Solid incoming class pleases Mason

Brian Stensaas

When it comes to Minnesota weather, Gophers football coach Glen Mason tells it like it is.

While some might say he and the Minnesota coaching staff are at a disadvantage for landing warm climate recruits, Mason prefers to simply let the young men know the bitter truth.

“Rather than minimize it, I just flat out tell them, ‘Man, it’s really cold here,’ ” Mason said.

Apparently, his tactics worked.

Among the 25 players signing National Letters of Intent on Wednesday to play football for the Gophers, 12 are from warm climate states.

That list includes defensive back Brandon Owens of Delray Beach, Fla., who, along with St. Louis star running back Laurence Maroney, highlights Mason’s latest bunch of newcomers.

“I’m very pleased with this class; it’s a very good class,” Mason said. “It will take some time to evaluate how it pans out. I’m one of those guys who really thinks the success of the class is dependant on how many mistakes you do not make as well as how many quality players are there.”

In all, Mason announced five defensive backs, five wide receivers, four running backs, three offensive linemen, three defensive linemen, two linebackers, a quarterback and a pair of multi-position players.

Rivals.com ranked the class as the sixth-best in the Big Ten, 40th nationally.

Offensively, Maroney is the top bag. In his senior season, the Normandy High School star rushed for 1,917 yards and 24 touchdowns. He’s a quick back, running the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds.

Maroney chose Minnesota over Wisconsin, Missouri and Illinois and was rated as the nation’s 18th best prep running back according to Rivals.com.

On the other side of the ball, Owens is one of five defensive backs who Mason said will all be tried out at cornerback or safety.

Ranked as the best safety by TheInsiders.com’s list of Hot 100 prep players, Owens finished out his high school career at D.B. Atlantic with 105 tackles, four forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries. He also shined on offense and special teams, scoring seven touchdowns along with two interception returns for touchdowns.

“By nature, we always have a bunch of defensive backs playing,” Mason said. “But we met our needs across the board. I wish we had more scholarships and recruited more, but you just can’t do that.”

Actually, under a new Big Ten rule, Mason had permission to over sign by three players this season. Under the old rule, Big Ten coaches could only sign recruits to make a roster of 85 players – up to 25 per season.

Mason opted to not over sign, partly due to his record of making walk-on players scholarship athletes.

In his six seasons as head man at Minnesota, 25 walk-on players have become scholarship athletes. Of those, 12 have started at least one game.

Mason hinted of more to come.

“There are some guys in our program who I think Ö deserve the aid,” he said. “The day you get a guy who’s playing quite a bit and you can’t take care of him, that’s not a good situation.”

In addition to the 25 signed players, three walk-ons were announced.

Notable

ï Though kicker Dan Nystrom and punter Preston Gruening have both used up their eligibility, no kickers or punters are among the announced new group. Mason said he hopes to have a couple walk-ons.

ï Eden Prairie fullback/linebacker Mark Mullaney, who signed Wednesday, is the son of former Vikings’ first-round draft pick of the same name. Mason said the younger Mullaney “has the eye of a football player.”

ï Tyler (Texas) Community College standout receiver Paris Hamilton has transferred to Minnesota. The 6-foot-2-inch, 205-pound wide-out was the top-ranked junior college receiver available by JCFootball.com.

ï Two signed recruits come to Minnesota after being coached by famous names. Quarterback Pete Martinsen’s high school coach in Florida was Jack Daniels, while Maroney was coached by Michael Jackson.

Brian Stensaas welcomes comments at [email protected]