By Mike Gallagher
4:30 in the early evening on Wednesday February 3rd, 2010 rolled around, and Seantrel Henderson broke Minnesota fans hearts.
After much speculation and months of waiting, three letters were on the lips of the best lineman in the nation.
Truly a crushing blow to Tim Brewster and the thousands of Gophers supporters foolishly conned into thinking Henderson was going to choose the maroon and gold.
Another blow came when, rather than sign with the Gophers and de-commit from Ohio State as anticipated, four-star WR James Louis stuck with the hated Buckeyes and left the Gophers out two four-star receivers (James Green left the Gophers for Toledo three weeks ago).
So what does that leave the Gophers with? Well, since things didn’t go their way at the deadline, it definitely doesn’t leave them with too many big names.
That being said, if you look down the list of the recruits the Gophers did manage to bring in, there are a lot of needs addressed in the bunch.
Offensive line was a must, and although Henderson will not be on it, the Gophers did get Jimmy Gjere, the second ranked prospect in the state and a much-needed interior lineman to bolster what was a pathetic bunch last year. The Gophers also added four other three-star recruits on the line, one being Johnathon Ragoo, a 6’7’’, 342 pound monster from Florida with plenty of upside.
The Gophers also needed to address running back with the loss of Kevin Whaley, who was quite honestly the Gophers best running back last year, and to improve an overall putrid ground game.
In the running back crowd brought in by Tim Brewster was another Minnesota guy, the third ranked prospect in the state Lamonte Edwards from Woodbury. He has excellent size (6’2’’, 215), and 4.5 speed, which should be an exciting combination out of the backfield next year. Donnell Kirkwood, the high school teammate of the man he was supposedly swaying to come to the Gophers, James Louis, has also been told he will be given the opportunity to step in right away and get some snaps in the backfield.
The defense as a whole, particularly the secondary, was the last area of huge concern that Tim Brewster was looking to solidify with this class, considering he graduated nine starters on that side of the ball. You have to say that he did a good job addressing the secondary, considering he brought in three three-star cornerbacks and two three-star safeties. Three of the d-backs he brought in are from community colleges around the country, so the experience will surely be a factor in stepping into the vacant spots next to Kim Royston and Kyle Theret.
GRADE: C While they did address plenty of needs in this recruiting class, it is simply impossible to give a group that is ranked 50th on Rivals.com and 70th on Scout.com anything above a C, and I feel a little generous even grading it that high. Also, with the loss of Eric Decker, Minnesota needed to bring in some reliable receivers to give QB’s a chance. The only one that came after James Green and James Louis decided against Minnesota, was Logan Hutton, a player even Rivals hasn’t ranked. There are plenty of decent players in this class, but outside of Gjere and Edwards, there is nothing close to blue chippers coming to campus. The Gophers needed Henderson and if they could’ve snatched Louis away from Ohio State, it would’ve gotten them a little more respectability in this class. Since they didn’t get either of them, this class is merely average. It is the worst of the three classes that Brewster has brought in, which is disturbing considering the man is supposed to be building something, not moving backwards.
In the end not getting one of the best prospects this state has ever seen really crushes this class. But honestly, people were fooling themselves in thinking Henderson would stick around. When you have schools like Florida, USC, and Notre Dame on your list, Minnesota looks like a D-2 program.
Can you assess blame for losing Seantrel? Yes, but it doesn’t stop at Tim Brewster. The University of Minnesota is simply not the powerhouse that USC is. It will take a lot for the Gophers to get there, and getting Henderson was the first step. You get Henderson, now in-state recruits, and others around the country consider following Seantrel’s lead. Unfortunately, just like with Michael Floyd, as well as countless others on the basketball and football side, the Gophers just couldn’t keep the best in house.
Getting the second (Gjere) and third (Edwards) best is nice, but let’s face it, the one we all wanted, the one this program needed, is gone.