Eric Small and Mark Dietz are Newest Gophers

Eric Small, a 6-foot-3, 275-pound defensive end from Joliet (IL) CC, signed with Minnesota as part of a five-man JC recruiting class. He is joined at Minnesota by good friend and Joliet teammate Mark Dietz, who had received recruiting interest from the Gophers and decided to walk-on. GoldenSports.Net caught up with Joliet head coach Tom Minnick to learn the latest on the JC duo.

Eric Small is a transfer from Missouri State who redshirted last season. He was named a NJCAA All-American and first-team All-Midwest Football Conference and this season he helped lead Joliet to a 7-4 mark. Their season ended with a 30-19 loss to Iowa Central Community College in the Graphic Edge Printing Bowl.

Small had scholarship offers from Temple, Iowa State, Wyoming and New Mexico, according to Minnick.

"Wisconsin called ten minutes after Glen Mason was fired about Small," Minnick said.

Minnick had told GoldenSports.Net in November that Minnesota was the team to beat for Small's recruitment.

"I think that he is going to go to Minnesota. He wants to play in the Big Ten. I'd say it is 95% that he is going to go to Minnesota."

Small visited Minnesota Dec. 1 and attended the Gopher basketball game versus Arizona State.

Minnesota had also been recruiting Mark Dietz, a 6-foot-4, 250-pound sophomore linebacker. The two players wanted to play together, which helped Minnesota's chances of landing the defensive duo. However, the Gophers did not extend an offer to Dietz.

Minnick said that Dietz had recruiting interest from Temple and Wyoming and offers from Division I-AA schools Eastern Illinois, Georgia Southern and Western Illinois, according to Minnick. Dietz was a first-team All-Midwest Football Conference choice.

Minnick had previously told GoldenSports.Net that the two had hoped to play together.

"They both want to play in the Big 10. They are both good buddies and would probably room together. Minnesota said that they can come in and play right away, which is appealing to them."

Minnick said that the Joliet duo appear to be fitting in well at Minnesota so far.

"I have talked to Eric's dad several times. Eric's dad is coming up this weekend and said that they are loving it."

Minnick said that his team practiced at the Minnesota facility earlier this year as they traveled to North Dakota School of Science.

Minnesota had also recruited Chris Patterson, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound linebacker, who starred at Chicago Hubbard High School. Patterson transferred to Joliet from Northeast Oklahoma, where he earned NJCAA All-America honors after redshirting as a freshman. He had committed to Oklahoma out of high school, but was forced to go the JC route.

However, Minnick said that Patterson cannot get into a Big 10 school, due to the conference's higher academic standards. Kansas State is considered his likely landing place.

Gopher Illustrated Top Stories