The Golden Gophers football program today announced what could turn out to be the best recruiting class of the P.J. Fleck era that began in 2017. The 24-man class has that potential and breathes positivity into a program that experienced a disappointing 5-7 record last fall and saw the December departure of elite defensive coordinator Joe Rossi for Michigan State.
Minnesota signed to National Letters of Intent the No. 1 rated players in the states of Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin—a program rarity. Safety Koi Perich from Esko, Minnesota got a heavy recruiting rush from Ohio State this month but the state’s top ranked player by the 247Sports composite rankings chose the Gophers.
Perich is a superb athlete with a fluid running style and other skills that raise expectations he could follow in the steps of Minnesota All-American safeties Antoine Winfield Jr. (2019) and Tyler Nubin (2023). Fleck and assistant coach Danny Collins prioritized Perich for a couple of years. Fleck and previous Gopher coaches have been spurned too many times in the past by the state’s No. 1 recruit so today was a win worth celebrating.
Perich may have the potential to one day make a living playing football on Sundays. The same may work out for Wisconsin’s No. 1 player, offensive tackle Nathan Roy, and North Dakota’s No. 1, defensive lineman Riley Sunram. All three are four-stars, per 247Sports.
Perich, Roy and Sunram, along with Kansas offensive lineman Brett Carroll, have invitations to the prestigious All-American Bowl in San Antonio January 6. That’s the first time in the Fleck era four Gopher recruits have been invited to the game formerly known as the Army All-American Bowl, which showcases many of the best prep seniors in the country.
High school recruits who signed today include six Minnesota natives. None may have as much maroon and gold DNA as Detroit Lakes linebacker Mason Carrier. His brother Ethan, a defensive back, is already on the roster and Mason posted this on X a few days ago:
“…We would rather MAKE a better team than FIND a better team. Thanks coaches and those loving and loyal to MN. I am Mason Carrier. Get used to the name.”
The 2024 recruiting class is vital to future success and could prove historic to Gopher football. Minnesota was coming off nine wins or more in 2019, 2021 and 2022 before this season’s fall. Fleck wants a return to the norm and even better results in the future where rewards could include entry into the 12-team college football playoff coming in 2024-2025.
This class and the ones that follow need to provide talent and depth. The Gophers struggled last season when they ran out of both, including at linebacker and running back. Inconsistent quarterback play from Athan Kaliakmanis was a problem, too, and he left the program recently. Don’t be surprised if his transfer process leads him to Rutgers.
QB is the most important position for Big Ten football teams. Fleck’s signings aimed at delivering results this fall and into the future. It all starts with New Hampshire transfer Max Brosmer, probably one of the top 10 quarterbacks available in the transfer portal. Brosmer was nearly flawless at times playing for the FCS Wildcats. The Gophers expect big things from him in accuracy, pocket presence, decision making and leadership.
Fresno State transfer Logan Fife is an experienced quarterback who has been both a key reserve and starter. He will have two seasons of eligibility and his presence will be reassuring if Brosmer misses time because of injury.
Freshman quarterback Drake Lindsey comes from a family with Arkansas Razorback roots. At about 6-6, the three-star Lindsey, whose grandfather Jim Lindsey played for the Vikings, will have no issues seeing receivers from the pocket and he could be the starter in two years.
It might be that the Gophers have more work to do in the recruitment of pass catchers between now and next summer, particularly targeting a wide out. Dropped passes and failure to get open bugged the wide receivers and tight ends last season. It’s been an issue for wide receivers dating back to 2019 when Rashod Bateman and Tyler Johnson were both named first team All-Big Ten.
The 2024 class includes two wide receivers and two tight ends. Among the promising preps is Mankato West’s Jalen Smith. He only had one other Power Five offer (Iowa State), per 247Sports, but he could be a sleeper in this class.
With 19 high school players and five college transfers, the Gophers rank No. 37 among recruiting classes across the country, according to 247. For a program that still doesn’t have the Name, Image and Likeness money of many other programs, and doesn’t cheat in recruiting like the blue-bloods and others allegedly do, that’s impressive.
The Gophers leave for Detroit and the Quick Lane Bowl on Friday in preparation for their day after Christmas game. After losing their final regular season game against Wisconsin, there is a want among the players to get a W for the seniors in their last go round.
Among the seniors is quarterback Cole Kramer who will make his first college career start. He is the ultimate loyalist who has stayed with the program through minimal playing time and changes in offensive coordinators.
Gopher linebacker Cody Lindenberg said Kramer never complained, just “put his head down and worked.” Lindenberg described it as “awesome” to see the former Eden Prairie star get his opportunity.
Kramer said “it means the world” to be leading the Gophers in the bowl game. He is an ultimate legacy player with his grandfather Tom Moe, uncle Bob Coughlin and cousin Carter Coughlin all being former Gophers.
Grandpa Moe began the legacy playing for the Gophers in the 1950s and was named team MVP in 1959, but he likely won’t be attending the bowl game. “I don’t think he’s going to make it,” Cole said. “He’s going through some things right now. But my dad’s side…my grandma and grandpa will be there. My fiancé and her family will be there, and my mom and my dad and my brother will be there as well.”
The Gophers are about a 4-point favorite to defeat Bowling Green, a team with a 7-5 record that closed fast winning five of its last six games. Fleck is 4-0 in bowl games but his struggling offense (averaged 20.2 points) and defense (uncharacteristic 26.2 points) need to show up with improved play.
The optics are such that the Gophers, playing against a non-Power Five team, must not only win but be impressive doing it. That will add to the juice of positivity created by today’s signing day and maybe ease the sting of losing coordinator Joe Rossi.
Rossi had more credibility than any assistant coach in the Fleck era. Fans and players had watched him turn Minnesota’s defense around in 2019 and beyond, with his units excelling in top 10 categories nationally. Last fall wasn’t Rossi-like but no one questioned his coaching chops even then.
The players referred to Rossi as a “guru” and it’s a painful departure that surprised them. Lindenberg and others felt they were blessed to play for a man with so much wisdom who also cared deeply about them. “…Yeah, just a lot to be grateful for that he’s been able to teach me,” Lindenberg said.
Why did Rossi leave? Maybe he thought Michigan State, with superior Name, Image and Likeness resources, offered the opportunity to coach for a bigger winner. For now his shadow hangs over the program but today’s recruiting class, a bowl win next week and the announcement of a high quality replacement in the days ahead can sooth the loss.
BTW: Stillwater-based Creative Charters is in the holiday spirit donating 20 airline seats for Bolder Options mentors and youth to attend the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit between the Gophers and Bowling Green on December 26. Creative has a sold-out plane doing a same day trip for the game and company owners Steve and Dorothy Erban are taking care of the game tickets, too!2 comments