The Minnesota Golden Gophers are still working their way up from the slums that former coach Tim Brewster led them to, and no doubt they still have a long way to go. And though this team may not compete for a Big Ten title this year, they’re still fielding some decent prospects for the 2014 NFL Draft.
It all begins and ends with DT Ra’Shede Hageman. He’s easily the biggest draft prospect to come out of the Twin Cities since Laurence Maroney went in the 1st round in 2006. At 6-foot-6, 320-pounds, Hageman runs a reported 4.65 40, has a 36-inch vert, benches 465-pounds and can do a 360 degree dunk on the basketball court. Freak athlete is a way to describe him. He came to campus as a tight end and has only gotten bigger and faster since then. He’s got 1st round status written all over him, playing either 5-tech in a 3-4 or 3-tech in a 4-3.
Now is the big, big drop off. Hageman is gold, that much we know for certain, but after him, it’s murkier.
Offensively, RB Donnell Kirkwood is the best to carry the rock for the Gophers since the Glen Mason days, though it’s not certain if he’ll declare early after this fall, which will be his junior season. Coach Jerry Kill historically always has a strong ground game, so if Kirkwood reels off some big games against a few of the Big Ten heavyweights (bit of an oxymoron, no?), he could take advantage of increased stock.
C Brian Bobek is another junior who has an intriguing skill set. He played as a true freshman at Ohio State before transferring but is undersized by most NFL standards at 6-foot 2, 280 pounds (though he’ll be an excellent fit for a zone blocking scheme). RT Josh Campion has the most talent on the line, but it’s rare for redshirt sophomores to declare early. He’s a name to keep an eye on for the 2015 NFL Draft.
In the Gophers secondary, FS Brock Vereen stands the best chance to make some noise leading up to the draft. He’s got a ton of experience and has been a rock for Minnesota the last few years. CB Derrick Wells has good size and, like Vereen, has good production. He’s really improved since joining the team two years ago and is easily the Gophers’ top cover man. Still a junior, Wells could forgo his senior year with a strong season.
Minnesota is still putting together a roster that’s capable of competing for championships. And to be in position to compete for championships in a BCS conference, you need NFL talent, which Minnesota is short on at the moment. But this is a young team, and their time will come to be loaded with draft prospects (maybe).
Still, Hageman is a legit prospect, and Kirkwood and Vereen could really see their stock rise with strong seasons in 2013. Minnesota will have some names called next April.