Sept 22, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA: Minnesota Golden Gophers head coach Jerry Kill reacts after a fumble recovery in the second half against the Syracuse Orange at TCF Bank Stadium. The Gophers won 17-10. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Can Minnesota compete with Alabama and LSU?

Gopher fans will be able to ease just a little bit after tomorrow.  Wednesday, Dec. 19 marks the first signing day for junior college players.  Minnesota is set to take on at least two early commitments on Tuesday, including a linebacker that was an honorable mention junior college All-American this fall.

That’s the good news.

Perhaps the top three ‘hopeful’ future Gophers have committed to the program since Thanksgiving.  The football recruiting staff has been on fire.  The staff has snatched up five verbal commitments within the past month.

Within that heap of prospects are a running back whose brother plays in the NFL and a cornerback that shined in the Alabama/Mississippi All-Star game over the weekend.  These are possible building blocks to the future of a program.

The Minnesota program has been able to outlast Iowa, California, Illinois, Mississippi, and Florida State for the likes of these prospects.

Coming into Minnesota from Northern Illinois, a main concern from the general public about coach Jerry Kill and his staff was his ability to recruit.  It’s an entirely different realm from recruiting in the MAC.  From that day, Kill has been able to use his personality and his honestly in luring recruits to come to the Twin Cities.

The bright and shiny facilities help as well.

Yet, as national signing day quickly approaches, the top programs around the nation are looking to fill up their scholarships.  One of the ways they do that is by snatching commitments from other programs.

This may be the trend in the SEC.

That’s the bad news.

Over the past couple of days, the top football conference in the country have begun to poach upon some existing Minnesota verbals along with prospects that have the Gophers high on their list.

Nate Andrews, a cornerback out of Alabama received an offer from the Crimson Tide Tuesday morning after his strong performance in the All-Star game over the weekend.  This came after Tennessee offered the cornerback on Saturday.

He originally committed to Minnesota two weeks ago after being blown away on his official visit to the Twin Cities.

What can Minnesota offer a player that Alabama cannot?

Well, it may not be a ton especially when it’s a battle for a player from the state of Alabama.

Alabama locks up its borders as well as any state college.  The perennial top-tier program has developed its top recruits extremely well during the Nick Saban era, especially on the defensive side of the ball.  That should interest Andrews.

Minnesota has something else to offer.  Besides the gorgeous facilities and the ability to be in the Big Ten, the Gophers can offer ample playing time to players like Andrews.

It can do the same for Duke Riley.  Riley, a linebacker from Louisiana, is still looking over his options, but took an official visit to Minnesota this weekend.  He still visited after receiving a grey-shirt offer from LSU late last week.

There is a chance that neither Andrews nor Riley would ever see the playing field in the SEC because of the recruits the programs enlist.  Minnesota is able to do such a thing.  The Gophers are desperately looking for linebackers and cornerbacks since it is graduating four of its five starters.

Kill has been very cautious with recruits this season, echoing that these players need to make sure of their decision before they commit.  This stems from last year’s drama with Andre McDonald.  He flipped his commitment twice before donning maroon and gold.

If Minnesota is able to keep Andrews and convince Riley to be a Gopher, then the doubts that the coaching staff cannot recruit at a high level disappear.

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