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U 4-Star Recruit List May Grow

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November 10, 2021

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The Golden Gophers football program has 14 verbal commits for its recruiting class of 2022, with a list of 12 three-star players and two four-stars, per the composite rankings of 247Sports. Ryan Burns—the recruiting authority from GopherIllustrated that is affiliated with 247—told Sports Headliners three-star commits Zach Evans, Kristen Hoskins and Jacob Knuth will be in discussions later this month for four-star status.

Evans, a running back from Rockwall, Texas, plays in the most competitive classification in the Lone Star state. “He’s putting up gaudy stats in 6A Texas football,” Burns said.

Ryan Burns

Evans, listed at 5-9, 200, could figure prominently in coach P.J. Fleck’s plans for 2022 with the return status of injured tailbacks Mo Ibrahim, Trey Potts and Bryce Williams unclear. Burns expects Evans to enroll at the University of Minnesota in January and participate in spring football.

Hoskins, from Alexandria, Minnesota, played a major role in helping the Cardinals to a 43-35 section playoffs win over Bemidji last Friday, scoring four touchdowns and making a game-saving interception. Listed by 247Sports at 5-9, 160, the wide receiver is small by even high school standards but Burns raves about him.

“The kid is incredibly electric with the ball in his hands. He’s incredibly quick, incredibly fast,” Burns said.

Recruiting evaluators know Hoskins is one of the most explosive playmakers in the Midwest but Burns believes his commitment to Minnesota is for sure. “…I don’t think another offer would really sway him.”

Knuth, from Harrisburg, South Dakota, is 247’s No. 1 prospect in that state. The 6-4, 207-pound quarterback can make plays with not only his arm but his legs and could have his team headed to a state championship.

Burns said Knuth’s size and skill-set is similar to class of 2021 four-star QB Athan Kaliakmanis. With the addition of Knuth, who is expected to enroll in January, the Gophers will have six scholarship quarterbacks if redshirt senior starter Tanner Morgan decides to play another year. A Morgan return probably means at least one scholarship QB will transfer to another program.

Minnesota’s verbal commits can sign National Letters of Intent next month including current four-star defensive linemen Trey Bixby from Eden Prairie and Anthony Smith of Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. Burns said Penn State’s defensive coordinator recently watched Smith play but doesn’t believe anything has changed regarding Smith’s commitment. “All indications…from Anthony are that he is firm with Minnesota, and I haven’t heard anything to contradict that.”

Fleck and his staff aren’t done recruiting, with Burns expecting the 2022 class to have a few (if not several) more scholarship players even if a final total is months away. Positions targeted will include offensive line, linebacker and perhaps running back with the fluid situation regarding All-American Ibrahim’s decision to play another season.

Boye Mafe

Burns said the Gophers are looking at junior college defensive and offensive line prospects, too. Current d-linemen Nyles Pinckney, Micah Dew-Treadway and Val Martin won’t be back because their eligibilities are expiring. It’s not clear whether starting defensive end Boye Mafe and offensive linemen Daniel Faalele and John Michael Schmitz will return, according to Burns.

Decisions on return plans by those players and others who are veterans will be known within about two weeks after Minnesota’s bowl game. That timeline will allow whether to enroll in classes.

Burns has a prediction about how Saturday’s game against Iowa can go in the Gophers’ favor. “Score 20 points. 20 points against Iowa should win you a football game.”

Both teams are defense-first, with offenses not as reliable. Burns said the Gophers will have to use some creativity offensively and definitely not rely almost exclusively on their running game. “Tanner is going to have to throw it 25, 30 times,” he said while pointing out Purdue and Wisconsin passed effectively in wins over the Hawkeyes.

Iowa likes to pound the ball, too, and can be reluctant to open up the offense.

“I have more faith in Minnesota’s passing game, than I do Iowa’s,” Burns said.

Worth Noting

Max Shikenjanski, son of former Gophers basketball center Jim Shikenjanski, is an outstanding junior quarterback for Stillwater. “The thing for him is, is it going to be football or is it going to be basketball,” Burns said. He described the Stillwater guard as one of the state’s top basketball prospects in the class of 2023. As for football, Max visited campus for a game earlier this fall and will be evaluated more in the summer.

All the best to my good friend Charley Walters as he recovers from a recent medical procedure.

Don’t expect former Gophers head coach Jerry Kill, now interim head coach at TCU, to be leading the Horned Frogs next season. AD Jermiah Donati made it clear to the Star Telegram in a November 2 story that Kill isn’t a candidate to succeed Gary Patterson.

The U athletic department should initiate a fund-raising campaign to place the first statues outside of Huntington Bank Stadium. The vote here is for coach Bernie Bierman and players Bobby Bell, Bronko Nagurski and Bruce Smith.

Bierman coached the Gophers to five of their seven national championships from 1934-1941. Bell, twice an All-American tackle, was a ferocious pass rusher who had everything to do with Minnesota playing in two Rose Bowls, winning a Big Ten title and compiling a 22-6-1 record during his three seasons of eligibility (1960-1962).

Nagurski, named an All-American at both fullback and tackle, is a football immortal from the 1920s and 1930s who was named to Sports Illustrated’s NCAA All-Century Team. Smith played halfback on two national championship teams and won the 1941 Heisman Trophy—the only Gopher ever to do so. Hollywood made a movie about him, Smith of Minnesota. The handsome football star played himself in the film.

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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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