With 11 commits, the Golden Gophers are No. 13 nationally in the 247Sports composite rankings of football recruiting classes for 2024.
The Gophers have picked up five of those verbal commitments this month. “It’s been quite the run the last few weeks,” recruiting authority Ryan Burns of GopherIllustrated told Sports Headliners.
The two recruits with the 247 highest composite rankings are players that excite Burns the most. Offensive lineman Riley Sunram of Kindred, North Dakota and safety Koi Perich of Esko, Minnesota are from small towns but are big names in the recruiting world. Burns said, “I think in this day and age, it proves if you’re good enough they will find you anywhere. …”
Sunram has offers from Big Ten schools, plus Kansas State and Miami (Florida). At 6-5, 295-pounds he is athletic and capable of playing both sides of the football. “I am a big fan of Riley Sunram from North Dakota,” Burns said.
He raves, too, about Perich who not only turned down Iowa and Wisconsin but said no to Michigan. Burns said Perich’s highlight tape just goes on and on with impressive plays, while those of most prep players are much briefer. Perich averaged over 20 points for a winning Esko basketball team and is a track star with achievements including winning the state Class A long jump as a sophomore.
Perich is one of five Minnesotans who are verbal commits. Burns thinks head coach P.J. Fleck and staff are connecting with Minnesotans because the program is winning.
Throw out the COVID year of 2020 and the Gophers have won nine games or more each of the last three seasons and had winning records in the Big Ten. The 2019 team finished No. 10 in the country and qualified for a program rarity, playing in a New Year’s Day bowl game. “They (recruits now) saw the Auburn win,” Burns said about the Gophers winning the Outback Bowl.
The hope is to bolster the 2024 recruiting haul by adding two of the most coveted state players who haven’t committed anywhere yet. Offensive tackle Emerson Mandell from Irondale High School and edge rusher Wyatt Gilmore from Rogers have plenty of big schools in pursuit including the Gophers. “I mean they’re (the Minnesota staff) certainly making a big push; I’ll tell you that,” Burns said. “And those are two big fish that are out there right now.”
Gilmore attended the Oklahoma spring football game Saturday and Burns said potential visits to Wisconsin and Purdue may await. Mandell’s offers include Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Penn State.
“Now I think (the Gophers) they’re trending positively with both,” Burns said. “Do I think both are going to make a decision here in the coming weeks? I wouldn’t say that. But Wyatt Gilmore was just back on campus for what I believe was his fifth visit to campus since he was offered in June. …Emerson Mandell I believe has already been here four times. So they’re (the Minnesota staff) doing their part. We’ll see what those two kids decide.”
Burns said both players have a lot of offers, including from schools with more established Name, Image and Likeness success than the Gopher program. Realistically, what are Minnesota’s chances of commitments from both home state stars? “I think 50-50 to land both is probably a good number right now,” Burns said.
The Gophers had their spring game on Saturday, but they have a double digit number of 2024 recruits and that’s ahead of other years. The Gophers definitely have momentum in recruiting. None of the 11 players are composite four-star players but the possibility is there for that to change. “I think a lot of these kids in this (2024) class already have four-star potential,” Burns said.
In addition to Burns’ input on Sunram and Perich mentioned above, here are comments from him about the other nine verbal commitments the Gophers have. Players are profiled in the order of their 247 recruiting rankings, starting from the highest (after Sunram and Perich) to the lowest.
Jide Abasiri, defensive lineman from Prior Lake High School. At about 6-5, 265, Burns describes Abasiri as “incredibly, incredibly long” and with the potential to perhaps someday “play on Sundays.” The physical ability is there. “He looks the part of what Big Ten defensive linemen look like,” Burns said.
Mo Saine, defensive lineman from Eden Prairie High School. Like Abasiri, he is new to playing football but has the makings of a special player, too. At 6-5, 270, Saine needs more coaching, playing time and dedication in the weight room, but the promise is there for an outstanding college career.
Zahir Rainer, safety from Richmond, Virginia. At 5-10, 185, Rainer takes inspiration from former Gophers All-American safety Antoine Winfield, Jr. who was a dynamo at a similar size. Burns expects Rainer to play with a “chip on his shoulder” and maybe contribute early on special teams. “…Being able to land the son of an eight-year NFL vet with 30 plus offers is a big deal,” Burns added while referring to Wali Rainer.
Corey Smith, wide receiver from Brownsburg, Indiana. Burns said Gopher coaches saw him run in January and were impressed, including the speed of the 6-1, 170-pound athlete. The Gophers were his first Power Five offer, but attention has been growing. “Any time he touches it, he can potentially take it to the house,” Burns said.
Mason Carrier, linebacker from Detroit Lakes High School. Burns said Carrier, at 6-2 and 225 pounds, is an athlete that runs 4.6 in the 40 and reminds him of current Gopher Cody Lindenberg as players deserving of more recruiting interest. Burns added that Carrier is “steadfast” in his commitment to Minnesota and that he’s “very excited about” the northern Minnesota linebacker.
Brady Pretzlaff, linebacker, Gaylord, Michigan. At 6-3, 215, Pretzlaff is long in build and can move well and accepted a Gopher offer in January after Minnesota defensive coordinator Joe Rossi saw him, according to Burns. Stanford offered Pretzlaff recently.
Jaydon Wright, running back, Kankakee, Illinois. Wright is a powerful runner at 220 pounds and reminds Burns of former Gopher Ky Thomas. “He can move like he’s not 220 pounds,” Burns said. “He moves incredibly well for his size.” Illinois has now offered Wright but he remains committed to Minnesota.
Dallas Sims, wide receiver from Clearwater, Florida. The Canadian native has about 20 college offers and at 6-2 has more height than wide receivers on the Gopher roster now. Burns admires Sims’ ability to go up in the air and catch the football, and his competitiveness. “Love that kid’s mindset,” Burns said.
Simon Seidl, cornerback from Hill-Murray High School. Seidl plays for former Gopher assistant coach Rob Reeves who told Burns his player has everything needed by a Big Ten corner. Another player new to football, the 5-11, 170-pound Seidl is “very, very fast,” per Burns, and is an exceptional athlete who also plays hockey and had double digit points last season.
Burns believes Minnesota’s recruiting class for 2024 could eventually total about 22 players.
I enjoyed reading another of your nice and newsie columns. Always a few unusual tidbits to be found. Like your justified speculation about the Wild’s coach and your mention about Pat Reusse.
The Vikings draft seemed a bit underwhelming, but many of their needs were off the board by the time their number came up. Perhaps the team’s untested picks from last year will help, but the fact they also have so little draft capital next year will be an ongoing concern.
And the T-wolves? Gobert trade? Connelly jumping ship? Don’t get me started. Please.
When it comes to the post season, Minn. pro teams are stuck in perpetual one-and-done mode. ♂️
Wish it wasn’t so…