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Gophers miss out on Henderson

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By Dave Campbell, AP Sports Writer

MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota missed out on the biggest -- literally -- recruit in the state and arguably the most sought-after high school football player in the nation.

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Hulking offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson would've been the highlight of coach Tim Brewster's 2010 class, not to mention his four years leading the Gophers. He had to settle for a couple of in-state stars in a deep group to help fill some positions of need.

"I'm a competitor and I like to get everyone, but I also realize that may not be realistic," Brewster said. "Certain kids want to leave home and go away to college somewhere else, and you can't hold that against them."

Minnesota signed 25 new recruits to national letters of intent on Wednesday, the first day players were allowed to do so.

Making up for the loss of Henderson were a pair of well-regarded players from the Twin Cities suburbs: offensive lineman Jimmy Gjere (of New Brighton and Irondale High School) and running back Lamonte Edwards (Woodbury).

Henderson's well-publicized decision to take a scholarship from Southern California was a blow to Brewster, after a relentless pursuit of the Cretin-Derham Hall High School standout. In the lobby of the football office, a matching set of maroon and gold No. 77 jerseys -- Henderson's number -- were hung in part of a glass-covered display case.

The Gophers were one of Henderson's four finalists, with Miami and Ohio State also strongly considered. Brewster's news conference was held before Henderson announced his decision on live television, so without the official word the coach was prohibited from commenting specifically on Henderson.

Using starting right guard Matt Carufel as an example, Brewster tossed a not-so-subtle caution toward Henderson. Carufel is a fellow Cretin-Derham Hall grad who started at Notre Dame, but transferred back home to play for the Gophers.

"Sometimes it takes a little bit for a young person to understand that the grass isn't always greener," Brewster said. "Staying home is always a little better."

Henderson, the 2009 Associated Press Player of the Year for Minnesota at 6-foot-8 and 330 pounds, was tabbed as the class of 2010's top player two years ago by national recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of the CBS College Sports Network and maxpreps.com.

"No one recruited better than Tim Brewster did. He was on him for the last couple of years," Lemming said. "Just in talking to Seantrel, he wanted to leave town and get away."

Still, Lemming gave the Gophers a positive review.

Before finishing his final rankings, Lemming said he'd put Minnesota in the top 40 nationally and the middle of the Big Ten, perhaps fifth. Those are similar to last year's marks.

"He's an outstanding recruiter. It's really tough to say no to him," Lemming said. "I'm impressed with their class. Fans are upset because they didn't get Seantrel, but to be honest with you they're doing things the right way. It's just got to take time."

According to rankings posted early Wednesday evening, scout.com graded Minnesota's class as 68th in the nation and last in the Big Ten while but Rivals.com had the Gophers sixth in the conference.

None of it, good or bad, mattered much to Brewster, who agreed last week to a two-year contract extension through the 2013 season.

"It's in the eye of the beholder," he said. "Obviously we feel really good about this class."

Brewster has been tightening the border. Wisconsin only signed one player from Minnesota, defensive tackle Beau Allen of Minnetonka, whose parents attended the school. Iowa didn't get any. Gjere and Edwards were widely considered the second- and third-best players from the state.

Edwards and Donnell Kirkwood of Atlantic High School in Delray Beach, Fla., could push Duane Bennett and DeLeon Eskridge for playing time in the backfield as the Gophers try to revive their running game next season.

Brewster and his staff also signed five offensive linemen, an equally critical component to re-establishing the ground game. That starts with Gjere, who also plays hockey for Irondale at 6-foot-7 and 275 pounds.

"If he called up any school in the country, they would've loved to have him," Brewster said. "It was really important to him to stay at home."

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