MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -The Rivals.com list of Top 20 recruiting classes is filled with familiar college football heavyweights. Miami, LSU, Florida, Notre Dame, Texas and Minnesota.
That's not a misprint. The team that went 1-11 last season and hasn't been a major player in the recruiting game since the days of Carl Eller suddenly vaulted into the picture Wednesday.
Coach Tim Brewster, a tireless recruiter and boisterous presence, used a sparkling new stadium that will open in 2009 and the opportunity to play right away to sell recruits on the Twin Cities. The approach appears to have worked beautifully for his first true recruiting class since taking over in January of last year.
Rivals.com ranked the Gophers class the 17th best in the nation. CSTV ranked Minnesota 20th while Scout.com ranked it 28th.
For a team that was coming off the worst season in school history and consistently ranked in the 50s and lower in recruiting, that's a dramatic improvement.
e've got a long way to go. But the vision is clear and there's tremendous energy and willingness to work hard and make our dreams and goals a reality,'' Brewster said of his oft-stated championship aspirations. ``And I certainly believe, without question, that we're one big step closer with this recruiting class.''
Brewster signed 31 recruits from 16 different states, including seven junior college transfers.
Headlining the class are quarterback MarQueis Gray, safety Keanon Cooper, defensive tackle Jewhan Edwards, linebacker Sam Maresh and receivers Brandon Green and Vince Hill.
``I believe Tim is one of the top 10 recruiters I've ever seen, and he's showing why in this class,'' CSTV's Tom Lemming said, calling the class Minnesota's best in his 30 years as a recruiting analyst. ``Recruiting is all about perception, and nobody does it better than Tim.''
Gray is a dual-threat quarterback from Indianapolis whom Brewster compares to former Texas quarterback Vince Young. Brewster recruited Young to Texas and says Gray is further along as a passer at this stage of his career than Young was when he came to Austin.
``It's no embarrassment to Vince Young to talk about MarQueis Gray having the same kind of physical attributes,'' Brewster said.
Edwards is the kind of run-stuffing tackle the Gophers lacked on their 119th-ranked defense last season. He's 6-foot-2, 320 pounds and was ranked as the seventh-best defensive tackle in the country by ESPN.com.
Brewster called Maresh the prize jewel of the class. He was a highly sought linebacker from the Minneapolis suburb of Champlin Park. Unlike some other big-time recruits from the state, including receiver Michael Floyd (Notre Dame), defensive lineman Willie Mobley (Ohio State) and offensive lineman Joe Schafer (Wisconsin), Maresh chose to stay at home.
``He's going to be a flag bearer for the University of Minnesota,'' Brewster said. ``He was the No. 1 most important of this class because of where he lives and because of the position he plays.''
The 6-3, 235-pound Maresh is expected to compete for a starting job right away, as are many of the players in this class.
``All of these freshmen have a chance,'' Brewster said. ``The days of wholesale red-shirting are over.''
Especially on a team that needs so much help so quickly.
``Right now it may not be the most fashionable thing to do, join up with a 1-11 football team,'' Brewster said, his orator's voice swelling. ``But you know what? Again, 31 kids, from all across America, five kids from the state of Minnesota and 26 kids from around the nation ... decided to be Minnesota Golden Gophers, and that's tremendously exciting to me.''
When Brewster was hired as a little-known tight ends coach from the Denver Broncos, he immediately began touting himself as a relentless personality who eats, sleeps and dreams recruiting.
After doing so much talking, it appears that he is starting to walk a little, too.
``It is a passion with him, you can tell,'' athletic director Joel Maturi said. ``It is who he is. It defines his character. It defines his person. It's why I believe he's successful as a recruiter. People believe in him. They trust him. The word will spread that this is a great place to come and play.''

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