New Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck is settling into his new digs already doing what he did so well at Western Michigan: recruit. As we enter May, Fleck’s 2018 class has 13 verbal commits, with all of them from three-star prospects. Per the 247Sports Composite, the class ranks fourth inside the Big Ten.
But not everyone is overjoyed with Fleck’s early success. Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, son of Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz, recently spoke on a Des Moines Register Podcast, and he questioned the validity of some of Fleck’s offers. He included second-year Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell in his comments, as well. As transcribed by The Star-Tribune:
“The guys in Ames [Iowa State] and the new guy in Minneapolis seem to have no problem throwing early things out. What I’ve learned, certainly about the guys in Ames, we’ll find out about the guys in Minneapolis, what does an offer really mean?
“I can tell you this much, if the University of Iowa offers you a scholarship and you commit to us, we intend to sign you and we intend to take your commitment. I think you have to look no further than in-state to see there were a lot of offers that went out in the 2018 class very early out of Ames. And I’m not sure all of those guys were able to commit to them if they wanted to, because some of those guys have since gone other places.”
Ferentz does have a point here regarding recruiting offers. At some programs, and most notably the bigger ones, such as Alabama, an offer doesn’t always mean the staff would end up signing you. Sometimes, an offer is an invitation for a prospect to come to camp and workout in front of the staff. And if a school offers a prospect, that offer doesn’t necessarily 100% mean they have a true spot for you once Signing Day rolls around, which is just the nature of the recruiting evaluation process.
What Ferentz’s comments didn’t include was that Minnesota has already reported a recruiting violation after Fleck reportedly recruited one of his former Western Michigan players. In early March, the Detroit News reported that WMU officials had “concerns” that Fleck “had illegal contact with at least one of his former players.” The NCAA bans athletics staffers at any Division I program from contacting another school’s player without the permission of that player’s school. WMU didn’t provide that permission to Fleck.
Ironically enough, two days prior to the Detroit News report coming out, WMU announced its leading tackler, linebacker Robert Spillane, was transferring away from the program. That led to widespread dot-connecting: Fleck, some believed, had wooed away his former player.
Spillane later stated Fleck and the Gophers had “nothing to do” with his transfer. Minnesota ended up reporting a violation categorized as “minor.”
The one part about Ferentz’s comments that will be interesting to see play out is how many of the commits Fleck can keep as it gets closer to the December early signing period, and February’s Signing Day. But regardless, things are looking up on the recruiting trail for Minnesota.
While is is still very early in the recruiting cycle, there is reason to be optimistic about Fleck’s class thus far, as my colleague Alex Kirshner wrote about last month.
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.
The Gophers’ current class has four prospects from the state of Georgia, which is a big get for Fleck to sway them away from some of the in-state and Southern powers near the state. We’ll see how Fleck’s first 2018 class shakes out in the coming months.