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U Targets Elite Illinois Recruits

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June 1, 2018


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The football Gophers are making an impact in the state of Illinois recruiting players for the class of 2019 and could end up with commitments from two of the top three prospects, according to Ryan Burns from GopherIllustrated.com.

Defensive end Jason Bargy from Momency, Illinois has already verbally committed to Minnesota. Burns said the top three 2019 prospects in Illinois are Bargy, Crystal Lake offensive tackle Trevor Keegan and Quincy running back Jirehl Brock. All three are four-star recruits and Brock is more likely to verbally commit to the Gophers than Keegan, who is considered the No. 1 prospect in the state.

Ryan Burns

Brock will make an official visit to Minnesota on June 8. Burns wouldn’t be surprised if he eventually chooses Minnesota, although the recruiting authority acknowledges Iowa is the favorite. Brock, Burns said, has made six visits to Iowa City and that could be interpreted two ways. Likely it shows how interested he is in Iowa, but Burns speculates all those trips may indicate doubts—perhaps searching for a reason not to become a Hawkeye.

The Gophers have 10 commitments for the class of 2019, with three players from the state of Illinois already on board. The three are Bargy, three-star defensive back Tyler Nubin from St. Charles, and three-star offensive tackle J.J. Guedet from Washington. Burns said all three are “in the ear” of Brock to become a Gopher.

Historically the state of Illinois hasn’t been a target for Minnesota recruiting, with the Gophers even pulling more players and big-time contributors over the years from Wisconsin and Michigan among nearby states. That’s changed, though, under second-year coach P.J. Fleck who is an Illinois native, played collegiately at Northern Illinois and recognizes the opportunity in his home state where there are annually many top prospects.

Burns said the Gopher shopping list in Illinois includes other players than those referenced above and when the 2019 class is finalized Minnesota could end up with something like five of the top 15 players from the Land of Lincoln. “So not only are they going into the state of Illinois, and getting quality kids, they’re getting the top echelon,” Burns said.

University of Illinois football is sending out “distress signals” and schools like Minnesota, Iowa and Iowa State are among those trying to capitalize on the opportunity to recruit Illinois prep players skeptical about the Illini’s future under head coach Lovie Smith who is 5-19 in his first two years leading the program. The 60-year-old Smith, who took the Illinois job after many years in the NFL, is 2-16 in Big Ten games.

Burns described the 37-year-old Fleck as “much more of a dynamic recruiter” than Smith. “P.J’s enthusiasm just really resonates with 17 and 18 year old kids,” Burns said. “…P.J. is texting these kids, (and) facetiming them—while I don’t necessarily think Lovie is making sure to make an effort to do that on a daily basis.”

Minnesota offensive line coach Brian Callahan has recruiting responsibilities in Illinois and deserves credit along with Fleck for progress the Gophers have made in the state. “That’s a place where Minnesota wanted to go more last year,” Burns said. “They got some quality kids (class of 2018) from there like Elijah Teague, a defensive tackle who I expect to contribute early on. They signed a middle linebacker named Mariano Sori-Marin from there, but they knew that they wanted to get inroads into this 2019 class and I think you’ve seen that.

“Illinois is consistently producing 25, 30 legitimate BCS kids a year. To get not even into June yet, and you’ve already landed three of the top eight from the state of Illinois, I can tell you Lovie Smith and staff are not very happy with P.J. Fleck because these are kids that Illinois thinks they should be keeping (at) home. But P.J. is going in there and winning some pretty important recruiting battles.”

Worth Noting

Among the Gophers’ other recruiting targets is three-star, pro-style quarterback Jacob Clark from Rockwall, Texas. Burns said Clark’s dad visited Minnesota’s campus this week. Burns predicted a college decision by mid-June with the quarterback choosing either Minnesota or California.

June is an international travel month for the University of St. Thomas football team. Coach Glenn Caruso has arranged a 13-day trip to Ireland and Italy including a game in Rome on Saturday against one of Italy’s top Division I teams. NCAA rules allow teams to take an international trip for competition every three years.

The MIAC announced yesterday that St. Thomas has won the Men’s and Women’s All-Sports Competition for the past school year. It’s the 11th consecutive year the Tommies have been No. 1 in overall MIAC competition for both genders.

Customers at St. Paul Saints games are alert for Bill Murray sightings. The comedian and actor doesn’t live in Minnesota but is sometimes spotted at CHS Field watching the team he is part owner of. Mike Veeck, also a Saints owner, said Murray doesn’t have “handlers” and fans “absolutely love him because he is so approachable and they can get autographs. They feel the relationship with him.”

The Twins, 22-30 on the season, aren’t winning close games. Last night they lost 9-8 to the Central Division first place Indians. Minnesota, 6.5 games behind the Indians, has seen 11 of its last 12 games decided by three runs or fewer, and has a 3-8 record in those games.

Miguel Sano, who hit a game-tying home run in the seventh inning, had three RBI last night—the most he’s had this season.

Cheryl Reeve, the Lynx coach who has led her team to four WNBA titles, was quoted extensively in a May 27 New York Times article while analyzing a Western Conference NBA finals game between the Warriors and Rockets. She is a fan of Golden State forward-center Draymond Green. “There’s just an element to the way he plays,” Reeve told the Times.


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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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