The Minnesota Golden Gophers have finished the last five years with the country’s Nos. 58, 46, 63, 57, and 66 recruiting classes. For 2018, they’re 11th.
P.J. Fleck took over as the Gophers’ head coach at the New Year, after the school fired Tracy Claeys following his support of a threatened player boycott. Fleck came from Western Michigan, where he elevated the Broncos’ recruiting to the top of the MAC and got them from 1-11 in his first year, 2013, to 13-1 and the Cotton Bowl last season.
Recruiting above his weight class has always been Fleck’s shtick.
At WMU, he thrived within what he termed a six-hour radius of the school’s Kalamazoo campus. His MAC championship team was almost all Midwestern, led by talent from Michigan and Illinois. There were four players on the roster from Florida and one from Georgia.
In building the foundation of his 2018 class at Minnesota, Fleck’s staff has expanded geographically.
The Gophers have 10 verbal commitments. Six are Midwesterners, and the other four are Georgians. The Georgian contingent includes the top-rated commit, offensive tackle Oyenmwen Uzebu, who committed on Tuesday. Fleck’s defensive backs coach, Maurice Linguist, has ties to the region and has been in on their recruitment.
There are reasons to pump the brakes.
The first official signing period isn’t until December. Even beyond the usual and tired “it’s April!” disclaimers, the Gophers don’t yet have a commit who’s rated four stars or better on the 247Sports Composite.
They’re ranked as high as they are in large part because of volume. Ten commits is a lot with eight months until Signing Day. The current class is just fifth in the Big Ten, which is loaded with good recruiters.
But there are still indicators that Fleck is recruiting historically well for Minnesota.
The Gophers’ average commit rating, at this moment, is 0.85. That’s equivalent to a solid three-star prospect whom you’d expect to turn into a good player. It doesn’t represent Playoff-caliber recruiting, but it’s a good place to be.
For Minnesota, it’s a great place to be. The Gophers have never had an average rating that high in the recruiting rankings era, which stretches back to roughly the turn of the millennium. They’ve signed a few good classes, but they’ve never finished in the Composite top 25. Their 2008 class under Tim Brewster finished 26th, with a 0.84 average rating that isn’t much different than the current 0.85.
Normally, Minnesota lands somewhere between the 40th and 70th-best class. Fleck’s going to level that up. Get ready for vastly more talented Minnesota teams than the Big Ten West is used to facing.