Signing Day: Washburn's Jeff Jones stays home by picking Gophers

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In what is one of the biggest National Signing Day victories for the University of Minnesota football team in more than a decade, Minneapolis Washburn star running back Jeff Jones will sign to play for the Gophers next fall.

Jones announced his decision in front of a packed house at the Washburn High School gymnasium Wednesday morning.

Jones verbally committed to the Gophers last February, with plans to keep his options open. Jones gained the attention of higher profile schools after excelling in the Under Armour All-American Game, in which he was named his team’s MVP. He planned trips to visit Florida and Michigan, but canceled them a few weeks ago after each school filled their running back positions with different recruits.

Jones is ranked as the 44th overall recruit by Rivals. In contrast, ESPN’s Recruiting Nation lists him as the 137th best player in the Class of 2014. As for his position, Rivals ranks Jones as the seventh best running back in the country while ESPN ranks him No. 12.

Jones headlines a Gopher class that Rivals ranks as the 52nd best recruiting class in the country. Alabama finished with the No. 1 recruiting class, and East Ridge center J.C. Hassenauer is one of the players going to Alabama, as noted by the Star Tribune.

Head coach Jerry Kill is a big reason Jones picked the Gophers, according to FOX Sports North.

"If you look at his track record, everywhere he went, he's won," Jones said of Kill. "You look at the Minnesota program and you can see where they're going to be in the future. They're going to be a lot better than they are now and what they have been in the past."

The 2013 Minnesota Mr. Football winner still needs to get his grades up in order to qualify for a scholarship, but the Star Tribune reported recently that Jones is close to qualifying.

Another all-state Minnesotan signing with the Gophers is Owatonna defensive end Andrew Stelter. The 6-foot-4, 255-pounder told that Pioneer Press that he plans on bringing "high energy" to the program. He and Jones hope to show other high school recruits that the Gophers can win at a high level.

“It’ll show the younger guys that you can stay and be successful,” Stelter said. “It’s a big deal for the best home-state guys to stay home. I think we have a great group of guys in this class. I think we’ll have a chance to do some special things.”

Here's the full recruiting class, via the Pioneer Press.

The Gophers athletics website has biographical information and videos on each recruit. See it all right here.

The Star Tribune is tracking a list of Minnesota's top football players and where they will attend college next fall.

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