With Curtis Dunlap and Daniel Faalele on board, P.J. Fleck is sending a message with huge recruiting class
P.J. Fleck’s first full recruiting class at Minnesota is going to be a giant one, literally and figuratively.
Over the weekend, Minnesota received commitments from two of the biggest — scratch that — largest offensive linemen in the country. IMG Academy stars Curtis Dunlap and Daniel Faalele both gave verbal pledges to Fleck and the Gophers, bringing the class size to 26 names, the second-highest total in FBS behind only Navy.
Dunlap is a 6-foot-4, 368-pound offensive guard who’s regarded as one of the top offensive linemen in the 2018 class. The four-star prospect is ranked as the sixth-best player at his position and cracks the top 200 nationally.
Faalele, on the other hand, is still a bit of a raw talent. He’s newly acquainted with football but his massive 6-foot-8, 400-pound frame suggests he’ll be just fine once he learns and understands all the intricacies of the game. In just a few short years of playing, he’s already a three-star talent and a top 30 offensive tackle.
When it comes to sheer size and frame, there’s no doubt that Dunlap and Faalele are two of the biggest players Fleck has ever recruited.
But even larger than the stature of the two IMG Academy standouts and Minnesota’s 2018 recruiting class, is the message Fleck is sending to the rest of the B1G.
He’s ready to play with the big boys.
Fleck’s approach to recruiting is atypical for Minnesota. He has somewhat of an all-you-can-eat buffet method, piling on offers even after his plate is full. But he’s not loading up on the scraps in the bottom of the pan, left behind by the likes of Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and the more appetizing giants of college football. Fleck is elbowing his way to the front of the line, extending offers to some of the most highly-touted prospects available.
It worked out in the case of Dunlap and Faalele. And it’s worked with this class, too.
With the verbal pledge from Dunlap, the Gophers now have two four-star recruits in its 2018 class, joining wide receiver Rashod Bateman out of Georgia. It’s the first time the program has had multiple four-star prospects in the same class since 2009. It also matches the number of four-star players Minnesota has brought in over the past five years.
Currently, Fleck’s 2018 class ranks 27th nationally, the highest the program has been in a decade when it finished with the 26th-best class in 2008.
More important than the rankings, the number of commits or four-star recruits, though, is that the drawbridge connecting Minnesota and IMG Academy has been lowered. That accomplishment shouldn’t be undervalued.
Several of the nation’s top prospects reside on IMG’s campus, primarily visited by some of those aforementioned blueblood programs. But when Dunlap and Faalele sign their National Letters of Intent, it will serve as Fleck’s golden invitation to dine with the big boys — literally — at the recruiting table.
Minnesota hasn’t had this kind of presence on the recruiting front and hasn’t received the exposure necessary to pique the interest of the premier athletes searching for a four-year home. Fleck’s ability to land stars like Dunlap and Faalele may have paved that new avenue for the program.
Fleck has harped on building a consistent B1G winner at Minnesota, a team that competes for conference titles regularly. While the Gophers don’t necessarily have to pluck the top prospects out of IMG every single year, establishing credibility on the campus would be an incredible benefit.
Last weekend, Minnesota took two enormous steps in that direction.
Receiving commitments from Dunlap and Faalele are significant accomplishments alone. And thanks to those pledges, Fleck is quietly building the Gophers’ best recruiting class in a decade. But now, he’s got a foot in the door at the best football factory in the country not named Alabama.
Fleck is sending a message to the rest of the B1G as he assembles his inaugural recruiting class at Minnesota. No player, regardless how big, is off limits. Fleck isn’t afraid to go toe-to-toe with some of the giants that run college football.
Especially now that he has two of them on his side.