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Minneapolis RB tops Minnesota's 2014 class

February 6, 2014
Associated Press

Minneapolis RB tops Minnesota's 2014 class

Eds: Updates with quotes, details, background. Inserts glance.

By DAVE CAMPBELL

AP Sports Writer

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The highlight of Minnesota's latest recruiting class is a hometown kid: running back Jeff Jones.

Jones upheld his verbal commitment to the program by announcing his decision Wednesday on national signing day to join the Gophers over his other finalist, Iowa State. Jones held a news conference at Minneapolis Washburn, the same high school that produced standout defensive tackle and potential NFL first-round draft pick Ra'Shede Hageman, whose relationship with coach Jerry Kill and his staff helped sway Jones to stay home.

"I believe strongly in loyalty," Jones told reporters. "As a Minnesota kid that has grown up here, I wouldn't feel right putting up stats for Michigan with Michigan across my chest."

Jones was ranked as the seventh-best running back in the nation by Rivals.com and 12th by Scout.com. Those analysts had Jones 44th and 78th overall and both services rated him as a four-star prospect. His addition was a big boost to the best class Kill has had here. Jones has yet to qualify academically, the coach said he wasn't worried.

"It's hard when you got that many people coming at you when you're young but we maintained the relationship," Kill said, adding: "That's great for our state."

Rankings are meaningless, of course, before these players ever suit up for a game, but Rivals put Minnesota eighth in the soon-to-be-14-team Big Ten and 53rd nationally and Scout had the Gophers ninth and 51st, respectively. Last year's class was ranked last in the conference by both of those services.

Two offensive linemen joined Jones as the top recruits the state produced this year, and they both bolted for the Southeastern Conference. Frank Ragnow of Chanhassen picked Arkansas, and J.C. Hassenauer of East Ridge went with Alabama.

But the Gophers added plenty of offensive skill. Another Minnesota player, Brandon Lingen from Wayzata, is one of three well-regarded tight ends in the class. And wide receiver, the thinnest position on the 8-5 team last season, got a boost, too, with Isaiah Gentry and Conner Krizancic of Ohio and Melvin Holland from Virginia.

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MINNESOTA

National rankings: Rivals 53, Scout 51.

Best in class: Jeff Jones, RB, Minneapolis Washburn HS.

Best of the rest: Isaiah Gentry, WR, Cincinnati Moeller HS; Melvin Holland, WR, Ashburn (Va.) Briar Woods HS; Conner Krizancic, WR, Mentor (Ohio) HS; Brandon Lingen, TE, Wayzata (Minn.) HS; Connor Mayes, OL, Van Alstyne (Texas) HS; Gary Moore, DT, Mobile (Ala.) Murphy HS; Dimonic Roden-McKinzy, QB, Kansas City (Kan.) Wyandotte HS; Andrew Stelter, DE, Owatonna (Minn.) HS.

Late additions: Moore reneged on his verbal commitment to Southern Mississippi and Krizancic did the same to Cincinnati.

One that got away: Frank Ragnow, OL, Chanhassen (Minn.) HS. Signed with Arkansas.

NOTE: Julien Kafo, a defensive end from Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, has an atypical background as a Canadian prospect. He speaks four languages: English, French, German and Spanish.

Signing day capsules for each Big Ten school

By The Associated Press

ILLINOIS

National rankings (Rivals 71; Scout 68).

Best in class: Jihad Ward, 6-6 285, dt, Globe Institute of Technology (N.Y.)

Best of the rest: Malik Turner, 6-3 205, wr, Springfield (Ill.) Sacred Heart-Griffin

Late addition: Chris James, 5-11 185, db, Orange-Stark (Texas) High School

One that got away: Tyree Stone-Davis, CB, Pierce College (Calif.).

NOTE: The best player Illinois will add may not be among the signings. Quarterback Wes Lunt sat out last season after transferring from Oklahoma State.

———

INDIANA

National rankings: (Rivals 36; Scout 44).

Best in class: Tim Gardner, ol, Avon, Ind.

Best of the rest: Dominque Booth, wr, Indianapolis; Jordan Fuchs, te, Queens, N.Y.; Greg Gooch, lb, Longwood, Fla.; Robert McCray III, Rockdale, Ga.; Tegray Scales, lb, Cincinnati.

Late addition: McCray, who didn't make his decision until the final hours leading up to signing day.

One that got away: Willie Yarbary, de, Augusta, Ga., decommitted from Indiana and wound up choosing Wake Forest after Indiana changed defensive coordinators.

NOTE: "Physically, he (Gooch) is a Mike linebacker, who can come in and rush off the edge. He'll provide tremendous personality for this defense," new coordinator Brian Knorr said.

———

IOWA

National rankings (Rivals 60; Scout 41).

Best in class: Wiegers, Scheel

Best of the rest: Nelson, Keegan Render, OG, Indianola, Iowa

Late addition: Taylor

One that got away: Ross Pierschbacher, OT, Cedar Falls, Iowa (Alabama)

NOTE: Although Iowa signed many of the state's top prospects, Pierschbacher wavered on his oral commitment and wound up with Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa. The Hawkeyes also failed to land the state's No. 1 recruit, wide receiver and Iowa State signee Allen Lazard. But Lazard's father and brother played for the Cyclones, and he's been committed to them for years.

———

MARYLAND

National Rankings: (Rivals 51; Scout 60).

Best in class: OL Damian Prince, Forestville, Md. Parade All-American picked Maryland over Florida and South Carolina in a nationally televised ceremony at Bishop McNamara High School.

Best of the rest: DE Jesse Aniebonam, Olney, Md.; WR Juwann Winfree, Englewood, N.J. Aniebonam is a highly regarded pass rusher who had 30 scholarship offers from schools in just about every major conference. Winfree was offered as a safety by Georgia but wanted to play offense.

Late addition: LB Nnamdi Egbuaba, Baltimore. Edsall thinks the Terps got a steal in this under-the-radar prospect, who possesses great size and speed along with a high motor.

One that got away: CB Jalen Tabor, Washington, D.C. Five-star cornerback from Friendship Collegiate Academy grew up minutes from the College Park campus and always spoke highly of Maryland, but ultimately signed with Florida.

NOTES: Two of Maryland's top recruits are already enrolled at College Park. Derwin Gray and Larry Mazyck, both of whom graduated from Friendship Collegiate Academy in D.C., spent the 2013 season playing at Fork Union Military Academy and Iowa Western Community College, respectively. Gray and Mazyck, who technically count against the Class of 2013 in terms of how their scholarships are assigned, should contend for immediate playing time.

———

MICHIGAN

National rankings (Rivals 31; Scout 27).

Best in class: Jabrill Peppers, DB, Paramus, N.J.

Best of the rest: Drake Harris, WR, Grand Rapids, Mich.

Late addition: Jared Wangler, LB, Warren, Mich.

One that got away: Damon Webb, DB, Detroit.

NOTE: Wangler's father, John, was a quarterback for the Wolverines from 1977-80.

———

MICHIGAN STATE

National rankings (Rivals 21; Scout 21).

Best in class: Montae Nicholson, db, Monroeville (Pa.).

Best of the rest: Brian Allen, ol, Hinsdale (Ill.)

Late addition: T.J. Harrell, db, Tampa (Fla.)

One that got away: Darius Slade, de, Montclair, N.J.

NOTE: Slade committed to Michigan State in mid-January but had a late change of heart and signed with Urban Meyer and Ohio State on Wednesday.

———

MINNESOTA

National rankings: Rivals 53, Scout 51.

Best in class: Jeff Jones, RB, Minneapolis Washburn HS.

Best of the rest: Isaiah Gentry, WR, Cincinnati Moeller HS; Melvin Holland, WR, Ashburn (Va.) Briar Woods HS; Conner Krizancic, WR, Mentor (Ohio) HS; Brandon Lingen, TE, Wayzata (Minn.) HS; Connor Mayes, OL, Van Alstyne (Texas) HS; Gary Moore, DT, Mobile (Ala.) Murphy HS; Dimonic Roden-McKinzy, QB, Kansas City (Kan.) Wyandotte HS; Andrew Stelter, DE, Owatonna (Minn.) HS.

Late additions: Moore reneged on his verbal commitment to Southern Mississippi and Krizancic did the same to Cincinnati.

One that got away: Frank Ragnow, OL, Chanhassen (Minn.) HS. Signed with Arkansas.

NOTE: Julien Kafo, a defensive end from Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, has an atypical background as a Canadian prospect. He speaks four languages: English, French, German and Spanish.

———

NEBRASKA

National Rankings (Rivals 32; Scout 34).

Best in class: Monte Harrison, WR, Lee's Summit, Mo. He's a dynamic athlete who led his West High team to a state championship. The question is whether he'll show up in Lincoln or turn pro in baseball. A speedy and strong-armed outfielder, he's pegged as a top-50 MLB draft pick.

Best of the rest: Tanner Farmer, OL, Highland, Ill. He made an impressive showing at the Under Armour All-Star Game and is ranked among the best offensive line prospects in the country. He and fellow O-lineman D.J. Foster out of Lincoln will make bids for early playing time.

Late addition: Mikale Wilbon, RB, Chicago. He flipped from Vanderbilt after James Franklin took the Penn State coaching job. He's been injury prone but has the tools to be a great one.

One that got away: Blake McClain, DL, Jacksonville, Fla. He flipped twice down the stretch, de-committing from Florida State, pledging to Nebraska and signing with South Carolina.

NOTE: Nebraska secured verbal commitments from a half-dozen players in the two weeks before signing day, but the strong finish was mitigated by the loss of McClain and three others who went elsewhere.

———

NORTHWESTERN

National rankings (Rivals 66; Scout 56).

Best in class: Clayton Thorson, QB, Wheaton, Ill.

Best of the rest: Austin Anderson, RB, Plano, Texas; Garrett Dickerson, TE, Englewood, N.J.; Justin Jackson, RB, Carol Stream, Ill.; Parrker Westphal, CB, Bolingbrook, Ill.

Late addition: Xavier Washington, DE, Cedar Hill, Texas

One that got away: Hamilton Anoa'I, LB, San Mateo, Calif.

NOTE: DL Fred Wyatt of Lawrence, Kan., comes with a connection to Fitzgerald and Northwestern. His father Buddy was the defensive line coach at Northwestern for two years in the late 1990s, and Buddy and Fitzgerald worked under Gary Barnett at Colorado.

———

OHIO STATE

National rankings (Rivals 3; Scout 3).

Best in class: Raekwon McMillan, LB, Hinesville (Ga.) Liberty County

Best of the rest: Dante Booker, LB, Akron (Ohio) St. Vincent-St. Mary; Johnnie Dixon, WR, West Palm Beach (Fla.) Dwyer; Jamarco Jones, OL, Chicago De La Salle

Late addition: Darius Slade, DL, Montclair (N.J.)

One that got away: Malik McDowell, DL, Southfield (Mich.) to Michigan State

NOTE: "We signed 23 players with an emphasis on linebacker, a position where we're going through an overhaul. There are four linebackers we recruited and they have to play four us. Just so everybody knows, there's no redshirting (for them)," Meyer said.

———

PENN STATE

National rankings: Rivals 21; Scout 21.

Best in class: Saeed Blacknall, WR, 6-2, 210, Manalapan, N.J.

Best of the rest: De'Andre Thompkins of Swansboro, N.C., and Chris Godwin of Middletown, Del., were two of four wide receivers coach James Franklin recruited to fill void left by Allen Robinson, who left for the NFL draft. . Quarterback Michael O'Connor from Ottawa, Ontario, trained with former Florida State Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., and was one of five of Penn State's 25 signees who began Penn State classes in January. . Franklin also added to his complement of tight ends with Mike Gesicki (6-5, 245) from Manahawkin, N.J.

Late addition: Torrence Brown, a three-star defensive lineman (6-4, 240) from Tuscaloosa, Ala., who de-committed from Southern Mississippi.

One that got away: Four-star defensive tackle Thomas Holley of Brooklyn, N.Y., de-committed from Penn State and opted for Florida when longtime Penn State assistant coach Larry Johnson became defensive line coach and assistant head coach at Ohio State.

NOTE: Recruits who faxed in letters of intent were welcomed by Franklin and his assistants via cellphone and were announced individually in NFL draft day fashion. There was a draft board that listed all players in the football offices as well.

———

PURDUE

National rankings (Rivals 75; Scout 64).

Best in class: Gelen Robinson, de, St. John, Ind.

Best of the rest: David Blough, qb, Carrollton, Texas; Tim Cason, db, Clarkston, Mich.

Late addition: Corey Clements, ol, Mesa (Ariz.) CC.

One that got away: Ladarius Wiley, wr, Los Angeles, decommitted earlier this week.

NOTE: "We're really excited about getting our needs. You look at last season, and I think we've done a lot of good things in addressing those needs." — coach Darrell Hazell.

———

RUTGERS

National rankings (Rivals 57; Scout 55).

Best in class: Sideny Gorpe, LB, Newark, N.J.

Best of the rest: Kevin Wilkins, DL, Mahwah, N.J.

Late addition: Giovanni Rescigno, QB, Macomb Township, Mich.

One that got away: Saeed Blacknall, WR, Manalapan, N.J.

NOTE: "...Rutgers had an abysmal year," Mike Farrell, the national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com said. "They've had 12 de-commitments, which is a record. I've never heard of a program that didn't lose a head coach, that didn't go under NCAA sanctions, lose that many kids. They just had a disastrous recruiting year. I think they're ninth in the Big Ten."

———

WISCONSIN

National rankings: (Rivals 33; Scout 28).

Best in class: Jaden Gault, OL, Cottage Grove, Wis.

Best of the rest: D.J. Gillins, QB, Jacksonville, Fla.; Dareian Watkins, WR, Galion, Ohio; Taiwan Deal, RB, Capitol Heights, Md.; George Panos, OL, Hartland, Wis.; Conor Sheehy, DL, Milwaukee.

Late addition: D'Cota Dixon, CB, Oak Hill, Fla.

One that got away: Craig Evans, DL, Sun Prairie, Wis. (Michigan St.)

NOTES: Panos' father, Joe, played offensive line at Wisconsin from 1990-93 and was captain of the 1993 Big Ten championship team. ... Andersen's son, Chasen, is joining the Badgers as a walk-on inside linebacker.

 
 

 

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