Gophers deal with early decommitments

Fleck’s ‘aggressive’ recruiting style leads some players to decommit.

Head coach P.J. Fleck speaks at the Grands at Mulligans in Sartell, Minn., on Wednesday, Jun 7.

Chris Dang, Daily File Photo

Head coach P.J. Fleck speaks at the Grands at Mulligans in Sartell, Minn., on Wednesday, Jun 7.

Drew Cove

Jalen Mayfield, a four-star recruit from Michigan, announced on Twitter he was committed to the Gophers on Feb. 18.

In late March, Mayfield had decommitted from Minnesota and later announced he had chosen Michigan.

The Gophers have a 29th-ranked recruiting class for 2018 via 247Sports, but four have already decommitted over the last three months.

“The strategy to get guys to commit early, it’s very different than what we saw with the previous staff,” said Kyle Goblirsch, a publisher for 247Sports. “It is a strategy that [head coach P.J. Fleck] has used for years, dating back to his Western Michigan days.”

Another recruit, defensive tackle Noah Shannon, decommitted in May and committed to the Hawkeyes on July 4.

Oyenmwen Uzebu, a three-star recruit on 247Sports, also decomitted from the Gophers in late May.

Allen Trieu — the Midwest recruiting manager for Scout — said players decommitting are becoming more common each year for a school like Minnesota and a coach like Fleck.

“I think in comparison to a lot of other Power Five schools, [Fleck] is on the aggressive end of it,” Trieu said. “It’s not anything that’s way off the spectrum, but I’d say he’s on the more aggressive end.”

Fleck got to recruiting early and often, with almost 20 recruits for 2018 in mid-July of 2017, and in late August he will have to focus on making his first season in Minnesota successful.

“If they can have a 7-5 season going into postseason play, I think it’s going to be neutral,” said Ryan Burns, a publisher for Scout Recruiting and Gopher Illustrated. “If something happens, they could be 4-8, and if things bounce their way they could be 9-3.”

Burns also said if the Gophers record is what he expects, around 7-5, the performance on the field would have no impact on the stability of the recruiting class.

While Minnesota’s 2018 is ranked 29th, it was ranked as high as 11th earlier this year but has fallen due to some of the decommits, and other schools have jumped ahead of them.

The Gophers might have lost its highest-ranked recruit in Jalen Mayfield, but the team still has 19 commits for next year. Trieu said Fleck is aware that players might decommit with his recruiting strategy.

“[Fleck] is going to have some decommitts,” Trieu said. “In the long run, you’re going to retain more of those guys than you’re going to lose.”

No recruiting class under Jerry Kill or Tracy Claeys had ever been ranked higher than 46th.

“You look at the people who win the national championship or [are] in the college football playoff, they’re usually the ones in the top-10, top-15 in recruiting rankings every year,” Burns said.

Jack White contributed to this report.