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Gophers Target State Prep Tackles

 

Recruiting online source 247Sports lists the top five Minnesota prep football players in the class of 2022 in this order: Eli King, Tre Holloman, Lucas Heyer, Kristen Hoskins and Deylin Hasert. King, a superb athlete from Caledonia and football quarterback, has committed to play basketball at Iowa State. It’s possible the other four could become Gophers.

That last sentence comes with a twist. Holloman is a cornerback at Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul but he is also a basketball point guard. He is a coveted recruit in both sports. “I know that there’s a lot of schools in the Big Ten, including Minnesota, who think he could be an incredible corner but it sounds like he’s going to play basketball,” recruiting authority Ryan Burns of GopherIllustrated told Sports Headliners. Burns has heard the basketball Gophers are pitching hard and may secure a commitment.

For years Gophers fans have been frustrated to see top offensive linemen from the state choose colleges other than Minnesota. Burns describes the situation as “a thorn in the side” of Gopher head coaches going back more than 10 years. P.J. Fleck and his staff hope to flip that with their 2022 class. Heyer, from Hill-Murray, and Hasert, from Marshall, are both offensive tackles. So, too, is Tony Nelson of Tracy who has verbally committed to Minnesota and is ranked No. 8 among state prospects for 2022 by 247 Sports.

Heyer, 6-5 and 307 pounds per 247, reminds Burns of current Gopher Blaise Andries, who is one of the better offensive linemen in the Big Ten. “I think Blaise may be a little more athletic than Lucas, but very smart kids,” Burns said. “I mean very cerebral. They understand what their jobs are.”

Burns predicted Hasert, 6-5 and 280 per 247, may switch from tackle to guard his senior season at Marshall this fall and sees him playing the position in college. Hasert’s athleticism, including foot speed, could make him special as a pulling guard. “He is certainly a road grader,” Burns said.

Minnesota’s competition for Heyer includes Northwestern and Stanford. Iowa and Iowa State are among schools that interest Hasert.

Nelson, about 6-6 and 285, is passionate about the Gophers and Burns doesn’t see him changing his commitment. “He is all of 6-6, incredibly long, incredibly athletic,” Burns said.

Ryan Burns

Reversing the trend of seeing prep offensive linemen go elsewhere is now in play with Nelson, Hasert and Heyer. “I think they want to get three (of them) for sure and if they could get Deylin and Lucas, to go with Tony, they would be through the moon,” Burns said.

Hoskins is about 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds, and the Alexandria star has also verbally committed to Minnesota. He projects as a wide receiver with the Gophers but Burns believes Hoskins could first help as a return man on kickoffs and punts. He has touchdown making speed and quickness. “He’s just explosive,” Burns said.

Minnesota has five verbal commits so far for its class of 2022. Joining Hoskins and Nelson are Ohio defensive end Trey Bixby, Georgia safety Coleman Bryson, and South Dakota quarterback Jacob Knuth. All of the commits are three-star prospects except for four-star Bixby, per 247.

Burns will be surprised if the Gophers receive any more verbal commitments before June 1. With the pandemic easing, and campus visits being scheduled, and summer football camps starting next month, commitments will be coming across the country. A normal landscape is in stark contrast to all the travel lockdowns of the last 15 months that left some players making commitments to schools they never visited. “Starting on June 1, it’s going to be crazy,” Burns said about recruiting in late spring and summer.

Track Fleck’s past recruiting and it shows most of his commits come in May, June and July. Burns attributes part of that to players from the south arriving in Minnesota in June and seeing that it’s not “ice cold” here. Burns projects the Gophers will pick up five to 10 verbal commitments this June.

Worth Noting

Dick Jonckowski, the Gophers former public address announcer for basketball and baseball, received the best news this week regarding his lymphoma cancer when the doctor said “everything is gone.” This is the second time Jonckowski has won his battle with lymphoma. Going forward he will have checkups every six weeks.

The Gophers and UMD Bulldogs athletic directors, Mark Coyle and Josh Berlo, sent a letter this week to the Minnesota House and Senate tax chairs supporting a proposed provision in the House omnibus tax bill granting a sales tax exemption for scholarship seating donations at Minnesota colleges. The letter said “we believe Minnesota is the only state in the nation that taxes these types of collegiate athletic donations.”

Revenue retained from a sales tax exemption would support scholarships for student athletes, their wellness and academic costs. A volunteer group called Friends of Gophers Sports (FOGS) has been making progress on this proposed legislative change that could result in a seven-figure savings for the Gophers.

“It’s moving ahead and we’re hopeful it will stay in the tax bill,” said volunteer Tom Devine, who pointed out the Minnesota Vikings already have a sales tax exemption from seat licensing sales.

A Sports Headliners reader back from Las Vegas reported odds on the Vikings winning the Super Bowl are 50-1, according to the renowned William Hill book. Odds for Minnesota’s NFC North Division rivals are the Packers 10-1, Bears 60-1 and Lions 125-1. The Chiefs are the top pick to win the Super Bowl at 5-1.

Legendary Brainerd High School football coach Ron Stolski emailed that Joe Haeg, who played for him, will now be able to say he was teammates with two future NFL Hall of Fame quarterbacks. Haeg, an offensive tackle, signed as a free agent this offseason to join the Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger after being with Tom Brady and the 2021 Super Bowl champion Bucs.

MLB.com’s power rankings now have the Twins at No. 16 after being as high as No. 4 this spring. The AL Central Division favorite White Sox are No. 4 in the latest rankings, while the Royals are No. 9.

Don’t be surprised if Twins’ call ups from the Triple-A St. Paul Saints include top 100 MLB prospect Jhoan Duran, a right-hander who throws the “splinker,” a splitter-sinker hybrid.

Minnesotan Freddie Gillespie now has a two-year contract with the NBA’s Raptors. He had no Division I or II offers coming out of East Ridge High School, played two seasons at Carleton, walked-on at Baylor and signed with Raptors last year as a free agent. The 23-year-old forward has played in 14 games this season, averaging 5.5 points and 3.8 rebounds.

Credit former Gophers basketball captain Al Nuness with impacting Gillespie’s career path. Gillespie’s mother, Alberder Gillespie, talked to Nuness when her son was at Carleton and asked for advice. Nuness saw potential in the 6-foot-9 Gillespie and contacted his son Jared Nuness, a member of the Baylor coaching staff. She said Al Nuness “instantly knew” that her son could become a special player.

“I couldn’t have scripted the way it happened,” Alberder said in describing her son’s basketball journey.

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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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