Gophers Get Surprise on National Signing Day and Finish 2020 Strong

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 08: Head coach P.J. Fleck of the Minnesota Golden Gophers thanks the fans after a 21-14 defeat of the Fresno State Bulldogs in the game on September 8, 2018 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

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The fax machines were dusted off, fired up, and rocking this morning all over the country, as 2020 graduates inked national letters of intent, before getting a history lesson on how to operate such an ancient form of communication. Fortunately, all 23 expected (and one additional) future Gopher Football players were able to deliver those crucial pieces of paper, and are now officially signed to play college football here.

There was one big surprise that joined the class this morning, along with an unknown punter from Australia, who was shrouded in mystery until LATE last night. Overall, it ended as another successful PJ Fleck class and possibly the best for Minnesota since 2008.

If you want to deep dive every recruit, I’ll always recommend GopherIllustrated.com. You pay… but you’ll also be smarter about all Gopher sports recruiting than anyone else you know.

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Here is the official class of 2020:

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National Signing Day Surprises

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The Gophers didn’t lose any commits to anyone else and everything went according to plan, beyond 3 WR commitments (Dylan McGill, Dakota Thomas, Justin Bellido) who couldn’t sign due to academic reasons. All three are still expected to ink when eligible (likely February).

There were some positive surprises though. The first one started with rumors yesterday, about a big time INTERNATIONAL punter who was expected to join the class… but nobody knew who the punter actually was… until late last night, when Mark Crawford (the top international punter in this class) turned on his fax machine from Australia, joining Daniele Faalele as the 2nd teammate from that continent.

The second surprise came from a defensive lineman, “Jah” Joyner, who is expected to be a gamechange. He re-opened his commitment to Boston College, before being courted heavily by Jim Panagos, then DL Coach at MN. But then, while Jah was here visiting last weekend, Panagos took the same job at Rutgers and tried to bring Joyner with him. Panagos is great… but he isn’t PJ Fleck.

“I’m going to Minnesota,” he said. “I love the people and culture and really believe in coach (P.J.) Fleck. I believe in his vision for me moving forward and I believe in their academic staff as well. I believe that he’s going to change my life not only on the field, but off the field.” – (via GopherIllustrated.com)

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2020 Class Stand-Outs

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In another class that ranks near the best of all time at this school, there are a few guys who stand out, compared to others.

It’s clear that the coaching staff wanted to re-up heavy on linebacking and edge-rushing talent. Their highest ranked commit is OLB, Itayvion Brown, a 6-foot, 3-inch — MONSTER. Not only is he big and hopefully mean, but he was a legitimate WR prospect until just a few months ago. Since moving to OLB (in recruiting), he’s jumped up in class a little bit and made himself Minnesota’s #1 recruit for the 2020 class. He should be able to put his hand in the dirt or stand up, and cover really well from both positions. 5 out of the top-10 ranked recruits in this 2020 class project to play OLB or DE.

Daniel Jackson could be the next big time WR to play at the University of Minnesota, a school that is gaining traction as one of the best in the nation at producing WR talent. This tradition is one that PJ Fleck is continuing… but didn’t start. With that in mind, Jackson would probably do it a bit differently, currently stacking up a bit on the small end, at 5-11, 185 lbs. On the bigger side of the Wide Receiver commitments signees today, Douglas Emelien is a guy that Ryan Burns (GopherIllustrated.com) is very high on, and someone who signed because of how successful the Gophers were in 2019. And, don’t forget about homegrown Jonathan Mann, who’s been committed out of Rosemount HS, for years already.

The last standout I want to touch on, certainly isn’t the least in this class. Ky Thomas is a program-changing running back. Look at this kid’s highlight reel. I don’t know if he ever got tackled while in high school, at Topeka, Kansas… that’s it. That’s all I want to say. Just watch for yourself:

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And to finish my National Signing Day recap, here is the list of Minnesota kids from the 2020 class, who will stay and help build the University of Minnesota football program to a level it hasn’t seen since the United States was dealing with the Cuban Missile Crisis:

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Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan

UPDATE — HERE IS PJ FLECK’S PRESS CONFERENCE FROM WEDENSDAY NIGHT, BEFORE HE ANNOUNCED EACH RECRUIT TO ALUMNI, BOOSTERS, AND FANS AT THE DQ CLUB AT TCF BANK STADIUM:

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