There are a lot of teams that seem to continually defy recruiting rankings on an annual basis. Whether you're talking about Art Briles' Baylor squads, James Franklin's perennial overachievers at Vanderbilt or even or own Iowa Hawkeyes (from SBnation Iowa site BHGP, read the whole article if you haven't yet)..
A BHGP-centric question remains, though: Why does that not apply to Iowa? Because it really, really does not apply to Iowa. In the last ten NFL Drafts, Iowa has had 38 players drafted. The average Rivals.com star rating of those 38 players is just 2.76. Fifteen of Iowa's 38 draftees were two-star recruits, and the chance of a two-star prospect getting drafted out of Iowa is barely lower than that of a four-star prospect (and actually better than a three-star)
..there are plenty of talented coaches out there who are capable of taking lower touted players and molding them into something much bigger. Although we don't have the same sample size for Jerry Kill that we do for Ferentz, it's become abundantly clear that he belongs in the same category of talent development. Whether you're talking about taking a 3* TE with a meanstreak and helping him become one of the premier defensive players in the country..
But Hageman's start at Minnesota was fraught with pitfalls: a move to defensive end, a citation for a party at a house his roommates tabbed "The Zoo," academic issues that got him suspended for the last three games of his redshirt freshman season in 2010. He might have been finished if not for a call from new coach Jerry Kill to Jenkins, who told Kill: "This is a kid you need to save."
Kill moved Hageman to defensive tackle and got him to move back into the dorms once his lease was up.
...or taking a supposed afterthought of a running back from Texas and making him into a 1000 yard rusher or turning the 165th ranked CB in the 2009 recruiting class into an All-B1G performer and a 4th round pick, or...yeah I'll stop there. The irony of all this, as our Minnesota SBNation site The Daily Gopher points out, is..
Some of the most productive players during Kill's tenure were actually lower tail signees from the first two classes. Guys like Eric Murray, Theiren Cockran, Derrick Wells, Ben Lauer and Cedric Thompson were all among the lowest rated 8 recruits Kill has signed to date, and yet all are very productive starters.
Jerry Kill is almost doing better with the lowest rated guys in his class than the highest. I'm not sure how, but the winds of the twin cities have done stranger things to people than that. Probably.
What's my point in all of this? Aside from invalidating everything I'm about to write, I'm also trying to invalidate everything the recruitniks have written, because Jerry Kill DGAF. Hopefully one day we'll have sufficient data to objectively back that up, but until then, I'm just outchea writing columns.
THE DUDE you almost certainly know about (because how couldn't you) is MN RB Jeff Jones, the phenom running back who committed to the Golden Gophers early and stuck with it despite late advances from a variety of powerhouses after he stole the show at the Under Armour All American Game. Highlights? HIGHLIGHTS
Although Minnesota returns its top three running backs and BERKLEY EDWARDS (still trying to see if I can't stir up some latent rage about that one), it's hard not to believe that Jones will contribute this year when you watch him play.
Of course, Jones is a bit of an aberration in the HYPE column, in that he's the highest rated player to ever sign with Minnesota in the internet recruiting era. There are, however, a couple of players that I want to talk about that may lack the same recruiting profile, but who I think will ultimately have their presence felt in the Twin Cities.
TX OL Connor Mayes has a pretty impressive resume as far as Gopher linemen go. As the little brother of Minnesota OL Alex Mayes, he clearly has the bloodlines. On top of that, he has the star ratings (2nd rated OC on Scout, 4*) and his status as an Army All American. As everyone 'round these parts should know, it's not necessarily a good thing if you're playing young offensive linemen, but I think Mayes should be a pretty special player in a couple of years.
As long as Mayes and his brothers on the line can block for long enough, it should open up plenty of big time possibilities for WR Melvin Holland Jr. I think a lot of people have probably watched his highlights and asked how he didn't get more attention- although it's pretty clear that he's more of an athlete than a wide receiver right now, his speed and big frame should open up plenty of options in the Gopher passing game in the future. I'm pretty shocked that a school like UVA passed on him, especially when half of his highlights are him tearing up the state championship game ON THEIR OWN DAMN FIELD.
Since this is a Minnesota class, however, I would be remiss in my duty as a self-appointed recruiting writer if I didn't talk about a lowly rated kid who I think will far outperform his star rating. In this case, I'm talking about GA LB Jonathan Celestin. The 2* 'backer ended up choosing the Gophers over Valdosta State and Western Carolina, but I'm somewhat shocked no one else tried to swoop in at the last moment. Certainly, he'll need to add some weight before he tries to play in the B1G, but his closing speed, instincts and hitting power give him the look of a potential starter down the line.
All in all, it's another Jerry Kill class (with the exception of Jones). You won't be dancing with the stars, but there's a good chance these guys will out-tang your highly recruited darlings anyway. What this class does bring, however, is a great deal of depth. The grueling periods of late October and November can be a touch easier if you're 3-deep across the board.