Glen Mason and staff continues to raid Columbus

He didn't land Ohio State's head coaching job four years ago, but that hasn't stopped Minnesota coach Glen Mason from raiding central Ohio's talent base. The Golden Gophers recently received verbal commitments from three of Ohio's top 50 players – all from Division II state champion Brookhaven.

Linebacker/running back Alex Daniels is the No. 3 player in the state, according to Ohio High Magazine, cornerback Keith Massey is the No. 41 player in the state, and cornerback Dominic Jones is the No. 47 player in the state.

Landing one of those three talented players would have been a nice coup for an out-of-state school. But getting all three of them was great piece of recruiting by Mason.

The 6-3, 230-pound Daniels kept everyone guessing until he made his decision. Many felt that he would end up at Ohio State, or perhaps Oklahoma, but he turned heads when he announced he would be playing for the Gophers.

Brookhaven head coach Tom Blake expects Daniels to be an impact player in the Big Ten. He will likely play linebacker or strong safety, but could move to running back in a few years if necessary (right now, Minnesota has an abundance of talented running backs).

"Alex is a great athlete, and what they're going to do with him up there, I don't know for sure," Blake said. "I think they are looking at him on the defensive side because they feel they need some help there. Alex is a kid that came to us and wanted to play strong safety, but we had a great secondary, so we asked him to work Will linebacker and he willingly did that. He developed and got better and better as the year went on. Started to understand the defense and make the reads. He is a kid that consistently improved.

"On the offensive side, we actually worked him a little bit at tight end early in the season. Then we put him back at the I-back and used him throughout the year in our power and goal line offense. When we got in the playoffs, we actually put him in our midfield offense. He had a great game against Canfield – had 14 carries for 98 yards. So, he's a kid… he reminds you a little of Eddie George when he runs. He's a kid that can catch the ball and he has good size and good speed. So, he's a physical specimen."

Was Blake surprised that Daniels picked Minnesota? The Gophers have a decent program, but no where on the same level as OSU or Oklahoma.

"Not really surprised," he said. "He and Keith Massey and DJ all made a visit the same weekend. So, when you do that, you know, you feel pretty comfortable hopping on a jet going that far, being that far from home. There are already kids there from Walnut Ridge (Ernie Wheelwright, Gary Russell) and Eastmoor (Justin Valentine, Trumaine Banks) that the guys know.

"So, if you talk to (Minnesota assistant) Mitch Browning and Glen Mason, they're pretty personable guys. They understand this area and where the kids are coming from. I think the kids felt really comfortable.

"I know (Daniels) made a visit to Oklahoma, he's talked with several coaches throughout the year, and it really didn't surprise me that he selected Minnesota. I thought he was going to take a visit to Ohio State – he had one scheduled – and I thought he was also going to visit West Virginia, but I guess he just felt that he really liked it there. I don't know if there was pressure from DJ and Keith, but I think he just felt, ‘Heck, I took the trip, I really liked it, what's the sense in prolonging this thing?'"

Mason is a former Ohio State player and assistant coach. The high school coaches in Ohio still think very highly of him. And there's no doubt he's been Minnesota's most successful coach in many, many years.

* The 6-1, 195-pound Massey also took a visit to Oklahoma, but felt comfortable at Minnesota and committed soon after his visit. He transferred to Brookhaven from Marion-Franklin and was one of the fastest players in the City League with 4.32 speed. He could play wide receiver in college, but will likely stay at corner.

* The 5-8, 185-pound Jones was the MVP of the state championship game when the Bearcats drilled Avon Lake 42-21.

He originally committed to Pittsburgh, but later had a change of heart and decided Minnesota was the best fit for him.

"When Walt Harris left (for Stanford) he changed his mind," Blake said. "That was a big reason he wanted to go to Pitt – he wanted to play for Walt Harris."

Blake has coached a lot of great players. But listen to what he has to say about Jones:

"DJ is probably the best football player that I've ever coached," he said. "He played safety and he played flanker. When you talk about football player and work ethic and what he does to get himself prepared physically and mentally, studying tapes and trying to learn from other people and going to camps and doing things, that's what he's all about.

"And then when you put him on the field, he does a little bit of everything. He was our punter, we didn't utilize him as much on special teams this year because he had a hamstring problem and he missed about three games. But last year, he was phenomenal in every facet of the game. But we didn't have to throw as much pressure on him this year because we had the players around him. We moved him from corner to safety and he wanted to prove to everyone that he was a hitter. He's a kid that has great speed and he can hit. At the same time, he can cover. He had eight interceptions this year. He can be a special teams returner. He is just a phenomenal athlete."

Blake won't be surprised if Massey and Jones are starting together in the Gophers' defensive backfield in a couple years.

"I think Keith will definitely be a corner and I also think they are anticipating Dominic being a corner," Blake said. "You could put either one of them at flanker. They have good hands and 4.3 speed, but I think they're looking to shore up their defense and I think they'll both do well at corner."

Gopher Illustrated Top Stories