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The Night Before The News: Jeff Jones' decision may be even bigger than we think


In the last edition of The Night Before The News, we took a look at a few of now-Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer's former bosses and their endorsements of him.

In this version, we're going a bit more in-depth.

The subject tonight is Washburn running back Jeff Jones, the state's top football recruit and seventh-ranked running back nationally, and his impending college decision on National Signing Day tomorrow.

Jones is ranked 44th in the nation overall by Rivals, the all-knowing scouting service, and he has narrowed the serious contenders for his services to Minnesota and Iowa State.

The Minneapolis tailback verbally committed to the U of M last year at this time, and while Minnesota is still considered the favorite to land one of the nation's top athletes, the Cyclones also got an official visit this December, something Jones-hopefuls Michigan and Florida did not.

There is no real inkling one way or another from Jones camp Tuesday night as to what institution he will attend, but what we can tell you is that should Jones become a Gopher, it would do a few massive things for Jerry Kill's program.

Let's get a little history out of the way about our upcoming first point.

We mentioned Jones is a member of the 2014 Rivals 100, ranked No. 44 nationally. Since the scouting service started ranking the nation's top 100 recruits in 1999, Minnesota has had just eight, Jones included.

The state isn't exactly a hotbed of football greatness, here's a look at who the other seven were along with their ranking and college, with some recognizable names throughout:

2001: Eden Prairie's Mark Levoir (No. 30, Notre Dame), Cretin Derham-Hall's Joe Mauer (No. 36, Florida State), Holy Angels' Larry Fitzgerald (No. 97, Pittsburgh)

2004: Hutchinson's Lydon Murtha (No. 42, Nebraska)

2008: Cretin Derham-Hall's Michael Floyd (No. 27, Notre Dame)

2009: Breck's Bryce McNeal (No. 75, Clemson)

2010: Cretin Derham-Hall's Seantrel Henderson (No. 2, Miami (FL))

Notice anything about that list? You're smart, we know you did. Not a single one of the top recruits in the state, at least since ranking recruits has become a thing, came to Minnesota.

Levoir and Floyd went to the Irish; Fitzgerald, despite his strong Minnesota connections at the pro level, became a Panther; Mauer played baseball (with solid results); Glen Mason got Lydon Murtha early before he flipped to Nebraska; McNeal had Minnesota on his list but committed early, and if you remember how the recruiting of Henderson went, it was clear the Gophers were never in the mix.

Without making it any more obvious, our first point has just stated itself. By definition, Jones would be the best in-state recruit of this millennium for the Gophers, if not the best overall high-schooler they've gotten since Y2K.

Jones would break a long string of failures by the Gophers of keeping talent home, and become an "instant star" locally, according to a story done by Pioneer Press beat writer Marcus Fuller.

So what does that mean for the program in the bigger picture?

Aside from the obvious addition of top-end talent, it instantly spits in the face of those that say Kill's epileptic condition has effected recruiting, and that his lack of recruiting is something that warrants he be let go by the University.

Jones also has the ability, single-handedly, to change recruiting at Minnesota, as coaches could instantly point to a player the magnitude of the Washburn product as an example of why other top-end talents should consider the Gophers.

In short, the decision by Jones is massive, and could break a streak of futility that has haunted the university for 15 years, while also setting a tone for a more successful future.

Safe to say there won't be much sleep to go around the Gopher football complex tonight as they consider the possibilities Jones could bring to the program.

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