For those paying attention to the history of Jerry Kill and his coaching tenures, nothing that has happened in his first four years at the University of Minnesota should surprise you. After losing records in his first two seasons, the Gophers have gone on to go 8-5 in back-to-back seasons.
Winning football usually begets winning in other areas, and one of the biggest areas that the Minnesota Gophers need to win at in order to get even closer to a Big Ten title is on the recruiting trail.
Step one in that process was winning with top in-state players, including getting highly ranked 2014 running back Jeff Jones to stay home. The next step appears to have come quickly in the class of 2016 though, as four-star offensive tackle Sean Foster gave his verbal pledge to the Gophers on Sunday.
While getting a four-star offensive lineman may not seem to be a big deal in some Big Ten circles, getting one from out-of-state is a big deal indeed for a Gophers program predicated on running the ball and playing well up front on both sides of the football.
Foster wasn’t the only one committing to the program though, as high three-star tackle Sam Schlueter made his verbal pledge to the Gophers on Saturday. The two offensive line commits gave the Gophers a total of six verbal pledges for the class of 2016.
Foster isn’t the only four-star player that Minnesota has attracted this recruiting cycle either, as linebacker Carter Coughlin of Eden Prairie, Minn. joined the mix in early March.
Overall the program has the current No. 4-ranked recruiting class in the Big Ten for the 2016 recruiting cycle and the No. 25 overall ranked class in the country.
While it is early in the process and things are likely to change for some more big-named programs, ala the Wisconsin Badgers and Iowa Hawkeyes.
Still, this kind of momentum early on in a recruiting cycle is a rarity for the Gophers. In fact, the university hasn’t had a top 25 national recruiting class in any year of the 247Sports composite recruiting rankings.
The closest this group has gotten since then is the No. 26 final ranking in the 2008 recruiting class.
While a few four-star players won’t make or break a program, it can become the catalyst for bigger and better players to continue taking a look at a school that has gone from 3-9 in year one to 8-5 and one win away from a Big Ten West division title.
It’s hard not to notice the change in perception on the recruiting trail, both with in state and out-of-state recruits though.
This could be the beginning steps of Minnesota transforming from the “little program that could” to the “big program that should,” and that should put the rest of the Big Ten West on notice.