#85 Minnesota Football Preview

Minnesota Golden Gophers

Overall Rank: #85
#12 Big Ten

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2010 Record: (3-9, 2-6)
2010 Bowl: none
Coach: Jerry Kill (First year at Minnesota, 23-16 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Matt Limegrover
Defensive Coordinator: Tracy Claeys

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Duane Bennett,, RB, 529 yards
Passing: MarQueis Gray, QB, 24 yards
Receiving: DaJon McKnight, WR, 750 yards
Tackles: Gary Tinsley, LB, 90
Sacks: Anthony Jacobs, DT, 2.0
Interceptions: Mike Rallis, LB, 3

Other Key Returnees: G Chris Bunders, LB Keanon Cooper, WR Brandon Green, DT Brandon Kirksey, TE Eric Lair, OT Ed Olson, S Kim Royston, CB Troy Stoudermire, DE D.L. Wilhite

Key Losses: C D.J. Burris, G Matt Carufel, CB Ryan Collado, DT Jewhan Edwards, K Eric Ellestad, RB DeLeon Eskridge, FB Jon Hoese, S Kyle Theret, QB Adam Weber, OT Jeff Wills

Coming off of successful stints at Southern Illinois and Northern Illinois, Coach Jerry Kill continues his climb north and landed a BCS job at Minnesota. Yet, at the moment, it may be the worst job in all of college football. There is a nice new on-campus stadium, but this is a group that lacks the depth and talent to compete in the revamped Big Ten. It will take time for Coach Kill to turn this program around.  

The good news for the Golden Gophers is that they do have some talent on offense. Even with leading rusher DeLeon Eskridge leaving the program, Duane Bennett can lead this team on the ground. Add redshirt freshman LaMonte Edwards and Donnell Kirkwood into the mix and there is potential for a breakaway back to compliment Bennett. The receivers get Brandon Green back after missing last season and also return Da’Jon McKnight and tight end Eric Lair. McKnight is a big time receiver who caught ten touchdown passes last year and the rest of the receiving corps is quite underrated. However, the running game and the passing game will both suffer if the offensive line cannot improve. The interior of the line has experience, but the real pressure is on Ed Olson, who showed plenty of promise as a freshman, and highly regarded redshirt freshman Jimmy Gjere.

The Gophers rushing defense was simply awful last year. The team gave up 191.42 yards per game on the ground. The passing defense was decent, but that was mostly because there was little reason for any team to pass when they could simply run up the gut successfully time and time again. Injuries did not help the cause, but having Kim Royston back and Brendan Beal via Florida will only do so much. With eight starters back and the addition of Royston to the secondary and Beal to the linebacker corps, there is some hope. However, that hope will quickly dissipate if Minnesota cannot get pressure on the opposing quarterback. The team ranked last in the nation in sacks and their sack leader of 2010, who just had three, is gone. That does not bode well unless a youngster like Matt Garin or Kendall Gregory-McGhee has a pleasantly surprising season.

The Bottom Line:
The Gophers may not be built to last the grind of the Big Ten, but they can win some shootouts if new quarterback MarQueis Gray can pick up Coach Kill’s offense after spending last year as a wide receiver. Gray is a great athlete who can use his feet to make plays and that is something this team will really need. If Gray can stay consistent and smart, the offense has enough weapons to stay close against more talented teams, but they will have trouble winning more than a game or two in conference play.

Projected Bowl: none

2010 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 135.25 (86th in nation, 10th in conference)
Passing Offense: 226.08 (57, 8)
Total Offense: 361.33 (77, 10)
Scoring Offense: 23.17 (89, 10)
Rushing Defense: 191.42 (98, 11)
Pass Defense: 200.75 (33, 4)
Total Defense: 392.17 (76, 8)
Scoring Defense: 33.00 (98, 9)
Turnover Margin: .17 (45, 6)
Sacks: .67 (120, 11)
Sacks Allowed: 1.42 (29, 5)

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