Mason proves his worth with strong class

Thomas Tapeh could have suited up for Michigan or Wisconsin last season. Instead, the redshirt will make his debut for Minnesota’s football team this year.
Dominique Sims could be packing his bags to go play for Gary Barnett at Colorado this year. Instead, the high school senior will stay home and play for the Gophers.
Karon Riley could have trampled over quarterbacks for Southern Methodist last season. Instead, the transfer led the Gophers with 16 sacks.
These three players — just three of the many Minnesota coach Glen Mason convinced to suit up in maroon and gold — will be important components of Minnesota’s success in the upcoming season.
But the trio of players might have never even given Minnesota a look if it weren’t for the hiring of Mason four years ago.
Before Mason took over at Minnesota, noone who was anyone wanted to play for the Gophers.
Michigan, yes. Notre Dame, yes. Florida State, yes. Wisconsin, yes. Minnesota, yeah, right.
Since Mason’s arrival, Minnesota has received more “yes” answers than any of his recent predecessors earned.
With renewed commitment to the football program under Mason and Co., Minnesota has found some strong recruiting classes. That begins with the ability to keep the in-state talent at home.
“We had an unbelievably hard time the first year that I was here talking to in-state players,” Mason said. “They didn’t want to play here, they didn’t believe they could win here.
“They liked the University and they liked the area, but they didn’t believe they could win. And they didn’t see any visible signs of commitment towards football.”
With remodeled facilities, that commitment is now in place.
And so is the winning.
Under Mason’s direction, the Gophers made their first bowl game in 13 years last season.
But along with keeping the Minnesotans, Mason has done a good job of convincing out-of-state talent that Minnesota is the place for them — despite its reputation for nasty winters.
Mason downplays the weather, though, saying it shouldn’t hurt the program’s recruiting success.
“The weather in November here isn’t much different than it is in Ann Arbor, Michigan, or Lincoln, Nebraska, or Iowa City, Iowa,” Mason said.
And although the Metrodome may not be the best place to play college football, Mason has never said the Dome hurts recruiting.
Mason added that some schools “recruit themselves with tradition and location.” Minnesota isn’t one of them.
Minnesota doesn’t have weather like Florida, a stadium like Michigan or the tradition of Notre Dame, but Mason said Minnesota offers something others schools don’t.
“We have a major college, Big Ten institution, that sits on the banks of the Mississippi, right across the river from a great downtown area,” Mason said. “That is unique and that attracts some guys.”
But more importantly than the location of the campus or the stadium where home games are played, or even the weather in January, is the way Mason and his staff develop players.
Just look at the recent success of some of Mason’s Gophers.
Tyrone Carter became the all-time leading solo tackler in NCAA history and was voted the nation’s top defensive back.
Thomas Hamner rushed for more than 1,400 yards in his senior season and was a Big Ten first-teamer.
And All-American Ben Hamilton is arguably the best center in the country headed into his senior year.
High school players have seen the development players can make under Mason and say, “Hey, that could be me becoming an All-American for the Gophers.”
Tapeh, Sims and Riley certainly have the ability to be All-Americans.
Now if Mason can only land Cretin-Derham Hall quarterback Joe Mauer next year, Mason and his staff will prove they are one of the best at recruiting in the country.
Especially because the highly-touted Mauer is a Division I recruit in basketball and baseball.

John R. Carter covers wrestling and welcomes comments at [email protected]