Gophers notebook: Tidbits on PJ Fleck’s 2023 recruiting class

University of Minnesota football coach PJ Fleck last Wednesday unveiled the 33 new additions to his program for the 2023 class.

Fleck and the Gophers signed 21 future scholarship freshman, seven preferred walk-ons and added five players from the transfer portal, 13 of which will enroll in January. Fleck spent about 45 minutes last Wednesday talking about every player, sharing some tidbits and recruiting stories on how many of them got to Minnesota.

Here are snippets of the best.


Long snappers don’t normally get a lot of love, but Fleck feels he has one of the best in the country coming to Minnesota in Ryan Algrim. Fleck might a bit biased, as Algrim is from his high school in Elburn, Ill., and his mom, Jo, was Fleck’s trainer when he was a high school athlete.


Fleck couldn’t miss the front yard of the defensive back from Naples, Fla., if he tried. His mom, Karen, loves the holidays so much that "every inflatable known to man" is displayed in the front yard. Fleck said Brown is similar to Justus Harris, but bigger.


Fleck says Za’Quan Bryan, a defensive back out of Georgia, might be one of the best athletes in the 2023 class. He went to Bryan’s state playoff game, and found his family bundled up in an outdoor game in Georgia in 50-degree weather. They might be in for a rude awakening when they come to Minneapolis for October and November football.


Fleck knew he had a good chance to land Detroit Lakes defensive back Ethan Carrier the second he stepped foot in his home. The family has a puzzle on the dining room table, and the finished product is a picture of fans storming the field after the Gophers beat Penn State in 2019.


Philip Daniels might have been one of the surprise late additions of the 2023 class. The offensive lineman has three jobs – he works at White Castle, Honey Baked Ham and is a Pop Warner football referee. His mom is also an elementary school teacher. "Right up my alley," Fleck said.


A defensive back transfer from SE Louisiana, Jack Henderson asked Fleck on a recruiting visit where the best Cajun food in Minneapolis is. They did the research for him, and Fleck calls him "The Assassin."


Kenric Lanier II was a late recruiting win for Fleck, getting the wide receiver to flip a commitment from Vanderbilt. A top playmaker out of Georgia, he’s a 22.5-foot long jumper and talented in basketball. Fleck hinted Lanier reminds him of Rashod Bateman.


Fleck got a commitment from T.J. McWilliams after Jeff Brohm left Purdue for Louisville. He called McWilliams the night before Signing Day to check in, and interrupted a basketball workout. "I’m good coach, I’ll be signing tomorrow." Fleck could breathe a sigh of relief after hanging up.


The Prior Lake star defensive lineman had more than 30 Division I offers. Wisconsin came in late and tried to flip his commitment. Owusu showed Fleck texts from the coaching staff talking negatively about the Gophers. It didn’t work. "We Axed it," Fleck joked.


Fleck calls the defensive lineman one of the biggest sleepers of the class, and compares him to Trill Carter. Theo Randle did a rare in-season official visit, and committed to the Gophers after they beat Northwestern.


The linebacker transfer from Western Michigan had one question for Fleck before committing: Can I bring my dog? It’s a 96-pound black lab. "Sure, a lot of our players have dogs," Fleck said. On an in-home visit, Fleck said Selig’s mom made off the best egg casseroles he’s ever had.


The transfer wide receiver from UNC-Charlotte was one of five added on Signing Day. He told Fleck he had one question for him on a visit – "What do you know about me?" It led to an hour-long conversation, and eventually, a commitment.


Fleck calls him one of the prized recruits of the 2023 class. Darius Taylor was a star running back out of Michigan who got interest late from Jim Harbaugh. He picked the Gophers over other schools and NIL opportunities. He ran for 2,450 yards and 36 touchdowns this season, scoring six touchdowns in a game three times. "Just an absolute stud. Every week it looked like we were watching a video game."


The lone quarterback of the 2023 class, Drew Viotto’s parents moved from Canada to get their kids better opportunities in sports. Gophers’ offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca went to watch him workout, then stood in a torrential downpour. "The kid wanted to stay outside. Ciarrocca came back and said that’s our guy."