P.J. Fleck nabs 25 new recruits on signing day

PJ Fleck’s first class of recruits at Minnesota is ranked 57th in the nation.

Gophers football head coach P.J. Fleck speaks during a press conference on Friday, Jan. 6 at TCF Bank Stadium.

Image by Carter Jones, Daily File Photo

Gophers football head coach P.J. Fleck speaks during a press conference on Friday, Jan. 6 at TCF Bank Stadium.

by Jack White

Head coach P.J. Fleck has no shortage of recruits for his first season with the Gophers.

Minnesota signed 25 new incoming freshmen on National Signing Day, Wednesday. The Gophers are the 57th ranked recruit class in the nation, according to 247.sports.com.

“I thought we did a tremendous job finding the most elite talent, not necessarily skill, but talent,” Fleck said.

The team ranked No. 46 last season under former head coach Tracy Claeys. However, the Gophers have signed five more recruits than they did a season ago.

Five recruits in the class are from Minnesota. Fleck said recruiting is everything.

“Our eight-hour radius is everything to us,” Fleck said. “The surrounding states are everything. There are tons of national kids in that radius.” He added that about 70 percent of recruits come from that area.

Nine of the recruits in the class had committed to Western Michigan before moving with Fleck to Minnesota.

Five of former head coach Tracy Claeys’ recruits signed with Minnesota after he was fired last month.

Fleck, who was hired by Minnesota on Jan. 6, had just 26 days to recruit after leaving his head coaching position at Western Michigan.

“The first three weeks, I said it earlier, I kind of compare to drinking out of a fire hose,” Fleck said. “You just never stop.”

Three of the recruits —quarterback Tanner Morgan, linebacker Trenton Guthrie and Neil McLaurin — have already enrolled at the University.

Offensive lineman Blaise Andries is one of the three-star recruits who signed with Minnesota.

The Marshall, Minnesota native had 23 Division I offers before deciding on the Gophers.

Defensive back Demetrius Douglas, another three-star recruit, previously committed to Oregon before flipping to Minnesota. Douglas’ dad is a former Gophers football player.

“Just because the dad played at the University of Minnesota doesn’t mean you are going to get the kid,” Fleck said. “I think they wanted [my] type of energy level and passion instilled into their son on a daily basis.”

Defensive end Boye Mafe made his college decision at 4 p.m. Tuesday. The Hopkins, Minnesota native is also a three-star player.

Five defensive linemen recruits committed to the team and join 17 returners next season.

Minnesota loses 13 players to graduation, including starting quarterback Mitch Leidner.

Fleck said he loves to play freshmen.

“You just think you are going to come in there as a junior or a senior and be an All-American right away,” Fleck said. “Most freshmen need to come in and kind of look around and feel it and experience it and fail.”

Defensive back Kendarian Handy-Holly was one of the more highly-touted out-of-state recruits Minnesota signed. The Jackson, Alabama native received 29 total Division I offers.

Fleck inherits a team coming off a 9-4 season and a victory in the Holiday Bowl.

“I’m here to be able to take the University of Minnesota football somewhere where everybody has dreamed,” Fleck said. “That’s what I’ve dedicated my entire life to as of Jan. 6.”