Friday, August 11, 2006

Season Preview: Minnesota

Last Season: There were high expectations for the Gophers but things didn’t seem to work out. They were 7-5 with a close loss to Virginia (34-31) in the Music City Bowl. They beat Michigan in Ann Arbor, but lost to Penn State and Iowa by a combined (96 – 42). They were an enigma. The offense was quite impressive 3079 rushing yards, 34 TD’s and 2397 yards passing, 16 TD’s and a miniscule three sacks allowed, but the defense was horrible ranking 92nd.

Outlook: Last year the Gophers’ leading tackler was their free safety. Mr. Obvious says: if they want to improve on defense they will have to get help from their front seven. The loss of Gary Russell to academic issues will be a kick in the pants, but when doesn’t Minnesota have a good running back? It doesn’t help that they don’t play Illinois and Northwestern, but they get Kent State, Temple, and North Dakota State which will be three wins. Unfortunately, the have to travel to Cal the second game of the year and that doesn’t bode well. With Purdue, Michigan, Penn State, and Wisconsin comprising the meat of their schedule, it’s going to be a tough row to hoe. It’s a good thing Glen Mason got his contract extension last year because it may be tough this year.

Returning starters: 6
Key Losses:
C Greg Eslinger (Outland Trophy winner)
G Mark Setterstrom (All-American)
RB Laurence Maroney (1413 yards, 10 TD All-American)
RB Gary Russell (1048 yards, 18 TD)

Key Returnees:
QB Bryan Cupito (2267 yards, 15 TD)
TE Matt Spaeth (308 yards, 4 TD)
WR Logan Payne (529 yards, 2 TD)
WR Ernie Wheelwright (448 yards, 4 TD)
LT Steve Shidell
C Tony Brinkhaus

Bryan Cupito out to prove Minnesota isn't just for running backs

Returning starters: 6
Key Losses:
DT Anthony Montgomery (41 tackles, 6 TFL, 3 sacks)
FS John Pawielski (83 tackles, 4 TFL, 1INT)
LB Mike Sherels (49 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 1 sack, 1 INT)
LB Kyle McKenzie (48 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 sack)

Key Returnees:
DE Steve Davis (34 tackles, 9 TFL, 6.0 sacks)
LB John Shevlin (64 tackles, 7 sacks, 1INT)
LB 48 Mario Reese (40 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 2 sacks)
CB Jamal Harris (54 tackles)
CB Trumaine Banks (53 tackles, 4 TFL, 1 INT)
SS Dominic Jones (45 tackles)

Game Outlook:
Penn State thoroughly dominated Minnesota last year in Happy Valley and the Gophers will be looking for revenge. The Nits will be coming off a game against Northwestern which they should win, while the schedule isn’t so friendly to Minnesota; they get to host Michigan. Fun fact: the last 13 times Minnesota has played Michigan they lost to the following week’s opponent. Does that mean anything? Probably not, but it sure is an interesting coincidence. With 3 new starters on the defensive line, and most of them undersized for the Big Ten, look for Penn State to run the ball. Last year Penn State had 364 yards of rushing against Minnesota, with two players (Hunt & Robinson) over 100.

1 comment:

Cool Hand Mike said...

I don't know what they're feeding those guys up there.When Bama played Minn in the Music City Bowl, I was right behind the Minn bench. Those were some BIG SOBs on that offensive line. They made Bame's D line look tiny. Bama had not given up 100 yards rushing all that year and that was with games againt Auburn's Cadillac Willams and Ronnie Brown, Miss St's Norwood, and LSU Joseph Addai. Maroney rushed for over 150 and Barbour III rushed for something like 120.