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Football: Area recruits still getting to know coach Fleck

Woodbury tight end Nathan Bursch runs down the sideline after making a catch in Woodbury’s first game of the season last fall. (Bulletin file photo)1 / 2
Grant Ryerse follows through on a kick during a game last fall. (Bulletin file photo)2 / 2

Learning about changes in the University of Minnesota football program is an ongoing process for three area players who have given their verbal commitments to the Gophers months ago.

The upcoming Feb. 1 National Signing Day is the first day that high school seniors can sign a binding national letter of intent for schools in the NCAA. But it has been a hard month for University of Minnesota recruits, starting with the Jan. 3 firing of head coach Tracy Claeys. Three days later, the University of Minnesota announced the hiring of former Western Michigan head coach P.J. Fleck.

Woodbury tight end Nathan Bursch is one Gophers commit who so far has had limited verbal contact with the new head coach. They have sent messages on Twitter, but as of Monday, they had not talked on the phone. Fleck scheduled a meeting at Woodbury High School Tuesday, so Bursch hoped to get some answers at that time.

“It’s still a little scary considering we haven’t quite talked, but it’s nice to know that I will finally be face-to-face with him tomorrow,” Bursch said in a phone interview Monday.

The senior tight end spoke on the phone with the team’s wide receivers coach Matt Simon who confirmed his scholarship offer. With other programs asking about his commitment status, Bursch said he was looking forward to speaking with the new head coach.

“Hopefully all of that will go away tomorrow, and he will hear what he wants to hear and I will hear what I want to hear,” Bursch said.

East Ridge kicker Grant Ryerse said he did have the opportunity to speak with Fleck on the phone briefly last week.

“We kind of got to know each other a little bit,” Ryerse said. “It was a quick conversation, but he reaffirmed that I still have the offer.”

Fleck was also scheduled to meet with Ryerse and East Ridge running back Dominik London Tuesday morning at East Ridge High School. Although he has had limited contact with Fleck, Ryerse has been happy with the message from the new coach.

“I haven’t met him face-to-face yet, but he obviously seems like a very energetic guy,” Ryerse said. “He seems like he has absolutely great character, with all the right values. I know I’m excited about that, my parents love that we’ve got another coach with great character.”

London said in a phone call last week that he did not want to comment further on the hiring of Fleck to the University of Minnesota. However, he did confirm that he has talked to Fleck and said: “I’m still fully committed.”

East Ridge head coach Dan Fritze answered for both London and Ryerse when he said they have been in contact with the new University of Minnesota head coach.

“They have both spoken to coach Fleck,” Fritze said in a phone call Friday. “Coach Fleck reaffirmed their scholarship offers, and they both reaffirmed their 100 percent commitment to sign and be with the Gophers next year. And they both are really excited.”

Blaze Fugina

Blaze Fugina is the sports editor of the Woodbury and South Washington County Bulletin newspapers. Previously, Blaze worked as a sports editor for the Pierce County Herald and a sports reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in May of 2011. You can follow Blaze on Twitter at @BlazeFugina.

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