Early National Signing Day: Gophers’ 2023 class recap

Dec. 21, 2021: The majority of Minnesota’s 2023 recruiting class put pen to paper today on National Signing Day, ranking as the No. 33 overall class in the country according to 247sports.

–> Follow @Tony Liebert on Twitter

During a time when the transfer portal is dominating any conversation about roster construction in college football, National Signing Day is still a thing and the Gophers are bringing in (20) scholarship high school seniors and (six) preferred walk-ons (as of now).

This Minnesota class is highlighted by high-end playmakers and impressive talent within the trenches. Two of the Gophers’ top three commitments are Minnesota offensive linemen and three of the top five are RBs or WRs.

Someone’s instant reaction might be, “What? the Gophers only have two four-stars.” But if anything that being a fan of college football has told me, is that you need to take the rankings with a grain of salt. Statistically, I would imagine that low-end 4-stars and high-end 3-stars don’t have that significantly different of a “hit rate” and the Gophers have at least eight of those players in my opinion. Overall, I would say this class addressed some serious need for talented youth among the running back and wide receiver positions, and high-end potential at offensive line, with a chance for some diamond-in-the-rough type of players.

Williams was one of the Gophers’ first commitments in 2023, committing on 2022 National Signing Day. He quickly rose up the recruiting ranks after starting to play football as only a freshman. He has the chance to be a multi-year starter in the Big Ten.

Much like Williams, Taylor was one of the first commitments of the 2023 class. He was one of the best high school running backs in the country last season, totaling 2,450 rushing yards and 36 TDs. He has the chance to be the next great Minnesota RB.

Johnson was another prospect to commit before their senior year. He quickly developed into one of the best offensive linemen in the Land of 10,000 Lakes and also has the chance to be a multi-year starter for the Maroon & Gold, likely along the interior.

At the time of his commitment, Nuke Hayes ranked as the No. 776 best player in the country. After totaling 43 catches for 743 yards and 9 TDs as a senior for Pine Forest High School, he jumped 100+ spots to 618. Hayes has all the skills of a future Big Ten wide receiver

Williams burst onto the scene quickly in his high school career, he just really never grew. Going to the same high school as LeSean McCoy and Ricky Waters, he has been mentored by the best. Totaling 1,501 yards and 27 TDs as a senior, he will give the Gophers another supreme talent in the backfield.

Lanier was one of two wide receiver recruits to flip their commitment Monday. Originally committed to Vanderbilt he is a terrific deep ball threat that relies on his athleticism more than his route running. He has the potential to contribute very early in his career.

Bryan might be my favorite prospect in this class. He was an incredibly productive player in Georgia, totaling 95 catches for 1,376 yards and 17 touchdowns on the offensive end while adding 57 tackles seven breakups and two INTs as a junior. He has the potential to be a great Big Ten CB.

Menz is a high ceiling pass rushing prospect. Listed at 6-foot-5, 215 pounds he has plenty of room to grow physically, so he might not contribute right away. But if he does develop physically he has terrific athleticism and pass-rushing moves giving him one of the highest potentials in this class.

Owusu is everything you want in a defensive tackle, supremely athletic, wrestles in high school, and only getting better. He has room to grow in pure pass rushing moves, but there is no reason why he cannot be a multi-year starter.

Brown was a three-sport athlete for Naples High School, where he stood out on the gridiron as a finalist for top defensive player in Southwest Florida, at the annual Southwest Florida sports awards as a Junior. Listed at only 175 pounds, he still has room to grow into his body, but he has all of the tools to be a very productive Big Ten safety.

Playing for Kasson-Mantorville high school in southern Minnesota, Tripp and the Komets made it to the Class 4A state championship as a junior. At 6-foot-7, 320+ pounds, he has the ideal size. His footwork and athleticism are tremendous for someone his size, and he consistently showcases his power in the run game. Like most offensive linemen his age, he has room to grow in pass protection, but with his athleticism I expect that to happen rather quickly. His size projects him as a tackle, but playing guard in high school proves that he has the versatility to move around, which is always a positive.

Listed at 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, Peters has the prototypical size for a Big Ten tight end. Like anyone his age, he still has room to add strength before contributing at that level. He dealt with some injuries as a senior, but will still add a very talented option in the tight end room.

Elliot finished his junior campaign with a team-high 87 tackles while adding 569 yards and 10 touchdowns on the offensive side of the ball. And beat his future teammate Reese Tripp in the 4A State Championship. He was one of the best high school players in the state for two seasons. At his size there is a chance that he makes the move to safety.

Viotto is a pocket passer in every sense of the phrase, but don’t take that as him being immobile. At 6-foot-4, he has the athleticism to effectively move around the pocket and use his legs, he just doesn’t get out and run often. He is a very natural thrower with nice touch for someone his size. He has terrific arm talent and strength making him a tantalizing long-term prospect.

Listed a 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, Walsh 0ften looked like the most athletic player on the field in his junior year tape. He played almost exclusively as a true wide receiver, so his blocking has room to develop to be a Minnesota-level tight end. A current Gophers TE, Brevyn Spann-Ford played WR and DE in high school with a very similar athletic profile. I will not put that pressure on Pierce Walsh, but he has a very similar play style.

Listed at 6-foot-1, 170 pounds McWilliams has great size for a Big Ten wide receiver. He certainly has room to add some weight physically, but he has the base to become a weapon. His game is built around supreme route running he knows how to get open at a high level. He certainly has power-five athleticism, but his route running is where his bread is buttered.

Listed at 6-foot-1, 280 pounds Randle is a relatively undersized defensive lineman for the Big Ten level. As a senior at Shadow Creek High School, he showed the versatility to play on the outside and inside but certainly projects as an interior player at the next level. Playing at a big level of high school football in Texas, he showed that he is more than capable of developing into a Big Ten contributor. With being said, he is a developmental prospect. It will likely not happen in the first two if not three seasons with the program, but current DLine coach Brick Haley has a fun slab of clay to mold.

Monroe’s 247sports recruiting profile classifies him as an Athlete, and it’s rightfully so. As a dual-threat QB on top of being one of the best defensive backs in the state, he was simply a playmaker all over the field last season. I am honestly a bit surprised that he was not more highly touted as a prospect, his highlight tape is electric to watch. As a safety, he is instinctual in coverage, but still has room to grow as a tackler. Not every commitment can be a 4-star or even a high-level three-star, but Garrison Monroe is the type of player that I would want on my football team.

Mister’s elite 6-foot-7, 285-pound frame projects him as an offensive tackle at the next level. He has every physical trait that you could ask for in a Big Ten offensive lineman with incredibly long arms. He has terrific athleticism for his size, but like most players his age, he still has room to refine his tools. He has shown flashes of being a dominant presence but has struggled with consistency at times. P.J. Fleck and offensive line coach Brian Callahan has shown a great job of developing offensive line talent and there is no reason why they cannot do the same with Mister.

Kingsbury fits the mold of a Joe Rossi linebacker. Listed at 6-foot-3, 235 pounds he has Big Ten size. For what he lacks in athleticism he makes up for in instincts. His speed will certainly not jump off the page, but he knows how to play the linebacker position. It will likely not be early in his Gophers career, but Kingsbury knows how to play ball.

Preferred Walk-Ons (PWO)

  • Ryan Algrim, LS, Maple Park (IL)
  • Zander Rocknow, ATH, LB, Eau Claire (WI)
  • Ethan Carrier, ATH/LB, Detroit Lakes (MN)
  • Jackson Powers, S, Maple Grove (MN)
  • Caleb McGrath, P, Eastview (MN)
  • Max Shikenjanski, QB, Stillwater (MN)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *