Gophers keeping 2016 recruits in-state

Gopher football coach Jerry Kill speaks at the last leg of the Gopher Road Trip: Chalk Talk at the Crow River Golf Club in Hutchinson, Minnesota on Wednesday, June 3.

Alex Tuthill-Preus

Gopher football coach Jerry Kill speaks at the last leg of the Gopher Road Trip: Chalk Talk at the Crow River Golf Club in Hutchinson, Minnesota on Wednesday, June 3.

Grant Donald

Carter Coughlin is a four-star linebacker out of Eden Prairie, Minn., who received offers from Ohio State, Oregon, Wisconsin and Michigan State.
 
In years past, top in-state recruits like Coughlin would be lured away by those power-house schools, two of which just competed for the first-ever College Football Playoff championship.
 
But this year is different. Gophers head coach Jerry Kill has locked down almost all of the top recruits in Minnesota for the 2016 recruiting class, including Coughlin, who committed to his hometown team back in March.
 
“I grew up attending Gophers games with my family, and after seeing how coach Kill has really turned around the program, it seemed like a no-brainer,” Coughlin said.
 
Heading into the summer, the Gophers have received commitments from seven of the top 11 high school players in the state of Minnesota, according to the recruiting website 247 Sports.
 
The only big recruit from Minnesota who has slipped away from the Gophers thus far is former East Ridge quarterback Seth Green, who committed to Oregon in October and transferred to Allen High School in Texas for his senior season.
 
“I think we’re doing very well right now in [the in-state recruiting] process,” Kill said, though he can’t comment on specific recruits until after national signing day.
“There’s a lot of good players, and we need to do our best to keep them in-state.”
 
Arguably, the biggest reason for the Gophers’ stronger recruiting presence throughout Minnesota is the pair of eight-win seasons the team produced  back-to-back.
 
A couple of big wins against conference rivals Nebraska, Iowa and Michigan during those seasons are a part of the main reason why three-star offensive lineman Sam Schlueter from Mayer, Minn., decided to commit to the Gophers.
 
“I was there for the Iowa game, and as a Minnesota kid, it was great to see such domination [by the Gophers],” Schlueter said. “I remember not too long ago when the score would have been flipped.”
 
Schlueter also credited Minnesota’s dedication to the running game as a major reason he chose the Gophers over teams like Michigan State and Louisville.
 
Schlueter isn’t the only offensive lineman taking notice of Minnesota’s style of play, as two other in-state linemen, Matt Kegel and Conner Olson, have also committed to the Gophers.
 
“As an offensive lineman, you dream of playing in a system like Kill’s where there is so much emphasis on the run game,” Schlueter said. “I know pass blocking is still important, but there is nothing like bull rushing the defensive lineman in front of you.”
 
But it’s not just linemen who are flocking to the Gophers. Linebackers Coughlin and Thomas Barber have committed thus far, as well as East Ridge defensive lineman Jovanny Garcia, according to 247 Sports.
 
With Minnesota’s current commitments, the 2016 recruiting class ranks No. 21 in college football, according to the recruitment website. The Gophers 2015 recruiting class finished No. 64 in college football in 247 Sports’ rankings.
 
Though the team is far from solidifying its recruiting class, it appears it could be a large improvement compared to recent years. 
 
“We’ve gotten a lot better in recruiting,” Kill said at a Chalk Talk event last Wednesday in Hutchinson, Minn. “Recruiting is going very well for us right now. A lot of that has to do with winning.”
 
Ben Gotz contributed to this report.