2010 Minnesota Preview – Offense
Minnesota QB Adam Weber
CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Minnesota Golden Gopher Offense
Preview 2010 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: Another year, another Minnesota offensive coordinator. The new Spinal Tap drummer is Jeff Horton, who plans on keeping everything as simple and as easy as possible for an attack that finished last in the Big Ten in yards, scoring, rushing, pass efficiency, and sacks allowed. There's no need to dumb anything down for QB Adam Weber, who's going into his fourth year as the starter, but he needs players around him and he needs time to operate. The line was miserable last year, but the potential is there to be far better with all five starters returning and a slew of very promising backups pushing for jobs. The will be more of a commitment to the running game after finishing last in the Big Ten, and that means the massive front five has to be more physical and the backs have to show they can play. The passing game relied too much on Eric Decker over the last two seasons and got burned when he got hurt, and now it'll be up to good-looking veterans Da'Jon McKnight and Brandon Green to use all their tools to produce.
Star of the offense: Senior QB Adam Weber
Passing: Adam Weber
191-367, 2,582 yds, 13 TD, 15 INT
Rushing: Duane Bennett
98 carries, 376 yds, 6 TD
Receiving: Troy Stoudermire
26 catches, 306 yds, 2 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior WR Da'Jon McKnight
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman OT Brooks Michel
Best pro prospect: Senior OT Jeff Willis (as a guard)
Top three all-star candidates: 1) C D.J. Burris, 2) OT Dominic Alford, 3) Weber
Strength of the offense: Line Experience, The True Freshmen
Weakness of the offense: Scoring, Pass Protection
Projected Starter: It has been a long , interesting career for Adam Weber, a 6-3, 220-pound senior who started as a freshman and has completed 57% of his career passes for 8,238 yards and 52 touchdowns with 42 interceptions, while also rushing for 717 yards and ten scores. After starting out his career as a dangerous dual-threat playmaker, he became more of a passer and then struggled last year with a change in styles and with no help around him. He had to show this offseason that he deserved another chance after sputtering with a 13-touchdown, 15-pick 2009, with 416 of his 2,582 yards and five of the scores coming against Michigan State, and he did just enough to keep the gig. Very tough with a good arm and the mobility to do more on the move, he has to use all his tools and all his experience to carry the Gopher offense. He can't afford to have another underwhelming year.
Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore MarQuies "O.J." Gray was one of the nation's elite dual threat spread recruits back when Minnesota was running the spread, but the offense changed, Gray struggled to get eligible, and the star prospect hasn't been able to get his career off to a rousing start. At 6-4 and 228 pounds, he has the size and he has the tremendous speed and quickness to be used in a variety of ways running for 265 yards and completing 6-of-15 passes for 62 yards and a touchdown with an interception in his limited time. This year is about developing further to potentially be the starter next year, and he's not going to move to receiver. To get there, he has to get more time after not playing much over the last three years after missing most of his senior year of high school with a broken arm. The injury soured many schools on the Elite 11 Quarterback camper, and now he has to tune his big passing arm and become more consistent.
Redshirt freshman Moses Alipate went from being the cemented third-string option to the possible No. 2 after a fantastic offseason showing off a live arm and good consistency. At 6-5 and 269 pounds, he's a HUGE bomber who can run a little bit, and he'll be in the hunt for the starting job next year.
Watch Out For … A great year from Weber. He hasn't been awful, but he hasn't made the progression that most three-year starters do. In his fourth year under center, and with a simplified offense, he should be in for a more consistent, solid season.
Strength: Experience and arms. Weber has 38 games of experience, Gray has been around long enough to know what he's doing as a runner and a potentially solid passer (with more time), and Alipate has a huge arm who can put it anywhere on the field.
Weakness: Eric Decker. Minnesota's passing game hasn't been efficient or effective over the last few years, but it was solid when Decker was controlling the offense. The top receiver got hurt each of the last two years and the passing game became woefully inconsistent, and now he's gone off to the Denver Broncos, and the quarterbacks have to prove they can survive without him.
Outlook: The Gophers had the least efficient passing game in the Big Ten last season, but the offense is being stripped down, things will be easier for Weber (the school's all-time leading passer), and the results should come. He showed this offseason that this is still his team, but if he struggles or if the team isn't playing well, Gray or Alipate will quickly step in.
Unit Rating: 7.5
Projected Starters: Is DeLeon Eskridge ready to stand out? After a good true freshman season with a team-leading 678 yards and seven touchdowns, he sputtered and struggled with no room to move and having problems staying healthy running for 294 yards and three touchdowns with most of his production coming in the first half of the year. The 5-11, 203-pounder is extremely quick with good hands with the potential to break off more big plays if he has space to run.
Projected Top Reserves: When 100%, Duane Bennett is the team's best running back. The 5-9, 206-pound junior has 17 starts under his belt with 958 career yards and 11 touchdowns, with 46 catches for 464 yards and four scores, but he suffered a knee injury early in 2008 and didn't look back to his old self throughout last year. A scooter who can dart into a hole in a hurry, he'll get every shot to be the starter after getting limited work throughout last year. He only saw double digit carries in three games with his biggest moment a fluky pass play for a big touchdown against Michigan State.
The Gopher offense used a fullback more last year meaning senior Jon Hoese got to play a big role. The former safety bulked up a bit to get up to 233 pounds on his 6-2 frame and he got to power it once in a while running for 103 yards and a score while catching 11 passes for 87 yards and a score. He'll spend most of his time as a blocker this year, but he could carve out a role as an H-Back and a special teamer. Smart, he doesn't miss any assignments.
Devon Wright was one of the team's top recruits and might end up being the featured back sooner than later. The 6-0, 190-pounder from Miami needs just a little bit of a hole and he'll fly through it, and he has the hands to become a solid receiver out of the backfield. With 4.5 speed, workhorse ability, and a good nose for the goal line, he can do it all.
6-2, 215-pound true freshman Lamonte Edwards was considered a top linebacker recruit but he'll be used as a pounding, tough, between-the-tackles runner. He has just enough speed to come up with yards in chunks, and he has the strength to carry the offense with punishing drives. He could quickly become a fan favorite with his running style.
Looking to close out his career with a little bit of production, 5-11, 208-pound senior R.J. Buckner is a good athlete who started out his career as a linebacker and a special teamer before moving over to the offense. He has yet to see a carry, but he has the athleticism to get a little work. Smart, he's an all-star in the classroom.
Watch Out For … the true freshmen. The coaching staff will feed the ball early and often to anyone who can provide a semblance of a ground game, and that means Edwards, Wright, and Donnell Kirkwood will all get their chances to compete for the starting job.
Strength: The commitment from the coaching staff. The backs might not have been very good last year, but they suffered from a line that wasn't able to block anyone and an offense that sort of committed to the ground game, but didn't go full-out. This year, Minnesota will try to run the ball and the backs will get plenty of opportunities to show they can play.
Weakness: Running the football. Yeah, everyone is saying the right things about being more physical and doing more for the ground attack, but the reality is that the talent simply isn't there among the veterans. If the true freshmen aren't terrific, the ground game isn't going anywhere.
Outlook: A complete and utter disaster last season, the Gophers finished 111th in the nation in rushing, gained more than 200 yards once, and had six games with fewer than 100 net yards. The line gets everyone back, there's a veteran quarterback taking the heat off, and the coaches want to run. It's all up to the backs to be able to produce.
Unit Rating: 6
Projected Starters: When Eric Decker went down, 6-3, 208-pound junior Da'Jon McKnight stepped up catching 17 passes for 311 yards over the last five games averaging 18.3 yards per grab. After spending most of his high school career on the defensive side, he's just now growing into a more polished playmaker and he should develop into a dangerous all-around receiver. The skills are there, and now he needs the passes to come his way.
Junior Troy Stoudermire is the team's leading returning receiver after catching 26 passes for 306 yards and two touchdowns as a steady producer. At 5-10 and 183 pounds, he's not all that huge, but he's lightning quick. A superior return man with next-level potential as a specialist, he followed up a great year averaging 25.8 yards per kickoff return by averaging 24.6 yards per try last year. The coaching staff will try to find ways to get the ball in his hands on the move more often.
Looking to take over the tight end job with the departure of Nick Tow-Arnett is Eric Lair , a 6-3, 238-pound junior who made a catch for 12 yards in the bowl game representing his body of work. He's a good athlete and a decent enough blocker to be a factor in the running game, and he's fast enough to even get the ball as a runner once in a while.
Projected Top Reserves: 6-0, 179-pound junior Brandon Green stepped up as a true freshman with 21 catches and followed it up with another 21 grab season for 293 yards and a score. The team's most athletic receiver, he's lightning fast and can jump out of the stadium. Now he needs to be more dangerous in three-wide sets and he has to do a better job of taking advantage of single coverage.
6-0, 167-pound sophomore Bryant Allen was all set to come up with a big season, but he suffered a broken ankle this spring and is still fighting to come back. A tremendous athlete, he was a walk-on for the basketball team with great quickness as a speedy guard, and he caught five passes for 45 yards for the football team. He's not big and he's not physical, but he's one of the team's fastest players.
Redshirt freshman Victor Keise is a talented 6-1, 176-pound prospect from Miami who has some of the best hands on the team and isn't afraid to make the tough grabs across the middle. He's a pure slot receiver who'll work with Da'Jon McKnight and is the type of potential playmaker who comes up with big yards after the catch.
JUCO transfer Tiree Eure might end up being the top tight end right away. The 6-7, 245-pounder has intriguing size and good speed. He's a receiver who caught 22 passes for 268 yards and two scores for Lackawanna College, and he's a nice blocker even though he doesn't have the frame to get leverage; he'll be like a third tackle for the ground game.
Watch Out For … McKnight. It's time for the light to go on and to become the star of the show. The passing game is all but counting on him to go from being a complementary target to a star, and there will be some scrambling done if he's not a No. 1 playmaker.
Strength: Quickness. Stoudermire is an elite kick returner with the speed and the cut-on-a-dime quickness to make big things happen in the open field, Green is lightning fast, and McKnight can move for his size. There's more athleticism waiting in the wings.
Weakness: Star pass catchers. There isn't an Eric Decker to count on. There's potential in McKnight and Stoudermire, but there isn't a star No. 1 target to base the entire passing game around. The opportunities will be there for someone to shine.
Outlook: The passing game went into the tank when Decker got hurt, and it's not likely for the production to be much better with the team committing more to the ground game. The receivers have to take advantage of their opportunities, and that means more yards after the catch, more third down grabs, and more consistent play. There's talk of the tight ends being more involved, but any production will be an improvement.
Unit Rating: 6
Projected Starters: Even with all five starters returning up front, there are still plenty of question marks everywhere by at center where senior D.J. Burris is one of the team's best all-around blockers. The 6-2, 290-pounder is one of the team's strongest players and one of the most versatile with the ability to be the team's best guard or the man in the middle as the leader of the front five. He had injury issues in the past, but he's now a dependable, tough-as-nails anchor.
Senior Dominic Alford is the most talented player on the line with 6-3, 336-pound size and surprising athleticism. Now his skills and tools have to translate into becoming a stronger pass protector. He's a left tackle who might get a look in an NFL camp as a guard or possibly a right tackle, and with his strength and size he needs to be a dominant force on the outside while also using his bulk to be more physical for the ground game.
Senior Matt Carufel was supposed to be a dominant factor for the ground game, but the former Notre Dame transfer was merely average. At 6-5 and 302 pounds, he has the bulk and the size to push people around, but he struggled at right guard and isn't a tackle like he was projected to be for the Irish. He has the job still after undergoing shoulder surgery, but he has to pound away and open up some holes.
Senior Jeff Willis is a way-too-big 6-7, 365-pounder at right tackle, and while he was great this offseason and appeared to be ready to do more after starting every game last year, he's going to be pushed for time. The former JUCO transfer out of New York struggled in pass protection and didn't do enough to flatten anyone for the ground game. The talent and size are there to be strong, and now he needs to produce.
Junior Chris Bunders was one of the surprises on the offensive front starting every game at right guard after serving as a key backup in 2008. Originally a tackle, the 6-3, 322-pounder is big and has the feet to grow into a decent all-around blocker, and with his experience and girth he should work well next to Dominic Alford.
Projected Top Reserves: If Ryan Wynn doesn't start, he'll be the first man off the bench at any spot that needs filling. The 6-5, 296-pound junior started every game at right tackle in 2008 but missed all of last year with a back injury. While he's not going to push D.J. Burris out of the center job, he could end up starting at guard after returning healthy. He doesn't necessarily have the look of a guard, but he'll be great whenever he's on the field.
Redshirt freshman Ed Olson had a terrific offseason and is pushing Jeff Willis hard for the starting right tackle job. At 6-7 and 288 pounds, he has a great frame and he's physical for his lanky size, but the key is his mobility. At close to 80 pounds lighter than Willis, he moves better.
6-7, 295-pound redshirt freshman Brooks Michel was a nice offensive tackle recruit last year, and he had a season to get bigger and stronger. Now he's making a run at the starting left tackle job with better feet and more athleticism than Dominic Alford. While he doesn't have the size of Alford, who's a strong athlete for his bulk, he's physical and will be a key starter very soon.
Jimmy Gjere suffered from not being Seantrel Henderson, the nation's top offensive lineman recruit, but he was a huge pickup for the Gophers. Gjere was the second-ranked tackle prospect in the state behind the now-Miami Hurricane, and he could've gone anywhere with Wisconsin and Iowa fighting it out for his services. He's 6-7 and 300 pounds with an NFL frame and upside, and it's not a given that he'll sit on the bench and redshirt. From Day One he might be the team's most talented lineman.
Watch Out For … Olson and Michel. It's not a lock that the starting tackles from last year are cemented in their respective jobs, and if Alford and Willis don't produce they'll be quickly replaced but the younger, more agile options. The coaching staff will go when anyone who can be consistent.
Strength: Bulk. The reserves are more lean and athletic, but the projected starting five is massive with the 365-pound Willis, 322-pound Bunders, and 336-pound Alford bringing the bulk to push some people around … potentially.
Weakness: Blocking. The Gopher front five was miserable in pass protection allowing 40 sacks and did nothing for a ground game that finished last in the Big Ten and 111th in the nation averaging fewer than 100 yards per game. For good or bad, all the same players are back.
Outlook: With all five starters returning, some very good and very promising reserves, and a coaching staff led by a head coach with a reputation for building offensive lines, there's no excuse for being so bad. The idea is to be more physical with more results for the ground game, and this group will get to step up and blast away. The pieces are there to be great, not just improved, but this will hardly be a strength unless everyone is far, far better.
Unit Rating: 6.5
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2010 Minnesota Defense |
Minnesota Depth Chart
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