By Phil Ford, staff writer
The future of every college football team was put on display Wednesday as high school football players from all over the country signed their letters of intent on National Signing Day 2013.
For some schools, the future is bright and full of talent for years to come, for others, well, there is always next year. The Gophers are in the latter category.
In his second year at the helm, Jerry Kill has brought in the worst recruiting class in the Big Ten this year, according to Rivals.
Kill’s first recruiting class as the Gophers head coach in 2012 was also ranked last in the Big Ten by Rivals.
Coincidence? More like a disturbing trend.
Jerry Kill has yet to start recruiting at a level that is required to compete in the Big Ten. He has failed to land a four-star recruit in either class. To put that in perspective Illinois, the last place team in the Big Ten in 2012 had two four-star recruits in this year’s class.
There are slew of possible reasons for the lack of talent that Kill has brought in so far.
I have heard a lot of people say that you have to give Kill time to set up his recruiting base; he has only been here for two years. Others make the excuse that there just isn’t that much talent in Minnesota and the surrounding areas. While those may be true to some extent, the biggest problem with Jerry Kill’s recruiting is that he can’t keep the best recruits from Minnesota in Minnesota.
In 2012 keeping the top talent instate seemed easy for Kill. He landed several of the states top recruits including offensive linemen Isaac Hayes and Jonah Pirsig, wide receiver Andre McDonald, and current starting quarterback Philip Nelson.
2013 on the other hand has been a different story. Kill has failed to keep any of the top talent from Minnesota. He missed out on four-star recruit James Onwualu who signed with Notre Dame, and a couple of top three-star recruits to Big Ten rivals; Malik Rucker signed with Iowa and Keelon Brookins signed with Wisconsin.
The recent struggle to keep Minnesota players at home has not been the norm. Kill’s much-maligned predecessor Tim Brewster was exceptional at keeping top talent in state.
If Kill wants to eventually compete with the top teams in the Big Ten he first needs to build off of the talent in his own state.
He may have gotten the memo already with the early verbal commitment from Washburn running back and four-star recruit Jeff Jones. Jones’ commitment could open the floodgates for next years Minnesotan recruiting class.
As lacking as the 2013 recruiting class is, there are some intriguing prospects.
Berkley Edwards, the younger brother of former Michigan standout Braylon Edwards is a three-star running back who could resemble Donnell Kirkwood down the road. Berkley is only five-foot-nine but at almost 200 lbs. he packs quite a punch with surprising speed.
De’Vondre Campbell was a surprise signee on Wednesday. Campbell had originally signed with Kansas State but found himself signing a letter of intent with the Gophers on Wednesday. Campbell is a junior college linebacker who should bring immediate and much needed depth to the position with the graduation of Mike Rallis and Keanon Cooper.
Perhaps the most interesting of the freshly signed recruits is Ryan Santoso. Santoso is a kicker but he is built like a lineman. The senior from Florida measures up at a whopping six-foot-five and 270 lbs. drawing immediate comparisons to Oakland Raider’s kicker Sebastian Janikowski.
Santoso has a big leg and could see some time right away but at least should compete for a starting spot. At the very least he is going to be a fan favorite.
The Gophers’ 2013 class has 21 signees in all. All in all, there is some potential in this class but it is Kill’s worst (out of two) as a Gopher with some disturbing trends beginning to form in Coach Kill’s tenure.