Ryan Burns says: Blaise Andries
I strongly considered Tanner Morgan here considering Morgan has some of the best quarterback tape we've seen from a Minnesota signee in years, but I'll stick with the big kahuna of this class in Andries. Frankly, Andries could have gone to basically anywhere he'd have liked, but chose to stay with the Gophers through a coaching change. Minnesota's offensive line hasn't seen a player drafted since 2006, and for a Big Ten University, that's frankly unacceptable. Andries and last year's 2016 class look like they'll be the ones to reverse that trend. Jonah Pirsig may be drafted, but Andries could be an early contributor in his career considering the amount of injuries at offensive line.
2016: Carter Coughlin
Zach Johnson says: Demetrius Douglas
Douglas was clearly a priority for Fleck and his staff once they were able to secure the recruits they wanted to bring with them from Western Michigan. Douglas has the opportunity to make plays on both sides of the ball, but to start we have been told he will play wide receiver. Douglas is a special player and should get an opportunity to contribute immediately due to the team needs at the wide receiver position. I look for Douglas to be a future team leader and captain at the U due to his contributions on the field and his leadership qualities off the field.
Instant Impact - Offense
Ryan says: Chris Bell
With no clear replacement to fill in Drew Wolitarsky's departing production, there's going to be a lot of balls to catch, and Illinois' Chris Bell could be the guy to fill that void. Bell's lack of senior tape leaves him as a bit of question mark for fans, but P.J. Fleck and his staff are very high on Bell after seeing him live at their camp the summer previous. Fleck's compared Bell to Mohamed Sanu with his hands and body control, and fans know there needs a new infusion of talent at the position. Bell's one to watch to play early in his career.
2016: Vincent Calhoun
Zach says: Jacob Paulson
I know they can always get bigger, faster and stronger, but at 6’4” and 230 pounds Paulson will be physically capable of playing right away in 2017. Paulson has an elite skill level at the tight end position, he catches the ball away from his body, had high-end body control and also runs like a wide receiver after the ball has been secured. It was of no surprise to me that several “helmet” schools started to get in contact with the Paulson camp late in the recruiting process. I look for Paulson to hit the two-deeps at tight end immediately and gradually develop into a weapon by the time the Big Ten season starts. It also doesn’t hurt that Minnesota will be starting a “new quarterback” in 2017 and tight ends are always a great option for any inexperienced signal caller.
Instant Impact - Defense
Ryan says: Kendarian Handy-Holly
I could really pick any of the defensive backs here, as I believe they'll all have to play, but Ken is one that'll likely play special teams and at safety. Fans will be looking for someone to replace Damarius Travis and Handy-Holly could have a similar career path as Travis' with ST work early and then more playing time as time passes. Handy-Holly's likely a bit more athletic than what Travis was, but if he can grasp the defense like Travis did for the Gophers, Minnesota's going to have a special player sooner than later with Mr. Kendarian Handy-Holly.
2016: Merrick Jackson
Zach says: Kendarian Handy-Holly
There is no question that Minnesota will need someone from this class to step up and contribute in the secondary from Day 1. My pick to handle that responsibility is Handy-Holly. The four-star recruit from Jackson, Alabama has everything I am looking for in a safety and more. I was always a big Damarius Travis guy from the moment he walked on campus and it is easy to see the similarities between Travis and Handy-Holly. Travis is 6’2” and 207 pounds. Handy-Holly enters the U at 6’2” and 210 pounds. They are both explosive and have “playmaker” written all over them. Look for Handy-Holly to lock down a starting spot early in his career and to hold it down for years to come.
Most likely to prove the star system wrong
Ryan says: Justus Harris
We at Scout have Harris as an unranked three-star prospect, but his tape should more than that. The qualm against Harris will be his measureables as he's 5'9" 170 lbs, but his tape displays a player similar to KiAnte Hardin in my eyes. He's less athletic, but where he makes up for it is with physicality in run support and in press coverage. He's got great hips and can run step for step with the wideout, plus he plays the ball well. I feel confident in say he'll play early in his career.
2016: Kiondre Thomas
Zach says: Harry Van Dyne
I love kids who enter the program from athletic families. Van Dyne’s dad was a former player at Michigan and his brother is currently attempting to walk-on at Iowa after giving professional hockey a try for the past four years. Van Dyne has the potential to be a big time player at the U. Watching his film he reminds me of a poor man’s “Randy Moss” in that he is tall, skinny, but also explosive and oddly quick for a tall and lanky receiver. Van Dyne’s film also shows an extremely gifted athlete who has the ability to become a major threat after the catch.
Ryan says: Demetrius Douglas
With Blaise being the easy answer, and Zach taking Mafe, I'll pick the Gopher legacy in Mr. Douglas. Demetrius could play on either side of the ball before his time is over at Minnesota, and he's a very gifted athlete. Sky is the limit for Demetrius.
2016: Carter Coughlin
Zach says: Boye Mafe
I have my concerns with Boye Mafe but if there was a “hit or miss” candidate on this team it is Mafe. I have a feeling there will be no middle ground with Mafe. The Hopkins product will either be a flat out stud for the Gophers, or he will be gone or forgotten about within two years. If Mafe is a “hit”…watch out he could be very special. The same can be said of my runner-up listed below. Minnesota has a chance to develop two big time defensive ends in this class. Can they get it done?
Ryan says: Dominik London
Having seen London live a handful of times, I have him penciled in right now as the successor when Shannon Brooks and Rodney Smith graduate. I'm a big fan of London and the way he's a north-south runner, but has the wiggle to make any guy miss. London won't be a burner, but he's going to be a solid Big Ten running back and one that should have been ranked higher.
Zach says: Boye Mafe
Same as above.
Ryan says: Jafar Armstrong
Not going to pick either defensive back in Trey Creamer or Ihmir Marsette as I don't believe either wanted to truly be here, so you're not missing and what didn't fully buy in. Getting Armstrong to choose the Gophers over Notre Dame and Mizzou would have been a home run for Fleck and staff, and they almost got it done, but Armstrong signed with the Irish none the less.
2016: Tralund Webber
Zach says: Ihmir Marsette
I know he was only a “future Gopher” for a day, but I was very high on Smith-Marsette. I am a big fan of defensive backs, especially lengthy corners who can run. I love to collect them and get as many as I can on the roster. Not only do I consider it a big miss, but it stings even more that he ended up in Iowa City.
Recruiter of the year
Ryan says: P.J. Fleck
What Minnesota's head coach was able to do in just a couple of weeks was special. Getting that many QUALITY players to buy in, in a short amount of time should give Gopher fans hope for the 2018 class where Fleck and staff have a full year to recruit. Effort and energy will never be an issue for Minnesota's head coach when it comes to recruiting.
2016: Mike Sherels
Zach says: Matt Simon
I have a feeling that P.J. Fleck could win this award every year with the energy he will put into the recruiting process, but to be fair I will select an assistant coach. Due to team needs this year it was a two-way battle between Matt Simon and Maurice Linguist to see who could add the most talent to their stable. Both did a remarkable job adding high-end talent with less than three weeks to recruit and they should split the award. However, I am never one to ride the fence, so my winner in a fifth set tiebreaker goes to Matt Simon.