and Minnesota believes he could be the next Maxx Williams and he's scheduled to take an official visit to Minnesota the first weekend of December.

Don't forget about NDSU DE commit Ko Kieft as well. Word is that Minnesota still like Kieft a lot and both sides are still maintaining a lot of contact. Kieft visited for the Michigan game with his father and they're just playing the waiting game to see what happens next. He camped at Minnesota this past summer and has shown out on his senior film, and if an offer comes, I anticipate Kieft to flip to the Gophers.

Offensive line: (Six projected, five committed)

Vincent Calhoun is expected to come in and play right away next year at the guard position for Minnesota. Calhoun has been solid to Minnesota since his commitment, despite picking up an offer from Mississippi State last week.

Four-star Sean Foster is as solid as they come with contract extension of Tracy Claeys and that's great news for the future of the tackle position at Minnesota.

Matt Kegel chose the Gophers over Oklahoma State back in May and hasn't wavered since.

Conner Olson was a camp standout back when he was a junior and earned a scholarship after filling out his frame. Has a lot of potential.

Sam Schlueter chose Minnesota over Michigan State and Wisconsin and remains dedicated to the Gophers.

I also am projecting Butler C.C. guard Garrison Wright to be a Gopher at this time. Wright received an offer from Minnesota a couple weeks ago now and instantly went to the top of the list for the Kansas native. He's scheduled an official visit to Minnesota for the first weekend in December and I could see a decision coming shortly after with JUCO signing day only 11 days after his visit. Both JUCO guys in Calhoun and Wright project as guards, not tackles at Minnesota.

You can also make a case that if Webb City (Mo.) Missouri OL commit Trystan Castillo wanted to be a Gopher, Minnesota wouldn't say no. In fact, if Castillo and Wright want to come to Minnesota, I bet the staff finds room for them. You can draw whatever conclusions you want, but with the Gophers graduating five offensive lineman and potentially taking more, I wouldn't be surprised to see transfers. Castillo and Wright are the only offensive line names to know at this time. 

Defensive line: (Four projected, zero committed)

This is the position more than any other that fans are concerned about as Minnesota will be taking four or more guys at the defensive line on this class and with JoJo Garcia quitting football and Tralund Webber flipping to Oklahoma State last night, the Gophers need to get some momentum going with only 72 days until signing day. 

So what's the plan? There are names that haven't been talked about that I'm sure will surface starting next week when the coaches head back out on the road for two weeks before the dead period in December. The staff has a board of all their defensive line guys and I expect them to start moving on more of those guys in the next three weeks. I've spoken with a couple different sources about DL recruiting in the last week and I expect some moves to be made here very soon.

Let me first run down some names that are long shots:

- While Minnesota would love to flip him and will try their hardest, I don't see Gophers having success in flipping Iowa TE commit Noah Fant. I'm sure the coaches will do an in-home visit and try to get him on campus, but good luck against a top five undefeated team in Iowa. 

- Another guy Minnesota wants badly is Florida DE Terrell Lucas, but he's blown up and moved onto other options. Maybe the Gophers get an official visit, but he's a long shot right now.

Guy I see most likely joining the class right now is Iowa Western C.C. defensive tackle Merrick Jackson. Jackson took his official visit to Minnesota over the weekend and the Gophers are now his number one school with only 23 days until mid-year signing day. He has two years to play two and is a December grad as well. Jackson had numerous B1G offers coming out of the high school, but wasn't a qualifier, so he went to Iowa Western. Grabbing Jackson would give Minnesota some immediate depth at defensive tackle.

Still believe that Chicago defensive lineman Amir Watts is a huge priority for this staff and that Phelps will very likely go and visit him next week. Whether Watts projects at tackle or defensive end, he's a great talent and Minnesota would love to add him either way. With Syracuse firing their head coach today, still believe the Gophers have as good a chance as any. Watts really hasn't started to focus on recruiting as he'll be playing for a state championship this weekend, which is why he hasn't taken any official visits yet. 

Terrance Corbett is another name that may resurface now after his official visit to Minnesota was postponed in October. Phelps went down and saw Corbett live during the Gophers bye week, but his official visit date was moved to "December". Still believe Minnesota may go after Corbett, but think there may be some other guys before him.

Will Evans is a defensive end currently committed to Ohio and doesn't have a Gopher offer or official visit set up, but was seen by DL coach Phelps during the bye. I wouldn't be surprised to hear more going on with Evans sooner rather than later. 

This also makes me think that current commit Kamal Martin will end up as a defensive end at Minnesota. He worked out as a defensive end the day Minnesota offered him at camp, and at 6'3" 225 lbs, he's absolutely got the frame, physicality and explosiveness to be an impact defensive end. Martin could be a tight end or linebacker also, but I'm beginning to think he ends up at defensive end to start.

To replace Tralund Webber as an impact player, I do expect Minnesota to head back to the JUCO well here again. Maybe the Gophers go back after Oklahoma State JUCO DE commit Tramal Ivy, but I have serious doubt they can flip a Muskogee (Okla.) native committed to an in-state top 10 school. 

Again, more names will be surfacing here shortly, so stay tuned.

Linebacker: (Three projected, four committed)

Thomas Barber is the youngest in a long line of successful Barber's at Minnesota and will enroll in January.

Carter Coughlin is the highest rated commit in the 2016 class as he's within Scout top 100.

As I said above, I could see Kamal Martin moving to defensive end as he's one of the most athletic guys in the class, but for the time being, I'm leaving him at outside linebacker.

I do still to anticipate Minnesota trying to get now USF commit Andre Polk back in the fold, but it's going to be an up hill battle to me. Polk has the chance to stay right in South Florida now and play for a 7-4 USF team close to his family. I'm not projecting the Gophers to get the flip back done.

Two names I'd keep an eye on if Minnesota does want to grab another linebacker are Texas Tech LB commit John Picone and Michigan's Armani Posey.

Defensive back: (Four projected, three committed)

Elijah Daniels committed to the Gophers in early June and I have no concerns about either he or his brother going anywhere else at this time.

As I said above, Elisha Daniels isn't going anywhere.

Kiondre Thomas flipped to Minnesota following his official visit to Minnesota and the Gophers are very excited to his this Eric Murray type player on board. 

Coney Durr was a teammate of current Gopher Alonzo Craighton last year and Sawvel is hoping to dip back into the Dutchtown well for Durr. Durr took an official visit to Minnesota over Halloween weekend when the Gophers played the Wolverines and both he and dad came away very impressed by the visit. The latest is that his mother wants to come up to Minnesota to see it for herself before Coney makes a decision between Minnesota and Kansas State. I full expect Durr to choose Minnesota sooner rather than later and that would close out the 2016 defensive back class.

If Durr does decide to wait, I expect these three defensive backs to get up on an official visit. Florida's Simeon Smiley, Alabama's Daniel Thomas and an SEC committed defensive back. For those wondering about the latest with Antoine Winfield, there isn't a whole lot to tell you. I spoke with him this morning and he has no official visits set and if Durr commits here soon, I doubt there's a spot for him at Minnesota. 

Summary:

My projections has Minnesota signing 24 guys for their 2016 class, even though they only have 18 (ish) scholarships to give. That means there's going to be transfers or early graduations from some redshirt juniors. Something to watch with only 72 days until signing day. 


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