There haven’t been many non-virus sports stories over the past two months for obvious reasons.
While the trips down memory lane have been fun, there’s one real-time non-virus story that has continued to catch my eye. And it doesn’t seem like it’s getting a lot of coverage.
University of Minnesota football coach P.J. Fleck has been killing it on the recruiting trail, as it appears he’s making the most of the program’s banner 2019 season.
In recent history, the Gophers have been unable to consistently recruit with the top programs in the Big Ten. Since the conference went to 14 teams in 2014, the team has had a class rank in the top half of the league just once, according to 247 Sports.
If you want to go back a little further, 2008 was the last time the Gophers were in the top half of the league, finishing fifth.
When it comes to Fleck’s history with the Gophers, his class ranked seventh in 2018, 10th in 2019 and ranks 10th so far in 2020.
While none of that is very inspiring, the events of the last two months have been noteworthy. It’s extremely early, but the Gophers’ 2021 class currently ranks second in the Big Ten and eighth in the country.
Avante Dickerson (CB), Athan Kaliakmanis (QB), Steven Ortiz (CB), Mar’Keise Irving (RB) and Sam Jackson (ATH) are all four-star recruits who have committed to the Gophers since the sports world shut down.
For context, the Gophers have only signed 25 four-star players since 247 Sports began tracking recruits in 1999.
Not too shabby for a guy who was still considered Tim Brewster 2.0 a year ago at this time.
This is all great, but it’s important to be intellectually honest and consider the entire picture, as it’s highly unlikely the Gophers will actually finish in the top 10 nationally.
Some of the programs currently behind them include Alabama, Georgia, Notre Dame, Michigan, Oklahoma, Auburn, Penn State, Texas and Texas A&M. That’s a short list of some of the most elite programs in the country, and it seems safe to say those schools likely have better days ahead.
It’s also important to note that while those players have committed to the Gophers, they haven’t signed. And they won’t sign for several more months. It’s likely a few of the team’s 16 2021 commits will reopen their recruitment at some point, which could move that ranking down in a hurry.
However, despite those caveats, this is a great development. The class may not finish in the top 10 nationally, or the top three in the conference, but it certainly appears Fleck is well on his way to signing the Gophers’ best class in the last 20 years.
You may not like Fleck’s style, and that’s fine, as it certainly isn’t for everyone. But just remember, Fleck’s job isn’t to sell Gophers football to the fans. It’s to sell it to the most talented teenaged football players.
If he does that part well, the fans will follow. Even the ones who don’t like him.
And if the last two months are any indication ... he’s doing that part really well.
Kevin Dudley is a Free Press staff writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter @Dudley7Kevin.