A “palooza,’’ as it has become to be known, is a big, exaggerated, festive event, and Gophers football coach P.J. Fleck and his staff will be throwing one this weekend.
From Friday through Sunday, the Gophers will hold “eLITe18Palooza,’’ with as many as 34 recruits expected to make their official visits to the University of Minnesota campus and the Twin Cities, according to 247Sports. Included in that are 22 of 23 players who have verbally committed to Minnesota. Quarterback Vic Viramontes won’t attend because he already made his official visit on Nov. 26-27 and committed to the Gophers.
The Gophers also will be host to players who haven’t committed, and their top offensive line target will be one of them. Curtis Dunlap, a 6-4, 368-pound guard from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., on Tuesday withdrew his commitment from Florida. “I’ve decided to decommit from the University of Florida and open my recruitment back up,’’ Dunlap posted on Twitter. Oklahoma, Miami, Michigan, Florida State and Georgia are among the nearly 40 teams who have offered Dunlap a scholarship.
Dunlap is a four-star recruit and the ninth-best guard in the Class of 2018, as ranked by 247Sports. His teammate at IMG Academy, quarterback Zack Annexstad, has committed to the Gophers as a preferred walk-on. Dunlap verbally committed to Florida in July, but the Gators coach at the time, Jim McElwain, was later fired. Former Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen took over as Gators coach on Nov. 26.
The big recruiting weekend for the Gophers comes with the Dec. 20-22 early signing period approaching. Fleck has said he wants to sign his full Class of 2018 – or as close to full as he can get -- during the early period, which is in its first year.
“They want to get the entire recruiting class on campus to spend time with one another, that and their parents to start to mingle,’’ said Ryan Burns, publisher of GopherIllustrated, a website that focuses on Gophers recruiting. “Plus, they want to get their top targets in, so those top targets can start assimilating in with the different commits, seeing if it’s a fit, seeing the P.J. Fleck culture.’’