Gophers address needs with 2013 class

Jerry Kill’s second recruiting class ranks last in the Big Ten but addresses some key needs.

Marian Central Catholic quarterback Chris Streveler runs the ball against Montini Catholic on Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, at Marian Central Catholic High School in Woodstock, Ill. Streveler enrolled at the University of Minnesota in January and will participate in spring practice.

Kenneth E. Farver

Marian Central Catholic quarterback Chris Streveler runs the ball against Montini Catholic on Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, at Marian Central Catholic High School in Woodstock, Ill. Streveler enrolled at the University of Minnesota in January and will participate in spring practice.

Nate Gotlieb

The Gophers signed 19 players Wednesday on National Signing Day, addressing voids at linebacker and kicker.

While head coach Jerry Kill’s second full recruiting class ranks last among the 12 Big Ten teams according to Rivals.com, Kill spoke about how the class fills several key holes at a press conference Wednesday.

The Gophers signed five linebackers Wednesday, including last-minute signee De’Vondre Campbell, to help replace 2012 starters Keanon Cooper and Mike Rallis.

Campbell, a three-star recruit according to Rivals, originally committed to Tennessee. A junior college transfer, Campbell will have three years of eligibility at Minnesota. “I think we all built a great relationship with De’Vondre,” Kill said. “At the end of the day, he just couldn’t tell us ‘No.’”

The Gophers also signed Rayfield Dixon, De’Niro Laster, Damien Wilson and Chris Wipson to play linebacker. Wilson earned national junior college defensive player of the year honors after recording 122 tackles last season. He’ll have two years of eligibility remaining at Minnesota.

Wipson, the lone Minnesotan in the recruiting class, earned first-team All-State honors during his senior season.

Despite a season-ending knee injury at the end of Wipson’s senior season, Kill is optimistic about the linebacker’s future.

“He’s a great leader,” Kill said. “He doesn’t have to do it by yelling and screaming at people. It’s just a natural thing with him.”

The Gophers also addressed their special teams’ needs with kicker Jordan Wettstein graduating. They signed Ryan Santoso, the 15th-best kicker in the class of 2013, according to Rivals. Santoso was 14-for-17 on field-goal attempts as a senior, and he played in the Under Armour All-American game last month.

“He’s got a big-time leg,” Kill said.

The Gophers added two quarterbacks, despite playing freshman Philip Nelson in seven games last season.

Both quarterback recruits, Donovahn Jones and Chris Streveler, are known as much for their athletic ability as their passing ability.

Kill indicated that both may play wide receiver, a position he said the team tried to add depth to. But he said Jones will have the opportunity to compete for the quarterback job.

Kill said he’s more concerned with winning individual recruiting battles than where his class ranks.

“At the end of the day, we’ve been doing it a long time,” Kill said. “We feel good about how we’re doing it. We’re doing it first class, we’re doing it the right way, and I think we’re getting people to fit into what we do.”