P.J. Fleck has officially been the head coach at Minnesota for less than 24 hours, but he’s already made a much-needed impact on the recruiting trail.
On Friday, in the hours after he was introduced, six different players who were verbally committed to Fleck at Western Michigan made the flip to Minnesota, anxious for the opportunity to play in the Big Ten. Entering the day, Minnesota had 15 verbal commitments in its 2017 class. Now the total is up to 21 and the Gophers now have the 49th-best class in the country, according to Rivals.com.
The six players to make the switch are offensive lineman John Michael Schmitz, wide receiver Christopher Bell, quarterback Tanner Morgan, linebacker Trenton Guthrie — all three-star recruits — and defensive ends Noah Hickcox and Esezi Otomewo, both two-star recruits.
When Minnesota made the decision to move on from Tracy Claeys last week, one of the things (among many) athletic director Mark Coyle pointed to was recruiting. Minnesota has ranked toward the bottom among the Big Ten in recruiting in recent years. Even after Fleck’s flourish on Friday, the Gophers’ 2017 is ranked just No. 11 out of 14 Big Ten teams.
Fleck is known as a ferocious recruiter. When introduced to the media on Friday, he made it clear that recruiting is what makes his program go.
“The number one thing in this culture in this program is recruiting,” Fleck said. “Recruiting is the number one pipeline, and lifeline to any program. What does that mean? It means we are going to recruit our student-athletes every single day with the positivity and energy of the University of Minnesota football every day to think University of Minnesota is the greatest place on earth. That is what we’re going to do.”
Fleck said his recruiting strategy will start in the state of Minnesota, but will emphasize players from “six-to-seven hours” from the Twin Cities area. Of the six commitments from Friday, five are from the Midwest — three from Illinois, one from Michigan and one from Indiana. The other, Morgan, is from Kentucky.
Prospects following a coach from one school to another is not out of the ordinary, but perhaps not quite at this volume. When James Franklin left Vanderbilt for Penn State, he received some criticism for the same thing. With Franklin, three players flipped from Vanderbilt in his first three days at Penn State.
In the end, five players — including PSU’s current starting quarterback Trace McSorley — officially followed Franklin and signed with the Nittany Lions. Fleck passed that total in a single day, and there could be more to come.
National signing day is Feb. 1.
For more Minnesota news, TheGopherReport.com.
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