Berkley Edwards, Chris Streveler highlight 2013 'U' recruiting class
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Round three is over for the Gophers football team.
Coach Jerry Kill's third recruiting class of his tenure with the Gophers was finalized on Wednesday, with 19 players officially signing letters of intent.
"It was a challenging recruiting class because we had to recruit against a lot of good people, and we were fortunate enough to, for the most part, be successful," Kill said Wednesday afternoon at his annual Signing Day news conference. "All the way down the board there are some guys that have the opportunity to be pretty special players."
On first glance, the Gophers' newest class has not won over the major recruiting sites. Rivals.com and Scout.com ranked the team's latest additions as last in the Big Ten. Rivals has the Gophers slotted at No. 61 out of 125 FBS teams, while Scout has them ranked 77th overall. Based on Rivals' ratings, Minnesota and Iowa are the only teams in the conference without a four-star or three-star commit.
However, those numbers have not dictated Kill's outlook. Sharing the mantra of all coaches who are attempting to restructure a struggling program, he took a firm and positive stance that his most recent class can provide the additional boost needed to maintain forward progress.
"At the end of the day, (our coaching staff) has been doing it a long time and we feel good about how we're doing it," Kill said. "We're doing it the right way, and I think we're getting people that fit into what we do. "We need to improve next year, and I expect us to improve, and our kids expect us to improve and we just need to keep going in that direction."
One of the highlights of the Gophers' 2013 class is running back Berkley Edwards, who is the younger brother of New York Jets receiver Braylon Edwards. As Kill put it, Edwards has "a blood line as thick as it can get."
The 5-foot-9, 185-pound back from Chelsea, Mich., ran for 1,394 yards and 21 touchdowns in his senior year for Chelsea High School.
He is a slight departure from the bruising, power running back duo of redshirt sophomore Donnell Kirkwood and true freshman Rodrick Williams Jr. With his injection of speed and finesse, he has an opportunity to see playing time in his first year on campus as a complement to the running back corps already in place.
"He's got a great burst ... When he touches the ball he's got the opportunity to take it to the house each time. We really like that potential from him," offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover told Gophersports.com
Edwards is the only running back in this year's class, and one of seven offensive players that were signed.
Four of the Gophers' recruits have already enrolled at the University of Minnesota - defensive end Hendrick Ekpe, quarterback Chris Streveler, linebacker Damien Wilson and defensive tackle Jordan Hinojosa, who had signed last year but had to spend one year at the junior college level before he was academically eligible. All four are cleared to participate in team activities and have been participating in winter workouts.
Streveler has entered the program with a solid level of hype surrounding him. As a dual-threat quarterback for Marian Central Catholic High School (Ill) Streveler added 1,276 yards rushing yards and 22 touchdowns to the 2,662 passing yards he put up in 2012.
"Our strength coaches and our people are tremendously excited about his ability," Kill said. "He can really run. And he's a good athlete, a student of the game. And I think that's tremendous ... That's one we knew exactly what we're getting."
Philip Nelson remains the Gophers' No. 1 quarterback and, barring a major setback, will be in charge of the offense when the 2013 season opens on Aug. 29 against UNLV. But there will still be competition under center. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Streveler comes in behind current freshman Mitch Leidner. The pair will battle for the primary backup role.
Linebacker and Shaker Heights (Ohio) native De'Niro Laster, a three-star prospect according to Rivals, ranks near the top of a crop of 11 defensive players brought in by the Gophers. Laster is one of five linebackers to sign - the most recruits of any position group in this year's class.
The Gophers have only one in-state recruit - Wayzata's Chris Wipson -- from what turned out to be an overall weak group of prospects from Minnesota. In total, they landed recruits from Florida (5), Georgia (3), Mississippi (1), Texas (1), California (1), Tennessee (1), Ohio (1), Illinois (1), Indiana (1), Michigan (1), Wisconsin (1) and Minnesota (1).
Gophers 2013 recruiting class
Hendrick Ekpe -- DE, Lewisville (Texas), 6-5, 230 lbs
Kill on Ekpe: "He's got great length. He's 6'4, 6'5, one of those guys that can come off the edge and is going to get bigger and stronger and faster, and again family bloodline is there."
Chris Streveler -- QB, Crystal Lake (Ill.), 6-2, 205 bs
Damien Wilson -- LB, Gloster (Miss.), 6-2, 245 lbs - Transferred from Jones County Junior College
Kill on Wilson: "He's a very, very, again, athletic, gifted kid that can really run and national junior college defensive player of the year. So he has some ability."
Eric Carter -- WR, Lakeland Lake Gibson (Fla.), 5-11, 185
De'Niro Laster -- LB, Shaker Heights (Ohio), 6-4, 230 lbs
Rayfield Dixon -- LB, Loxahatchee (Fla.), 6-3, 205 lbs
Berkley Edwards -- RB, Novi (Mich.), 5-9, 190 lbs
Alex Mayes -- OL, Van Alstyne (Texas), 6-5, 285 lbs
Kill on Mayes: "We're very fortunate getting Alex Mayes. He's a young man that kind of sums up our class. Through a long time of recruiting and a long building relationship, he had the determination yesterday not to stay at home and go to Baylor University or go to Oklahoma University at the last second, and he hung in there."
Nate Wozniak -- TE, Greenwood (Ind.) 6-9, 258 lbs
Kill on Wozniak: "He'll be the biggest tight end you've seen. I always looked and said, boy, I want to have one that looks like (former Gophers tight end) Matt Spaeth. Well, I can't wait to see Matt, because I want to get this kid next to him because I think we might have found a guy."
Owen Salzwedel -- DE, Beaver Dam (Wis.), 6-6, 240 lbs
Donovahn Jones -- QB, Stockbridge (Ga.), 6-3, 190 lbs
Kill on Jones: "You recruit athletes, guys that can make plays, and if he wins the job at quarterback, okay. If not, you know he can go play wide receiver ... I'll recruit as many as athletic quarterbacks as I can get, and if they're tailor made, you'll know."
Jalen Myrick -- DB, Bloomington (Ga.), 5-10, 200 lbs
Daletavious McGhee -- CB, Decatur (Ga.), 6-1 195 lbs
De'Vondre Campbell, LB, Fort Myers (Fla.), 6-5, 225 lbs -- Transferred from Hutchinson Community College (Kan.)
Ryan Santoso -- K, Pace (Fla.), 6-5, 260 lbs
Chris Wipson -- LB, Plymouth (Minn.), 6-2, 210 lbs
Demaris Peppers -- DL, Memphis (Tenn.) 6-3, 270 lbs
Drew Wolitarsky -- WR, Santa Clarita (Calif.), 6-3, 215 lbs
Jordan Hinojosa -- DT, Miami (Fla.), 6-2, 295 lbs - Transferred from Coffeyville Community College