Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018

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JC Quarterback Could Be U Prize


Recruiting authority Ryan Burns from Gopher Illustrated doesn’t see Shelby, Ohio senior quarterback Brennan Armstrong signing a National Letter of Intent with the Golden Gophers next month. Armstrong re-opened the recruiting process in October after being a solid verbal commit to Minnesota for most of the year.

Burns predicted the highly regarded dual-threat quarterback will be on Virginia’s roster next season. Armstrong may have developed second thoughts about Minnesota because of competition at the quarterback position including the emergence of redshirt sophomore Demry Croft as the team starter this fall, and the enrollment next year of freshman preferred walk-on Zack Annexstad who is originally from Mankato, Minnesota but has played this fall for IMG Academy in Florida.

Ryan Burns

Armstrong’s status concerns Gophers followers but Burns believes head coach P.J. Fleck will have a promising quarterback in his 2018 recruiting class. Brevin White, a California prep quarterback who has verbally committed to Princeton and turned down offers from Washington, Washington State and Tennessee, is considering the Gophers. Minnesota is also after Utah high school quarterback Zach Wilson who has verbally committed to Boise State and California junior college QB Victor Viramontes.

Burns said Minnesota’s “best chance” among the three is probably Viramontes, a dual threat quarterback. He was a prominent high school player from Norco, California when he enrolled as a freshman at the University of California in 2016. There was a coaching change at Cal after the 2016 season and late last spring Viramontes left the Golden Bears. A four-star recruit by 247Sports coming out of Norco High School, he would have three seasons of eligibility at Minnesota.

At about 6-2, 240-pounds, Viramontes has been compared with former Heisman Trophy winner and Florida legend Tim Tebow. When Sonny Dykes was California’s head coach this is how he described Viramontes to Calbears.com:

“Victor is an unusual athlete at his size as a 240-pound quarterback that is a great runner and a good passer. He’s pretty raw but he’s got a lot of upside and really can develop into a good player. He has an unusual skill set with his size and strength. He plays with great passion. I really like the way that he plays the game and the toughness that he brings. I’m really excited about him.”

Fleck has 23 verbal commits and wants to have all the players signed to National Letters of Intent in the early signing period that starts December 20. Burns estimates only 16 or so scholarships are currently available but anticipates seven or so players leaving the Gophers will make up the difference.

Most or all of the verbal commits are expected to make official visits to Minnesota December 8. The early signing period for high school players is December 20-22, while junior college players can sign December 20-January 15, 2018.

Worth Noting

With a 5-5 overall record, the Gophers will definitely be invited to a bowl game with one more win in their last two games. A 5-7 final record could even earn an invite as it did two years ago.

Not surprisingly, there were no press box seats assigned to bowl representatives at last Saturday’s home game against Nebraska (4-6).

Last Saturday’s announced attendance of 39,933 was the second smallest in TCF Bank Stadium history. Minnesota drew 38,162 for the Northwestern game last season.

At 6-foot-10, Gophers tight end Nate Wozniak is the tallest skill player in major college football. His 34 career starts lead all offensive players on the Gophers. The senior from Greenwood, Indiana has his under graduate degree in agricultural and food business management.

Tre Jones

It will be interesting for state basketball fans to watch tonight’s ESPN matchup of No. 1 ranked Duke and No. 2 Michigan State. Apple Valley’s Tre Jones has signed his National Letter of Intent to play for Duke next season and he will likely have to compete for playing time next fall with current Blue Devils freshman point guard Trevon Duval. Both are five-star recruits.

The game is also an opportunity to see former Apple Valley five-star shooting guard Gary Trent, Jr., who is a freshman at Duke, and also compare Michigan State with the Gophers. The two teams are  favorites to win the Big Ten title.

The Gophers justified their A.P. No. 14 ranking last night in an impressive road win at Providence against a Friars team Athlon Sports magazine described as “the most experienced in the Big East.”

It seems like a “duh” by now, but Adam Thielen’s speed still seems to be news—perhaps even to NFL defensive backs. The 27-year-old Thielen—now in his fifth pro season and ranking third in NFL receiving yards (793) during a breakout season—told Sports Headliners his best time in the 40-yard dash is 4.45.

Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer after being asked Monday whether anything still surprises him about Thielen: “The one ball he kind of dropped there at the end (in Sunday’s game), that surprised me. He usually makes all those catches.

“The guy is a gamer. When he gets the opportunities, he makes the most of them. Adam does a lot of dirty work. He blocks defensive ends. He blocks linebackers in the run game. He’s just a competitive guy. ….”

Former Vikings linebacker Ben Leber has been retired from the NFL since 2011. His weekends this fall are busy while working for FS1 on Saturdays and as a sideline reporter on the Vikings radio network. He has provided color commentary on college games for FS1, mostly Pac 12 and Big-12 games, but he also did analysis on last Saturday’s Golden Gophers-Nebraska game.

Leber has been earning more prominent TV college football assignments during his four full time seasons. Does he want to make a career out of the broadcast work? “I do,” he said. “It’s been a lot of fun. It’s been a challenge that I’ve readily accepted, and now I am just kind of rolling with the punches and seeing where it goes.”

Twins fans can watch the MLB Network tonight at 5 p.m. when the Baseball Writers Association of America announces its American League Manager of the Year winner. The Twins’ Paul Molitor is a finalist along with the Astros’ A.J. Hinch and Indians’ Terry Francona.

Francona, who directed the Indians to a 22-game winning streak last season, was named The Sporting News AL Manager of the Year last month. Hinch managed the Astros to the franchise’s first World Series championship.

Molitor, who was a finalist for the writers’ honor in 2015, had less talent to work with than Francona and Hinch but got his team in the playoffs after a 59-102 record in 2016. The Twins became the first MLB franchise to make the postseason after losing 100 games the year before.

Karl-Anthony Towns had another double-double last night in the Timberwolves’ win over the Jazz, scoring 24 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. He has 10 double-doubles in 13 games this season. The 21-year-old center is the seventh player in NBA history to total 3,000-plus career points and rebounds prior to age 22. Towns turns 22 tomorrow.

The Wild try to make it consecutive shutouts over the Flyers tonight at Xcel Energy Center. Last Saturday Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk stopped all 32 shots he faced and Jason Zucker had the team’s lone goal. St. Paul native Paul Holmgren is in his fourth season as Flyers president.

After a loss to Purdue last week, the nationally ranked Gophers volleyball team has dropped from No. 5 to No. 7 in the latest American Volleyball Coaches Association poll.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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