Chad Simmons

Projected Class: With the season near the halfway point, GI takes our best guess at Minnesota's 2017 recruiting class on defense

With the Gophers near the halfway point in the season, GopherIllustrated takes our best guess at what Minnesota's 2017 recruiting class will look like on the defensive side of the ball.

Defensive Line

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Projected signee:


Other candidates



This is a position group where there's not a lot of certainty right now. You have the Gopher defense playing a lot of 2-4-5 and 3-4 in addition to their 4-3 scheme this season, and if that's the case going forward, the staff has to figure out how many defensive ends they'll need or even defensive tackles for that matter. There's also not a lot of defensive linemen I can point to in this 2017 class outside of a handful that are priorities right now, and a large part of this is just due to Minnesota still is the decision making process of what they want at the position. They're recruiting many, many different defensive tackles and ends, but are still in the deliberation process about most. 

A few things are certain however. 

I firmly believe Minnesota is getting an absolute steal in Texas defensive tackle Joshua Croslen as he's been having a tremendous senior season thus far as he has double digit sacks and tackles for loss in the highest level of play in Texas. He's the only commitment at this point on the defensive line. 

In-state defensive end Boye Mafe is a taking his sweet time since receiving his Gopher offer, but Minnesota is in no rush. Sounds like Mafe wants to visit North Dakota at the end of the month to honor a previous set visit, but I don't believe he'll wait much longer after that. Have to think that the Gophers feel good about where things stand following multiple unofficial visits. 

Illinois defensive tackle Kendrick Green has most of the recruiting media believing now that the Iowa Hawkeyes have offered, that he's almost a lock to become a Hawkeye. One source tells me not so fast. A source close to the Green family tells me that, "We're going to take our time and visit more schools as you don't want to buy the first car we see,". When asked if they thought Iowa was the leader, the source responded with, "No. Minnesota is awesome too." Not saying that this is a sure thing for the Gophers or the Hawkeyes, but it does look likely that he'll choose one of those two schools. We'll see how things play out here in the next few weeks. 

It's also looking very likely that Minnesota will try and take a junior college defensive end or two, as they know they need immediate depth and pass rush help for 2017. Minnesota's looking at a bunch of different names there, but a few to note are Micheal Clemons (Minnesota's offered, but so has Ole Miss, Arkansas and Tennessee among others, so don't think there's a legit chance), Brandon BerryJequaries Martin and Jamari Chisholm, but I'm sure more will pop up. 

Everyone reading this knows I cannot mention defensive line recruiting without saying something about North Dakota DE commit Ezekiel Ott. I still know the Gophers staff is taking a hard look at the Caledonia product and that it's ultimately going to be up to coach Claeys if Minnesota offers, so we'll see what happens. Georgia defensive tackle Ellison Hubbard will be another name to watch come November / December as Minnesota is trying to figure out what they want to do with the defensive line position in general as mentioned above with the different schemes that the Gophers have run this fall. I'm not even ruling out a JUCO defensive tackle yet either.

There's a large net being tossed on defensive line recruiting right now, and until Mafe / Green make a decision / when Claeys and staff decide what they want to do, I don't know that it'll get more narrowed down for a few more weeks yet. 


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Other candidates


First thing you'll notice here is I'm including Gophers athlete commit Claudin Cherelus in the linebacker group. Cherelus was recently moved from safety to outside linebacker after a discussion I had with Florida analyst Corey Bender, as both agree that Cherelus' frame will likely allow him to grow further and get potentially too big to play safety, and I don't know that he has the speed to cover there. That's all fine and dandy, but the only opinion that actually matters is what the Gophers staff thinks, and from talking with some sources, it sounds like Cherelus is being viewed as a OLB / safety hybrid commit right now. Cherelus is scheduled to take his official visit to Minnesota this weekend where head coach Tracy Claeys and defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel will get their first live look at Cherelus, and be able to get a better feel for what position they think he'll be then. 

I also am going to have Kyrei Fisher included until he says something otherwise. I know there's been a lot of hoopla about Fisher taking Minnesota commit out of his Twitter bio (what a time to be alive by the way), but sources from both sides have told GopherIllustrated since his official visit that Fisher is very likely to stick with the Maroon and Gold. I told all of you last week when others were reporting that Fisher would visit Colorado, that it wasn't the case, and that held out to be true. Fisher has no other visits scheduled at this time, and with him being a December graduate, Minnesota only has to hold on for a couple more months. 

Texas linebacker Bryson Jackson is Minnesota's latest linebacker offer, and that comes off the heels of Dimitri Moore's official visit. No coincidence there as I don't anticipate Moore to be choosing Minnesota when he makes a decision here soon, and Jackson moves into the top linebackers target territory. No official visit is set yet, but I expect one to be here in the next few weeks, and Mike Sherels looks to be in a prime spot to potentially add the Lake Ridge backer. 

The final name to really note here is junior college linebacker Ryan Guthrie who took an unofficial visit to Minnesota earlier this month. The thought process behind a junior college linebacker would be to provide depth that can help right away as Minnesota is playing a lot of four linebacker sets, and it's hard to keep depth with only 13 scholarships in the room. Guthrie is also a tremendous player as he's leading the junior college ranks in tackles for loss with 21 through seven games. I wouldn't be surprised at all if Mike Sherels and company made a move on him in the next few weeks. 

Defensive Back

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Projected signee:

A junior college cornerback

Other candidates


Gophers currently have two or three defensive back commits depending on how you view Claudin Cherelus as we mentioned earlier, but junior college safety Jaquarius Landrews is expected to fill in for Damarius Travis next season, and Minnesota is also really happy with new corner commitment Trey Creamer who gives Minnesota height, length and speed at the corner position.  

My projections have Minnesota taking another safety to pair with Landrews, and I also know that they want a bigger corner for their final spot as well. From what I'm hearing, it sounds like in a perfect world, Minnesota would want the corner to be from the junior college ranks as they're pretty green at the corner spot with Coney Durr, Kiondre Thomas and Ray Buford all underclassmen next season, and they'd like someone with experience to fill that void left by Jalen Myrick in an ideal scenario. I'm still not ruling out a high school corner such as DeWayne TerryJuawan Treadwell or John Davis of whom Minnesota is recruiting hard, but I also know the Gophers are exploring their options at the junior college ranks as well. I also think Jordan Ulmer and Raheem Layne are also in play. 

Scout300 safety Kendarian Handy-Holly is looking very good for Minnesota chances right now as GopherIllustrated reported a couple of weeks ago that Handy-Holly and his father would be taking an unofficial visit for the Northwestern game in November, and are also planning on coming back for an unofficial visit after the season. A lot of Handy-Holly's interest comes from teammate Mark Williams who is enjoying his freshman season at Minnesota. 

It's still in the preliminary stages, so we'll see what junior college names pop up for the corner position, but I do anticipate Minnesota seriously looking at their options there.  

Total number for 2017 on defense: 11


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