MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota will remain rooted in the running game for a while, staying true to the preferred strategy of coach Jerry Kill and his staff.
The Gophers included three running backs in their 24-player recruiting class that became official Wednesday on national signing day, with Canadian Jonathan Femi-Cole leading the list of incoming freshmen who will join standouts from each of the last two recruiting classes in a crowded competition for departing senior David Cobb's spot. Berkley Edwards will be a redshirt sophomore and Jeff Jones will be a redshirt freshman on the 2015 team, with Rodrick Williams and Rodney Smith also returning from last year's roster.
Just as important as the running backs, though, are the blockers in front of them.
The Gophers signed five offensive linemen, including two tackles from Minnesota: Nick Connelly of Red Wing and Bronson Dovich of Chaska. The average size of this incoming scholarship quintet is 6-foot-6 and 293 pounds. It also features Ted Stieber of Hoban High School in Akron, Ohio, Quinn Oseland of Sacred Heart Griffin High School in Springfield, Illinois, and Tyler Moore, a center from North Shore High School outside of Houston.
"It's as big of a group as we've recruited and as athletic a group as we've recruited," Kill said, adding: "They'll pass the look test, I can tell you that, when they come to camp."
The other position group the Gophers honed in on with this class was defensive backs, with safety Dior Johnson highlighting the seven signees. The Michigan native initially picked Wake Forest before changing his mind last week and joining Southfield High School teammate and cornerback Ray Buford at Minnesota.
Without any consensus five or four-star players, the Gophers were ranked anywhere from ninth to 13th in the Big Ten by the major recruiting services. The only other Minnesota recruits who signed with power-conference teams, though, went with national championship game participants Ohio State (Jashon Cornell of St. Paul Cretin-Derham Hall) and Oregon (Drayton Carlberg of Minneapolis DeLaSalle), both defensive linemen.
Top 25 Class: No
Best in class: Dior Johnson, s, Southfield (Michigan) HS. Initially committed to Wake Forest but changed mind and chose Gophers last week.
Best of the rest: Tyler Moore, c, Galena Park (Texas) North Shore HS; Quinn Oseland, ot, Springfield (Illinois) Sacred Heart Griffin HS; Charlie Rogers, s, Iowa Western CC; Demry Croft, qb, Rockford (Illinois) Boylan HS; Ray Buford, cb, Southfield (Michigan) HS; Bronson Dovich, ot, Chaska (Minnesota) HS; Jonathan Femi-Cole, rb, Vaughn (Ontario) St. Andrews College HS
Late addition: Winston DeLattiboudere III, de, Ellicott City (Maryland) Howard HS. Didn't make commitment known until Sunday. The Baltimore Sun's All-Metro Defensive Player of the Year, listed at 6-foot-3 and 216 pounds, played his entire senior season as a 16-year-old.
One that got away: Jamal Milan, dt, Chicago Raby HS. Waited until Wednesday morning to choose Illinois. Gophers were his other finalist.