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July 30, 2012

The importance of camp

The University of Minnesota coaching staff has shown just how important it is to attend their football camp. The Gopher coaches are big believers in getting kids in camp for live evaluations to get a better idea of their skills and attitude. Camp allows the coaches to work with the recruits, but also gives them the opportunity to see their combine numbers. GopherIllustrated takes a look at just how important camp is to Jerry Kill and his coaching staff.

A look back at the 2012 class
Many of the 2012 commitments caught the eye of the Golden Gopher staff at one of their senior day camps. Current Gophers Philip Nelson and Maxx Williams gave their commitment prior to camp, but chose to participate anyways. Hopkins receiver Andre McDonald was committed to Minnesota before decommitting in the middle of July. McDonald also took part in the Gopher camp prior to his recommitment. St. Thomas Academy offensive lineman Isaac Hayes chose the maroon and gold in early July so it was not necessary to participate in camp.

Milwaukee Riverside athlete Eric Murray came to the Minnesota as a receiver in late June of last year. Coach Sawvel liked what he saw and invited Murray to come back the next day as a defensive back. Prior to camp, Murray had limited experience as a defensive back. The Milwaukee native impressed the Gopher staff while working out as a defensive back. The coaches extended an offer to Murray and he committed on the spot. If Murray doesn't camp at Minnesota, he likely would have wound up elsewhere.

The Gopher coaches used their Illinois connections to lure Lake Zurich (Ill.) linebacker Jack Lynn to camp last summer. The trip paid off for the outside linebacker. Lynn was offered as an outside linebacker by the coaching staff shortly after his performance at Minnesota. About three weeks after he was offered, Lynn committed to Minnesota while on an unofficial visit. Lynn has offers from Akron, Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois, Western Illinois, and Illinois State before he received his first Big Ten offer from the Golden Gophers.

Former Lakeville South quarterback Mitch Leidner used the 7 on 7 tournament at the University of Minnesota to earn his offer from the Gopher coaches. Leidner showed his versatility working as a tight end during the one day camp prior to the 7 on 7 tournament. The Cougar quarterback wasted no time accepting the offer from the Golden Gopher coaching staff. Prior to camp, Leidner had just one offer from Northern Iowa.

Duke Anyanwu of Blaine High School didn't earn his offer at camp or shortly following it. However, he did show off his athleticism and ability to play multiple positions at the college level. Anyanwu played both quarterback and wide receiver at Gopher one day camps prior to his senior season. The Blaine athlete used camp as an opportunity to get noticed by the Gopher coaches. After receiving his offer in January of 2012, Anyanwu committed to Minnesota over Air Force.

Camp is not only for scholarship players. Edina Hornet Cavonte Johnson participated in a Minnesota camp last summer. Johnson worked as a running back at the Minnesota camp, but will walk-on at Minnesota as a defensive back. The current Gopher tore his ACL during his senior season, but impressed the Gophers enough during camp to earn a preferred walk-on invitation.

A look at 2013
As the Gophers continue to build up depth in the program it is very important to get good players from across the United States into camp. The coaches have stressed how important it is to get kids in camp so they can evaluate them live. The Gopher coaching staff's actions speak louder than its words. Three of the five commitments from the 2013 recruiting class received a scholarship offer following camp. Jerry Kill and his staff are hoping they can be significant pieces to the rebuilding process.

The first 2013 recruit to receive an offer based on his camp performance was Wayzata linebacker Chris Wipson. Wipson impressed linebacker coach Bill Miller with his speed and athleticism at the June 10th camp. Shortly after camp, the in-state linebacker received his first Big Ten offer from the Gophers. Wipson narrowed his list down to Minnesota and Air Force following the Gopher offer. After a trip to Air Force, Wipson decided that the University of Minnesota was where he wanted to play his college football. "They really wanted to see me perform in person before they offered so going to camp gave me the opportunity to show them how I play. They also were able to get my measurable like height, weight, and 40 time," Wipson said about the importance of attending camp. Wipson likely fills one of three linebacker spots in the 2013 class.

A small camp of about forty to fifty kids on a Sunday afternoon does not sound promising. The camp ended up producing two future Gophers. Beaver Dam (Wisc.) defensive end Owen Salzwedel showed off his big 6-foot-6 frame. Salzwedel is extremely raw, but he has the opportunity to grow into a prototypical defensive end in Defensive Coordinator Tracy Claeys scheme. Salzwedel ran a 4.74 40-yard dash and broad jumped nearly ten feet at the Gopher camp. The great combine numbers and a big frame convinced the coaching staff to offer only a few days after camp. Salzwedel gave his verbal commitment shortly after receiving his offer and has since been back to the University of Minnesota to tour the campus.

Marian Central Catholic (Ill.) quarterback Chris Streveler is the other future Gopher from the Sunday afternoon camp. Streveler had just one offer heading into the Minnesota camp from South Dakota State. The athleticism of Streveler stood out to quarterback coach Jim Zebrowski. The Marian Central quarterback ran in the 4.5's and broad jumped nearly ten feet at camp. Streveler showed his athleticism and versatility running some routes for the Gopher coaches following camp. Minnesota planned to not take a quarterback in 2013 until Streveler impressed the coaches enough that they had to offer. "I think camp is definitely where I earned my offer. If I didn't come to camp, I probably wouldn't have gotten an offer. I'm really excited to get up to Minnesota and get started," the Illinois native said about the Minnesota camp.

The next 2013 recruit to earn an offer from Minnesota could be Troy Fumagalli. The Waubonsie Valley (Ill.) tight end showed that he can do it all at the last senior one day camp on July 20th. Fumagalli has been unable to reach the Gopher coaching staff to find out about a potential offer.

What does this all mean? The Gopher coaches are serious when they preach the importance of coming to camp and live evaluations. The 2012 recruiting class had a number of commitments that either earned their at camp or later during the season. The 2013 class already has three commitment in Chris Wipson, Owen Salzwedel, and Chris Streveler who earned their scholarships offers at camp. How many more there will be in 2013 remains to be seen. One thing is for sure, if you want to get noticed by Jerry Kill and his staff then come to camp.


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