Burns Mailbag 2/11

Ryan Burns answers your questions in this week's GopherDigest mailbag...

mattbanal asks: With the Gophers basketball coaches looking at and offering a couple of new 2016 bigs here recently do you expect Buggs to decided not to/ asked to not come back next year? Maybe even Gaston? If we land someone. Or could we see a transfer?

There's been a basketball transfer every year since I can remember and the two guys I'll be watching are Charles Buggs and Gaston Diedhiou. I don't think Pitino is the one asking them to leave, but I'm personallu hoping that Minnesota doesn't land anyone in the spring as I think the 2017 in-state class is loaded with talent and I'd hate to see Pitino only have one scholarship to work with there.

gophmeister asks: Here's a 2016 question. It was reported Becker lineman Dillon Radunz got a late offer from Mizzou. Is that true because I saw some Mizzou people denying it on twtiter? Also, why didn't we recruit him if he was worthy of such attention from an SEC school?

Here's one for 2017. I heard linemen will comprise most if not all of the instate offers. There are two out there now. Who else is on the short list of linemen we are seriously looking at?

Becker (Minn.) OL and now NDSU signee Dillon Radunz did receive an offer from Mizzou on Monday morning before signing day, and immediately turned it down, which shocked some folks down in Columbia. The Mizzou media is denying it now because how bad does it look for an SEC school to be turned down by a Missouri Valley school, so they're just trying to cover their tracks. Minnesota did recruit Radunz as a preferred walk-on, as did Wisconsin, but neither school extended an offer. 

Both Blaise Andries and Eric Abojei have Gopher offers right now, and a few other names to keep an eye on are Eric WilsonNash JensonGavin Blomberg and Eric Rousemiller.

ALLDAYTP asks: I know there are some High Schools that we have really hit hard and gotten some really good talent. An example would be Dutchtown in LA. Do any of those high schools have talent that you think could be dawning the maroon and gold?

I don't see any 2017 Dutchtown recruits with offers right now, but that doesn't mean that won't change once spring recruiting starts. I don't think the high schools are so much the areas to focus on here, but just the just the general cities and regions such as Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, Michigan and even the Midwest states for example are places that Minnesota will frequent again with success. 

GustieGopher asks: I've been really intrigued by the differing offensive philosophies of Jerry Kill and Tracy Claeys. Obviously they had differing opinions on OL and QB recruits. It also sounds like Claeys was emphatic on calling Jeff Jones a RB. How much of a role did Limegrover and Kill play in Jeff's strange position movement? Additionally, have you noticed any other players receiving more of a look from Claeys vs. Kill?

From what I understand, Jeff's position changes were more about trying to get him on track as a person / player, than figuring out his where his talent would be best suited. Obviously running back is an area of strength for Minnesota right now and I heard that he was doing well at defensive back as well when he moved there, but it's more about him just getting things back together as a person before he begins to excel on the football field again. I think it's also been too soon to know about players that'll get more of a look under Claeys eye as spring ball hasn't come around yet to see what guys are getting more reps, but a guy like Jerry Gibson being moved to DE is a move that I think had more to do with Claeys. 

NLGOPHER asks: Football- Are the Gophers looking for a scholarship kicker in the 2017 class where they will be offering more guys or do you think it is more Ryerse or bust as far as specialist offers go?

Basketball- With a very, very strong 2017 in-state class(Theo John, McKinley Wright, Nathan Reuvers, Brad Davison, Jericho Sims, Goanar Mar, etc.) how many scholarships do you think the Gophers end up having open and who do they land with them? Seems like the Gophers are looking at a couple of 2016 recruits if there are transfers at the end of the year how difficult will it be to decide whether to use those scholarships on 2016 guys in a year that could be make or break or bank them for the strong 2017 class that you currently don't have a lot of scholarships available for?

I think the hope would be that Grant Ryerse decides he wants to be the kicker for Minnesota going forward in the next few months, which I think is a likely scenario and then it's taken care of. If Ryerse doesn't decide on Minnesota, I'm sure the specialist camp this summer will be a huge point of emphasis for the staff to get a look at some of the top players at their positions as well. Not Ryerse or bust, but Grant is indeed the top target.

Depending on what happens with players leaving the program, and as I mentioned above, Minnesota has had a transfer every year since I can remember and on if Minnesota lands a 2016 spring recruit, but a likely number for now would be two scholarships. The two guys I'm personally hoping they land are PF Theo John and PF Nathan Reuvers. Ideally, Minnesota would land another guard or wing, but if they strike out on the out-of-state guys and don't want to move on McKinley Wright or others, John and Reuvers are players I'd really like to see them land knowing how much of a struggle that the front court has been for Minnesota since Mbakwe graduated. John could be a great battler inside to work with Jordan Murphy and Reuvers can stretch the floor as a 4, and battle on the inside as well. Two high division one talents that I hope Minnesota doesn't let go by. I'd rather Minnesota not grab a 2016 spring recruit and just use them on Minnesota's strong 2017 in-state class, but that's just me. 

TKGophFan asks: Who do you see stepping up on the O line this year that will surprise us?  Is the more than one that will surprise us?

Which WR makes a big leap this season? and who will be our top WR?   KJ coming into this year was just a below average WR, by the end of the year, he left no doubt he was our best offensive weapon.  

Claeys said we have the best depth on the Dline since he arrived here.  Do you think the D line will step up this season? 

With Johnson and Miller coming aboard, do you expect that will see significant improvement in the Offensive from the get go, or do you anticipate a transition period?

With 2017 recruiting, what do you see as our top priorities? 

Not sure about who will surprise, but some names that I think will compete for spots are Jared Weyler, and the four redshirt freshmen from 2015. I know that Weyler was getting closer to 100% near the end of last season and that he was doing alright on the scout team, but I have higher hopes for Nick Connelly, Bronson Dovich, Ted Stieber and Quinn Oseland. 

The guy who makes the big jump has to be either Melvin Holland or Isaiah Gentry to me. Both are guys that have the physical ability and just haven't been able to put it together yet. Holland because of drops and Gentry with his hamstring. If Holland can consistently catch the ball and Gentry stay healthy, they should be getting more playing time this fall. The top wide receiver will likely be either Drew Wolitarsky, Eric Carter or Rashad Still, but if you go with the KJ type of mold, you'd have to think it'll be Eric Carter. 

I think defensive tackle is a place where Minnesota has a lot of quality depth on paper, while I'm very skptical at defensive end still. Adding Merrick Jackson along side Steven Richardson, Gary Moore, Scott Ekpe, Andrew Stelter and Shoobe Timms, gives you a lot of bodies that can play. At defensive end, Hank Ekpe disappeared during the season at times after having a great spring and fall, and there isn't anything proven behind him. Gaelin Elmore played some snaps last year, and Julian Kafo, Jerry Gibson and Winston DeLattiboudere need to get their feet wet still. I am concerned about the defensive end spot. 

Significant improvement immediately from the offense just isn't going to happen. History says that as it's never just the quick and easy fix of switch coordinators as players need time to adjust to the new system and the coaches need time to adjust the system to the players they have currently at their disposal. The key to the offense remains as it was last year, offensive line play. If Bart Miller can improve this unit and keep them consistent game in and game out, then the offense should improve, yes. If the offensive line play is as it was last season, then I don't expect too much of a change from last season. 

I know college football fans already want to know what's next for the 2017 class in recruiting and in places like Ohio State and Alabama, that's fair as they already have offered a lot of players and have commitments. It's just different at Minnesota than those two places and me trying to really give you an idea of who the staff is identifying as top targets outside of a few in-state guys, wouldn't be accurate. I've talked about Blaise Andries and Eric Abojei, and some other offensive lineman, but Nico Bolden from Woodbury and Jermaine Johnson from Eden Prairie are two guys I'd keep an eye on as well. 

Gopher85 asks: List the top 10 MN HS players in the 2107 class.

I will list them when they're born in 2089, but appreciate the question. 

In case you meant 2017, here's my best guess a year away from NSD that'll be sure to change. 

Blaise Andries

Eric Abojei

Nico Bolden

Eric Wilson

Jermaine Johnson

Grant Ryerse

Eric Rousemiller

Gavin Blomberg

Jackson Martens

Zeke Ott

billymarekguy asks: Connor Mayes went from starting first nine games to reserve action vs Iowa and Illini to special teams only in final two vs Wisconsin and cmu...what was the deal on that? Weyler, Leidner and Fahning all ended up on the two deeps at end of year. Any idea if any of them can challenge for a starting role? Tyler Moore and Connor Mayes both played as true frosh. Any chance Schlueter or Olsen are developed enough to do that?

Not sure we'll ever know the real reasons why Connor Mayes was moved into a reserve role the last few games of the season for two guys in Joe Bjorklund and Jon Christenson who were playing on two lower body injuries when Mayes was healthy as far as the public and media knew. Maybe Mayes was injured and it wasn't talked about, but I still firmly believe that Garrison Wright and Vincent Calhoun will be starting somewhere on the Gophers OL if they're healthy come fall, so we'll see how things play out. 

Of that group of three, I think that Weyler has the best chance. I think that Connelly, Dovich and Oseland give depth at OT over Fahning and that Conner Olson would be the back-up center. I'd say that Olsen would have the higher chance of playing over Schlueter as he's more developed at this stage to me. 

billymarekguy asks: Current projection? Wright, Calhoun at guard. Moore at center. Pirsig and Connelly at tackle. what does Dovich play?

Murray may get drafted where? Campbell, BBC, Maye may get free agent looks? Mortell giving it a shot? Cockran? Johnson? Anyone else?

2017 draft...Travis and maybe Myrick? Maybe Pirsig gets a look?

What is up with following scholarship roster guys? Think they are on roster come September? Anyanwu, A. Mayes

Wouldn't be an end to the mailbag without an eight-part question, so let's knock this out. 

My current two deep for 2016 goes as follows:

LT: Connelly/Dovich

LG: Wright/Weyler

C: Moore/C. Mayes

RG: Calhoun/C. Mayes

RT: Pirsig / Stieber

Dovich could play tackle or guard from what I've been told, but I'll know more after the spring. 

I think Murray goes around the 4th round right now and that Briean Boddy-Calhoun is probably a 6th round guy right now and Campbell around there / the 7th. The combine is going to be huge for these guys to prove their athletic abilities and to meet with NFL teams. Mortell is going to give it a shot as well is Cockran and Antonio Johnson from what I've heard, but they'd be rookie camp guys. 

Damarius will absolutely be drafted and Myrick will be as well if both have the seasons they're expected to have. Maybe Pirsig gets a look, but I haven't heard a lot about him and the NFL of late. 

My guess right now on TE Duke Anyanwu and OL Alex Mayes is that neither are on the roster come the fall. Latest I've heard on Duke is that he's having another knee surgery to try and give it one last shot, but that'd be four knee surgeries in the last few years and that's a lot of wear and tare on the body. Mayes was dealing with concussion issues last fall and the last I heard he hasn't been in the morning workouts because he's still recovering from said concussions. Minnesota's seen offensive lineman retire in the last few years from this issues and I wonder if that happens again with Alex Mayes. Hoping he can fully recover from the injuries and return, but the past would tell you that's not likely.

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