#62 Minnesota Football 2013 Preview

Minnesota Golden Gophers

Overall Rank: #62
#10 Big Ten

Minnesota Team Page
#62 Minnesota Football 2013 PreviewBuy Minnesota Football Tickets

It is year three of the Coach Jerry Kill era at Minnesota. Following a very successful year two that saw the Golden Gophers reach a bowl game, the expectations are rising. Yet, a tough conference schedule could stall Minnesota right around where they were in 2012. In their six regular season losses, the Golden Gophers were only competitive in one of those games. It is a big step to become competitive against the top teams in the Big Ten. To make matters worse, Purdue and Illinois, the two conferences foes Minnesota beat in 2012, are not on the schedule.

2012 Record: (6-7, 2-6)
2012 Bowl: Meineke Car Care Bowl vs. Texas Tech (L 31-34)
Coach: Jerry Kill (9-16 at Minnesota, 136-89 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Matt Limegrover
Defensive Coordinator: Tracy Claeys

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Donnell Kirkwood, RB, 926 yards
Passing: Phillip Nelson, QB, 873 yards
Receiving: Derrick Engel, WR, 375 yards
Tackles: Derrick Wells, CB, 74
Sacks: Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, 6.0
Interceptions: Aaron Hill, LB, 2; Cedric Thompson, S, 2; Brock Vereen, S, 2; Derrick Wells, CB, 2

Other Key Returnees: RB Rodrick Williams, WR Isaac Fruechte, WR Devin Crawford-Tufts, OL Ed Olson, C Zach Mottla, DT Cameron Botticelli

Key Losses: WR A.J. Barker, QB/WR MarQueis Gray, QB Max Shortell, CB Troy Stoudermire, CB Michael Carter, LB Mike Rallis, DE D.L. Wilhite,

The Gophers could stick around against tougher competition if their defense can stay tough. One will be hard pressed to find a defensive tackle as athletic as Ra’Shede Hageman. At 6-6 and 311 pounds, Hageman is a big lineman, yet he can jump out of the stadium and run around any offensive lineman. Hageman tallied 6.0 sacks and 7.5 tackles-for-loss last season and will anchor a strong line. Michael Amaefula is an experienced end and Theiren Cockran is brimming with potential at the end position. Linebacker Aaron Hill, who totaled 74 tackles as a junior, will have to be the new leader of the unit. However, filling in the gaps around Hill is a concern. The strong secondary will help while the new linebackers adjust to their roles. Safeties Brock Vereen and Cedric Thompson helped the pass defense rank 12th in the nation. Derrick Wells is moving to cornerback after tallying 74 tackles and ten pass breakups as a safety last season. He will help ease the loss of Troy Stoudermire and Michael Carter.

Philip Nelson started seven games as a freshman after taking over for quarterback MarQueis Gray. Nelson completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes and threw as many interceptions as touchdowns. Redshirt freshman Mitch Leidner is a capable passer and will compete with Nelson for the starting job. Both signal callers had very promising springs, but there is still a lot of growing up to do. The receiving corps returns Isaac Fruechte and Derrick Engel, but neither of them caught over 20 passes last season. Jamel Harbison played in one game before going down with an ACL injury and his return does give the offense some hope. The passing game could be relatively productive if Donnell Kirkwood and Rodrick Williams can establish a solid ground attack. Kirkwood rushed for 926 yards and six touchdowns as a sophomore. Williams showed plenty of promise after the Golden Gophers pulled his redshirt during the middle of the 2012 campaign. If Williams picks up where he left off and Kirkwood can punch the ball into the end zone, Minnesota’s offense could keep up with the defense.

The Bottom Line:
Coach Kill has Minnesota headed in the right direction and reaching a bowl game was a big accomplishment. Going to another bowl game would be an equally large accomplishment. Despite more experience across the board on offense, the unit may not be all that more productive. And that will again put more pressure on an overworked defense. But Minnesota will be favored to win all four of their non-conference games and they start the Big Ten campaign at home against an Iowa team with low expectations. After that things get very tough, but the Golden Gophers have the ability to pull off at least one upset and reach the six win mark.

Projected Bowl:  Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl

2012 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 151.92 (67th in nation, 7th in conference)
Passing Offense: 169.46 (105, 9)
Total Offense: 321.38 (108, 10)
Scoring Offense: 22.08 (94, 9)
Rushing Defense: 72.00 (72, 8)
Pass Defense: 186.62 (12, 4)
Total Defense: 358.62 (33, 5)
Scoring Defense: 24.69 (45, 8)
Turnover Margin: -0.15 (69, 7)
Sacks: 2.00 (59, 7)
Sacks Allowed: 1.62 (45, 4)

Madness 2014 NFL Draft Rankings:
#71 Ra'Shede Hageman


See All College Sports Madness Top 104 Football Previews