Football inks 24 to letters of intent

Aaron Blake

Six quarterbacks and seven Minnesotans were included in a group of 24 players who signed national letters of intent Wednesday to play football for Minnesota.

Headlining the list are Hopkins quarterback John Carlson, Wayzata defensive back Dominique Barber and Armstrong defensive end Everett Pedescleaux.

Gophers coach Glen Mason admitted his recruiting class will be ranked in the lower half of the Big Ten. But he stressed cases such as center Greg Eslinger and running backs Marion Barber III and Laurence Maroney – players who weren’t highly recruited but instead developed.

“Some guys, you project them,” Mason said. “When you’re in a program like Minnesota, you’ve got to be good in that area.”

With the departure of starting quarterback Asad Abdul-Khaliq and backup Benji Kamrath to graduation, Mason and his staff seized the opportunity to sign an unusual number of signal-callers.

Both Carlson and Adam Ernst – a junior college transfer with two years of eligibility remaining – will take part in spring practice and look to compete with last year’s third-stringer, Bryan Cupito, for the starting job next season.

The other four quarterbacks signed Wednesday are Tony Mortensen of Hutchinson, Andre Sloan El of Roman Catholic High School in Philadelphia, and Mike Maciejowski and David Wess, both from Ohio.

Mason said whoever didn’t earn a spot on the depth chart at quarterback would be tried at another position, such as wide receiver or defensive back.

“They saw an opportunity to come in and compete with guys their same age,” Mason said. “I’ve assured them that they will all get a fair shot at quarterback.”

Dominique Barber – brother of Marion Barber III and son of Gophers running back great Marion Barber Jr. – was a two-way star at Wayzata. Mason said he will not follow in his family’s footsteps at running back, and instead has chosen to focus on playing defensive back.

Pedescleaux could also end up playing basketball at Minnesota. Mason made it clear that he encourages multisport athletes and would be supportive in that situation.

Overall, the Gophers signed six quarterbacks, two running backs, three tight ends, five defensive linemen, four linebackers, two defensive backs, a kicker and a punter.

Of the recruits, seven were from Minnesota, six from Ohio, three from New Jersey, two from Texas and one each from California, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri and South Dakota.