2016 GopherDigest Signing Day Superlatives

Another recruiting class, another chance to break down all 21 commits in Signing Day Superlatives. Who's the class MVP for head coach Tracy Claeys? Who has the biggest upside? GopherDigest hands out this year's awards...

Class MVP

Ryan Burns says: Carter Coughlin

Carter Coughlin represented a lot to Minnesota in this 2016 class both as it's headlining recruit, and as the glue that held together this. Coughlin represents a shift for in-state players as the top recruits in recent years haven't always stayed home (Jashon Cornell - Ohio State, Frank Ragnow - Arkansas and JC Hassenauer - Alabama) and Carter could have went anywhere he wanted, but he decided to play for the Maroon and Gold. He also convinced a lot of the in-state players that signed with Minnesota to do the same, even after Jerry Kill retired. 

Runner-Up: Sam Schlueter

Lucas Trickle says: Carter Coughlin

I think Carter definitely deserves this award for what he did behind the scenes after committing to Minnesota. He was in the ear of many different 2016 recruits about the great things that the University of Minnesota has to offer. He also remain committed to the program after the retirement of Jerry Kill which would have been an easy time for a kid with as many different options as he had to look around. He's definitely the cornerstone of the 2016 recruiting class.

Runner-Up: Philip Howard

Instant Impact - Offense

Ryan says: Vincent Calhoun 

There's a reason Minnesota went after Calhoun so hard during the 2016 cycle and that wasn't to sit on the bench. With seven offensive linemen gone from last year's squad, Minnesota will looking to fill holes at both guard spots and left tackle and Calhoun has the versatility to play any of those positions. Calhoun played tackle at the junior college level, but could slide inside to play either guard spot for Minnesota. I absolutely believe Calhoun is a starter somewhere on the offensive line come the start of the 2016 season. 

Runner-Up: Garrison Wright, Kobe McCrary

Luke says: Garrison Wright

Garrison appears to the road-grading offensive lineman that Bart Miller has talked about since being hired as the offensive line coach at Minnesota. It's no secret that Minnesota needed to upgrade its offensive line due to injuries and inconsistent play. Wright will have an opportunity to start next year and I expect him to the reigns at one of the guard positions.

Runner-Up: Vincent Calhoun

Instant Impact - Defense

Ryan says: Merrick Jackson

Minnesota struggled to get big bodies at defensive tackle throughout the season because of injuries and they signed up in December that should be able to help with those issues in Merrick Jackson. Jackson is a huge, productive defensive tackle at Iowa Western that Minnesota beat out both Baylor and Oklahoma State for in the final hours. I absolutely expect Jackson to be in the rotation this fall and wouldn't be surprised to see him start along side Steven Richardson.

Runner-Up: Carter CoughlinConey Durr

Luke says: Merrick Jackson

Like Wright and Calhoun, expectations for Jackson should be to come in and contribute right away. Jackson should be in the conversation to start at defensive tackle depending on how spring and fall practice goes. If he doesn't start, I still expect him to play on a regular basis with the way that Minnesota rotates its defensive lineman. The junior college product adds much needed depth at a position of concern.

Runner-Up: Carter Coughlin

Most Underrated

Ryan says: Kiondre Thomas

I was stuck between Thomas and Kamal Martin for this spot, but I believe people in a few years are going to ask how Minnesota was able to get Thomas out of the state of Arkansas. Thomas has all the physical traits of a bigger, longer and faster Eric Murray, but he's also got the mental mindset that you have to grind out every practice and game. That's something that's toughest to teach to young players is that mindset during each and every morning workout or practice. Definitely think Thomas will out perform is 131 ranked CB ranking when all is said and done. 

Runner-Up: Kamal MartinMark Williams

Luke says: Drew Hmielewski

Scout.com ranks Hmielewski as the No. 70 wide receiver in the country which is much higher than any other recruiting service out there. I love the Marshall natives athleticism and I think he has an opportunity to be a big-time player for the Golden Gophers. Maybe it's because other have compared him to Eric Decker, but there's something intriguing about Hmielewski and his potential in maroon and gold.

Runner-Up: Coney Durr

Biggest Upside

Ryan says: Carter Coughlin

I really wanted to get away from the "easy" answer here, but I believe Coughlin has the potential to be the next James Laurinaitis for the Minnesota Gophers and that can't be overlooked. Coughlin has the measurables at nearly 6'4" 220 lbs to compete right away at the Big Ten level, but his speed, explosiveness and athletic ability is what make him one of the top linebackers in all the country. Coughlin should be around 240 lbs by the time he graduates and if he's able to put it together, he has the talent to be a very special player in a Gopher uniform. 

Runner-Up: Kamal MartinTaMarion Johnson

Luke says: TaMarion Johnson

Johnson is a long, athletic defensive end that needs to spend a ton of time in the weight room, but he has the frame to be a very good edge rusher. The Michigan native is also a very good basketball player who is just beginning to tap into his potential as a football player. It may take a year or two before we see Johnson, but I think he has an opportunity to have a Thieren Cockran type of impact with a much higher ceiling. 

Runner-Up: Seth Green

Biggest Steal

Ryan says: Mark Williams

I've watched Mark Williams' film over and over again trying to figure out how Williams didn't have a single FBS offer until a few weeks before NSD and I just can't figure it out. He's a 6'1" quarterback who has a cannon for an arm, with the athletic ability to play in Jay Johnson's offense at the quarterback position. Wouldn't be surprised at all to see Williams seriously compete for Minnesota's starting quarterback position in 2017.

Runner-Up: Conner OlsonKiondre Thomas

Luke says: Vincent Calhoun

Everyone thought that as soon as Mississippi State offered that Calhoun was virtually a lock to flip to the Bulldogs. The Southwest Mississippi product is originally from Roswell, Georgia, and many thought the opportunity to play in the SEC and stay closer to home would be enough to sway Calhoun. The Minnesota staff convinced him to honor his commitment which was a huge win for the Golden Gophers.

Runner-Up: Garrison Wright

Biggest Miss

Ryan says: Tralund Webber

I don't know what Minnesota could have done differently in the recruitment of JUCO defensive end Tralund Webber, as he ultimately decided to head closer to home in Oklahoma State than Minnesota, but his decommitment hurt. Gophers needed immediate help at defensive end with Theiren Cockran and Alex Keith graduating, and Minnesota wasn't able to fill that void after signed two high school defensive ends. 

Runner-Up: Amir Watts

Luke says: Amir Watts

Minnesota was able to snag junior college defensive tackle Merrick Jackson, but it would have been ideal to add another high school defensive tackle in the 2016 recruiting class. The Semper Fi Bowl participant appeared to be headed to either Minnesota or Indiana before his official visit to Pittsburgh where he surprising committed during his visit. Watts would have been a nice piece of the Gophers 2016 class.

Runner-Up: Tralund Webber

Most Versatile

Ryan says: Tyler Johnson

Johnson comes in as a high school quarterback who absolutely dominating his competition during his career, specifically in his senior season accounting for more than 60 touchdowns. It sounds like Johnson will start his Gopher career as a wide receiver, but he also could play defensive back for Minnesota as he's really a blank slate at both positions. Johnson did very well out at the Semper-Fi game this past January at the wide receiver position and that's ultimately where he could make his hay. 

Runner-Up: Ko Kieft, Mark Williams

Luke says: Tyler Johnson

By all accounts, it sounds like Johnson is expected to play wide receiver at the U. The Minneapolis North product has the ability and frame to play receiver, safety or corner for the maroon and gold. The Gopher coaching staff may bring Johnson in as an athlete and see where he ultimately fits best in fall camp. Richard Pitino may also want to give him a call to help out the Gopher basketball team.

Runner-Up: Mark Williams

First off the bus

Ryan says: Vincent Calhoun

Calhoun is a grown man at all of 6'4" and 335 lbs. He's already strong coming from a good JUCO program down in Mississippi, but he's one of the strongest Gophers in this 2016 class.

Runner-Up: Merrick Jackson

Luke says: Sam Schlueter

The 6-foot-6 280 pound Schlueter may be closer to 300 pounds by the time he arrives on the campus of the University of Minnesota. Schlueter has the frame to grow into a solid offensive lineman for the Golden Gophers. I would expect the Mayer Lutheran product to redshirt next fall before competing for playing time in 2017.

Runner-Up: Conner Olson

Recruiter of the year

Ryan says: Mike Sherels

Sherels was played large parts in keeping the core of Minnesota's class home in Carter Coughlin, Phillip Howard, Kamal Martin, Thomas Barber, Sam Schlueter, Conner Olson, Drew Hmielewski, Tyler Johnson and Seth Green. Minnesota had their best class in the last few years in large part to the Gophers grabbing their in-state talent and Sherels played a huge role in that. 

Runner-Up: Jay Sawvel

Luke says: Mike Sherels

Sherels played a vital role in the recruitment of Coughlin, Johnson, Barber, Martin, Howard, and Hmielewski. As a former Golden Gopher and Minnesota native, Sherels has first-hand experience on what it means to put on the Minnesota jersey which helped him sell what it means to play for your home-state team. 

Runner-Up: Jay Sawvel


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