PJ Fleck Has Built a 2024 High School Recruiting Wall Around Minnesota
College football summer workouts are in full-swing, the transfer portal is cooking (as always) and coaches are flying all over the country trying to convince high school kids to enroll at their school one, two, maybe even three years down the road. There are no off-days if you want to have a successful power-five college football program in 2023 and beyond.
All of that work doesn’t guarantee better results, however. The portal makes it easier than ever for kids to change schools if they find early success or struggle to find the field, making the art of coaching a lot trickier than it was a decade ago. Players are harder to coach or keep happy and deep investment into young talent is less likely to pay off in on-field production down the road.
It also means that recruiting hard at the high school level oftentimes proves fruitless if you don’t have a ton of NIL cash — ex: the Minnesota Gophers — to pay highly-rated recruits or to keep top talent that you develop in-house. But nobody wants excuses. If your coaching staff isn’t turning over every rock to find and develop talent , then your program will fall behind.
And it’s clear PJ Fleck and his staff believe they have found an advantage under some local rocks. A way to pile up high caliber high school prospects in a new NIL era that Gopher boosters and collectives are still trying to catch up to. It’s something we’ve talked about many times, on this website.
PJ Fleck, Gophers re-commit to in-state recruits
They’re making a new commitment to building a recruiting wall around the state of Minnesota. The Gophers 2024 high school recruiting class — which currently ranks 15th nationally and 1st in the Big Ten West — has 15 total verbal commitments so far, including 7 of the top 9 in-state prospects, according to 247Sports.com.
If a 2024 local recruit is committed anywhere, as of Tuesday, June 6, it’s to the hometown Gophers. Top kids — including Esko’s hard-hitting, ball-hawking safety, Koi Perich — chose the Gophers over helmet schools and many others have followed in their footsteps.
The 12 uncommitted local recruits listed at 247Sports, including two of the top three in-state prospects, remain uncommitted. If Fleck & Co can find a way to get (#1 MN) Wyatt Gilmore and/or (#3 MN) Emerson Mandell into the boat, it would be the most dominating in-state recruiting performance in modern-day history. No other time has Fleck and Co put their block “M” next to every single top recruit in the state at the internet’s top recruiting website.
Strategy behind hometown recruiting push
This focus on keeping Minnesota kids home isn’t new. It’s something Fleck and his staff have always emphasized. But with the increasing importance of NIL money and ease of entry into today’s transfer portal, it’s clear the Gophers are investing more time and resources in recruiting hometown kids.
The hope, obviously, is that in-state kids will be less likely to immediately enter the transfer portal, should they find early success or, on the contrary, struggle to find the field. Minnesota grabbed 5 of the top-10 local recruits in 2022 and doubled down with 7 of the top-10 in 2023. It’s a smart strategy that, in theory, could pay dividends down the road.
Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan