Gophers’ prospects improve with win

by David La

As expected, the Gophers’ upset over Penn State created quite a stir in the college football world.
The victory story found its way to the pages of this week’s Sports Illustrated, confirming that a buzz surrounds the Minnesota program.
But those in Gold Country hope the real spoils of the win is the impact on recruiting. In that regard, Chris Pool of Pigskin Recruiting Journal thinks the Gophers’ fortunes look good.
“With them winning I’ve noticed a lot of kids are starting to list Minnesota (as a college choice),” Pool said. “Even the kids in the state who were probably thinking of leaving at the beginning of the year are now really thinking of staying in-state and going to Minnesota.”
That’s fine by Gophers recruiting coordinator Steve Stripling, who is a strong advocate of keeping local talent in-state.
“If there’s a Big Ten player in the state, you want to get him,” Stripling said. “If you’re not doing that every year, then you don’t build a good rapport among the top in-state players.”
Which is not not say outsiders are unwelcome. In the estimation of Allen Wallace, publisher of SuperPrep magazine, Minnesota might need to purchase a few more red carpets for rolling out.
“We talked with a linebacker from Bolingbrook, Ill., in September and from what he told us, he was not considering Minnesota,” Wallace said. “As of today, he’s got Minnesota in the No.2 position behind Indiana — ahead of scholarship offers from Illinois, Michigan State and Purdue. When we spoke with him about why Minnesota was in there, he talked about their improved defense and the coaching.”
Coach Glen Mason made the Gophers a winner in only three years, which Wallace looks to as the absolutely best place to begin the sell of the program.
“There’s two steps to the recruiting process, and the first step has been made by Minnesota,” Wallace said. “They’ve upgraded their talent, they’ve got kids that believe in their system and there operating on all cylinders on the field.”
The addition of solid athletes like Karon Riley and Willie Middlebrooks, coupled with numerous other quality players make Minnesota’s lineup tougher to crack than most might perceive.
Last year’s recruiting class are all current redshirts.
Stripling hopes the Gophers’ solid play on the field translates into more successful recruiting battles in the living rooms.
“Each of our three years we’ve tried to set our sights a little higher, naturally,” Stripling said.
So while different conference opponents make up the schedule every year, the recruiting competition remains a constant.
But as Pool pointed out, “As soon as Nystrom kicked that field goal (to beat Penn State) I said, ‘That just got them three or four more prospects that were probably on the fence.'”

ù Senior Arland Bruce’s catch of a deflected pass to set up the game-winning field goal earned the Compaq college football play of the week.
ù Saturday’s Minnesota-Penn State game was the most watched football game in ESPN2 history. About 1.37 million households tuned in.
ù As of Wednesday evening, 40,000 tickets were sold for Saturday’s game with Indiana.

David La Vaque covers football and welcomes comments at [email protected].