Jashon Cornell Will be Tough to Keep in Minnesota
Minnesota and 5-star recruits aren't often said in the same breath, but as the offseason attention turns toward a new recruiting class, the Gophers have a big task on their hands.
Right in their backyard is one of the nations most sought-after 2015 recruits, 5-star defensive end Jashon Cornell. He is ESPN.com's No. 1-ranked prospect and occupies the No. 28 spot nationally in the latest 247Sports composite rankings.
The Gophers shouldn't be strangers to fending off teams from all over the country for talent in its home state—they did just get done signing the state's No. 1-ranked prospect, 4-star running back Jeff Jones, this past Wednesday.
Jones also went on to become the highest-rated player (No. 44 by Rivals.com) to sign with the Gophers in 13 years, according to Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
That's not good history on the recruiting trail, and it's something head coach Jerry Kill and his staff have been laying the groundwork for over the past three recruiting cycles.
Minnesota may have gotten lucky during the recruitment of Jones, because he didn't explode on the national radar until his 62-yard performance at the Under Armour All-America Game.
Cornell, on the other hand, exploded on the scene the minute he got on the field for Minnesota high school power Cretin-Derham Hall. According to Christensen, his debut included four sacks.
Cornell's talents are already well known across the country, with an offer list that stands at 28 schools as of today—a list that is expected to grow.
Not only does Cornell hold offers from 11 of the 14 Big Ten schools, but schools like Florida, Florida State, Arkansas and Notre Dame have also extended offers early on in the process.
For Kill, the experience of building a fence around the state hasn't been an easy one, but the recruitment of Jeff Jones can teach the staff a lot about how to deal with high-end recruits from its own backyard.
It's also a good sign that Kill and his staff are good at building loyalty and respect with recruits from Minnesota. The Gophers got into a last-minute heated battle with both Michigan and Florida for Jones' services—and won.
“I believe real strong in loyalty,” Jones said, via Christensen's article. “And as a Minnesota kid that’s from here, I wouldn’t feel right going to Michigan and putting up stats with ‘Michigan’ going across my chest rather than Minnesota.”
Jones could end up being the most important piece to this recruitment. If he earns significant playing time, Cornell see's a willingness to allow talent to develop on the field.
He also will have a friendly face being able to tell him exactly what it's like to be a Gopher, and that can be a powerful tool on the recruiting trail.
Jones' commitment to the Gophers could be a game-changer for kids from the state, at least that's how he sees it.
“Hopefully after I sign, there are other kids coming behind me that will realize staying home is not a bad idea," said Jones, via Christensen's article.
With all the attention Cornell is receiving, Minnesota will have its work cut out for itself to keep him at home. However, the good news is that Cornell hasn't ruled out the home-state Gophers just yet.
The longer Kill and his staff stick around in this recruitment, the better their chances of keeping the best homegrown prospect at home.
After struggling for years to keep the best prospects in state, Minnesota could be on its way to being a true contender if it can build a fence around the state.
That process started with Jones, and it could become a trend should the Gophers land Cornell.
*Andy Coppens is Bleacher Report's lead writer for Big Ten football. You can follow him on Twitter: @ andycoppens.