Golden Gophers 2010 Review 2011 Preview

Posted: August 31, 2011 by Kodi in Gopher Redemption

Thats right Tim Brewster if you dont like it you can gettttttttttt out!

Gopher Nation has moved on from the Brewster Era and look forward to the Jerry Kill Regime

2010 Season in Review:

The Gophers finished the 2010 season 3-9 with a 2-6 record in the Big Ten, winning their first game against Middle Tennessee St. then losing 9 games in a row, until beating Illinois in Champagne and Iowa at TCF Bank Stadium to end the year on a high note. Minnesota fans were ecstatic to hear that AD Joel Maturi fired Head Coach Tim Brewster after the loss to Purdue amid a 1-6 start.

Brewster came into Dinkytown in 2007 shouting about the Rose Bowl and restoring Gopher Nation back to the prestige of our great grandparent’s days. It turned out the decision to hire the then Broncos TE Coach to run a Big Ten program was a bad decision. Brewster never beat Iowa or Wisconsin and was 0-10 in trophy games, surprisingly interim coach and offensive coordinator Jeff Horton beat the Hawkeyes at the end of the 2010 and brought the Floyd of Rosedale back to the U.

Offense:

The Gophers were ranked 57th in passing yards averaging 226 yards a game and ranked 86th in rushing yards averaging 135 yards a game. Adam Weber will no longer be under Center for Minnesota in 2011 and they will rely on MarQueis Gray to take over the QB duties. Gray played a lot of snaps at WR last year and was one of four players with 30 or more receptions. The others were WR Da’Jon McKnight, TE Eric Lair and RB Duane Bennett. The Gophers couldn’t find their identity in the running game and the backfield was split between DeLeon Eskeridge and Duane Bennett. Eskeridge had some family issues and decided to transfer to a school closer to his San Francisco home, so Bennett will become the guy by default in 2011.

Defense:

The Golden Gophers Defense was pathetic and was constantly beaten by the run, or teams got up to such big leads they decided to run the ball to kill the clock. Either way the Gophers need to improve defensively as they were ranked 98th allowing 33 points on average per game. They allowed 2297 rushing yards to their opposition, while giving up just 112 more passing yards, 2409, in 12 games. With the defense on the field for 716 plays that leaves an average of 6.6 yards per play and 392.2 yards per game. Lucky thing for Jerry Kill is that 9 of the 11 starters for the Gophers defense are returning, but Kill will determine whether they start in 2011.

2011 Preview:

With the 2010 season behind us the Golden Gophers and their fans will turn towards the Jerry Kill era and hope that we aren’t referring to it as the road Kill era in a couple of seasons. Jerry Kill left his position at Northern Illinois where he had a record of 23-16 from 2008-10, finishing 10-3 in 2010 1st in the west of the Mid-American Conference and led his team to the Humanitarian Bowl (He didn’t coach the Bowl game as he left for Minnesota before it was played). It’s not just Jerry Kill, it’s nearly his entire NIU staff, including his offensive, defensive and special teams coordinator.

Quarterback:

The 2011 Minnesota Golden Gophers will need to assimilate their offense from a pocket passer with a strong accurate arm, to an explosive athletic QB who can make plays, but will likely think with his feet first. The problem for Kill and offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover is getting Gray to hone in his accuracy and make him a viable short passer. The Gophers will have to rely on an above average running game with Duane Bennett and Gray holding a lot of pressure to fulfill those expectations. Gray hasn’t played QB full-time since 2007 and that was when he was still attending High School in Indiana.

Since joining the Golden Gophers MarQueis has attempted just 23 passes in a Minnesota uniform. There is no doubt that the offense will be molded around Gray’s ability at QB, but realistically he is going to have to keep opposing defenses honest and prove that he can pass the ball. Luckily for Gray the guy behind him is freshman Max Shortell, a 6’6” 226 pound QB from Shawnee Mission, Kansas. If Kill and Limegrover decide to transition their offense over to a pure passer, it’s going to be Shortell taking over the reins. Shortell is a great pocket passer, with an above average arm and athleticism and has the confidence to be a great team leader, in the future for now its Grays job.

Offensive Line:

The Gophers will need a solid offensive line, whether or not they run or pass the ball, but Minnesota’s line has a lot of inexperience in big spots. MarQueis Gray’s blindside will be protected by LT Ed Olson, who is a 6’7” 300 pound sophomore. Chris Bunders is a 6’3” 292 pound starter at LG, Ryan Wynn is a 6’4” 305 pound Center, Ryan Orton is a 6’4” 290 pound RG, but the real focus of the offensive line will be on Freshman Jimmy Gjere. Gjere is a 6’7” 270 RT who signed out of Irondale High School as a G, but will shift over to tackle. C Wynn is a Plymouth, MN native that played 13 games as a sophomore in 2008, but missed the 2009 season with a back injury. He has played in just three games the last two seasons, but seemed to develop a good chemistry with Gray this spring and summer.

With huge bodies Gjere and Olson on the outsides of the line and having a Center with good chemistry up the middle it shoud give QB MarQueis Gray enough time to make good decisions in the pocket. The Gophers had a problem with OL depth last season but this year they look to have adequate replacements behind their starters.  Gjere is battling an injury coming out of spring practice and former DL and Philadelphia native Sean Ferguson transitioned well to the offensive side of the ball and the 6’6” 313 pound body may have a bright future ahead of him.

Running-Backs:

The Gophers were dead last in the Big Ten in rushing offense last year and Minnesota is without last years leading rusher DeLeon Eskeridge, who had 193 carries for 698 yards and 7 TDs. The Gophers will rely on Duane Bennett who had 123 carries for 529 yards and 3 TDs last season. The 5’9” 205 pound Seniro RB from St. Louis, Missouri has captured the attention of Jerry Kill with his versatility and big play capability. Bennett may be the most important player connected to the Gophers offensive success outside of QB Gray.

If Bennett is the playmaking jitter bug RB, than Lamonte Edwards is the physical bruiser of the group. Edwards is a 6’2” 210 pound beast of a man from Woodbury, MN that is likely to be the Gophers short yardage and goal-line RB. Bennett’s likely substitute will be Delray Beach, Florida native Donnell Kirkwood, who is the only other RB on the Gophers depth chart with any rushing experience. There was a lot of hype by scouting sites that Devon Wright was the 2010 signee with the biggest upside for the Gophers. The problem with Wright has been getting some academic issues fixed that have forced him to miss a lot of practice.

RB David Cobb is probably going to be Red-Shirted, but he wowed a lot of Gophers and was mentioned in some stories when he broke a 62 yard TD run in a scrimmage. Cobb is the RB of the future and its good to give his body a year to bulk up and hold him out until you can get him the carries he deserves. With RB’s Bennett, Kirkwood and Wright all ahead of Cobb it is a good move by the Gophers coaching staff to keep Cobb in their back pocket.

Wide-Receivers:

QB MarQueis Gray was actually the Gophers 2nd best WR last season with 42 receptions for 587 yards and 5 TDs. Obviously Gray can’t throw the ball to himself and good thing the teams leading WR from last year is returning to Minnesota. Da’Jon McKnight had 48 receptions for 750 yards and 10 TDs, averaging over 15 yards per catch McKnight is the big play wideout that Gray will look to often. McKnight is in his Senior year but the 6’3” 210 pound WR scared everyone when he was hampered by a knee injury ending his spring season early.

The problem is replacing Gray at WR, the options are there for Kill but the experience and talent may not be. The Gophers spread the ball around a lot last season and used the 3 WR set often, but we don’t know what Kill’s offense will call for. Victor Keise is a 6’1” 180 WR from Coral Springs, Florida with decent size and great hands although he hasn’t gotten on the field much this RS Sophomore has a lot to prove. Moulton is a JUCO transfer from Fort Scott Community College where he hauled in 44 balls for 714 yards and 5 TDs in 2010. Jones is a 5’8” 170 WR who was ranked as the 73rd CB by Scouts Inc, this kid could be the fastest on the team and has transitioned into a speedy threat as a slot WR.

Tight-Ends:

The Golden Gophers have had many NFL caliber TE’s come through Minnesota, but Eric Lair may be the most talented receiving TE to come out of the U in years. Lair is a 6’3” 232 pound TE from the Houston, Texas area and will be a focal point of Minnesota’s offense. Lair had 39 catches for 526 yards and 2 TDs last season and will likely be the second option in the passing game, behind McKnight. Although Lair is a huge threat in the passing game there is something left to be seen in his rush and pass blocking. Kill does has Collin McGarry to fill that role. McGarry is the perfect blocking TE standing 6’4” 261 pounds the Stillwater, MN native has played in 16 games and caught just 2 career passes for 17 yards.

Denfensive Line:

The Gophers need to improve on the D-Line and Jerry Kill and his defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys are implementing the starters that they think will do just that. The only player locked in at his position is Junior D.L. Wilhite, he is a 6’3” 245 pound man from Lexington, Kentucky. Wilhite is the Gophers only proven pass rusher and earned freshman All-Big Ten honors, but after earning the starting role last season he had just 1 sack. Wilhite has 4 career sacks and 18 tackles in his two seasons, but Kill needs him to show why he earned those freshman honors. The other DE will be 6’5” 241 pound Southlake, Texas native Ben Perry, who wasn’t a highly touted recruit but should have been. In Perry’s Senior season at Southlake Carrol High School he had 46 tackles and 7 sacks on the way to leading his team to an 11-2 record and one of the stingiest defenses in the Texas Class 5A playoffs.

The middle of the Gophers DL is filled by two Seniors, Tackle Anthony Jacobs and Nose Brandon Kirksey. Anthony Jacobs is a Northfield, MN Senior DT with 67 career tackles and 4.5 sacks. Jacobs has started just 14 games but showed flashes of a solid pass rusher and could surprise some with his talent.  Brandon Kirksey is a 6’2” 294 pound St. Louis, Missouri native that was a the only Junior Captain last season but had a disappointing year after recording zero sacks, 15 solo tackles and just 5.5 tackles for loss. Kirksey looks to bounce back in his Senior year and be that plug in the middle of the defensive line. The two Seniors have a solid back-up option in Ra-Shede Hageman, who was a top TE recruit when he was coming out of Washburn High School in Minneapolis, MN during 2009. Hageman has bulked up and now stands 6’6” tall and over 300 pounds, but claims he hasn’t lost much speed from his TE days.

Linebackers:

The Gophers had a pathetic defense last season and solid players like MLB Gary Tinsley and OLB Keanon Cooper were affected by the mediocrity around them. Playing the other OLB will be the newly converted former Safety Mike Rallis. Senior Gary Tinsley is going to be the leader of this Gophers defense and he should after playing in all 12 games last season at MLB and recording a team high 90 tackles, including 1.5 sacks and an INT. Tinsley is a 6’1” 232 pound Senior from Jacksonville, Florida who has appeared in 32 games for Minnesota and recorded 111 career tackles. He is the best tackler on the team and will have to continue his success individually to improve the team and could be nominated as for All-Big Ten honors when everything is said and done.

Keanon Cooper is no slouch, appearing in all 25 games since joining the Minnesota Golden Gophers and recording 111 career tackles and 1.5 sacks. He has identical numbers to Tinsley but Cooper doesn’t have the size and strength standing an inch shorter as Keanon is just 6’0” tall and weighing 20 pounds lighter than Tinsley, scaling in at 212 while Tinsley is 232. Cooper does have something Tinsley doesn’t, speed, claiming all summer that he was the fastest on the team and then proving it with a little after practice competition. Mike Rallis is the other OLB, an Edina, MN native who earned a scholarship in his freshman year during training camp. Rallis played as a DB, mostly S, during Tim Brewster’s tenure, but Kill believes that this 6’2” 231 pound kid has the perfect combination of size, strength and speed to transition to OLB. Rallis was tied for the team high with 3 INTs last season and has 63 career tackles, but the Junior has limited experience in a position he is going to be a starter at in the Big Ten Conference.

The Gophers are rather deep at LB though, with solid back-ups like Ryan Grant, Brendan Beal and Aaron Hill. Ryan Grant is the Grandson of former Vikings Head Coach Bud Grant and son of Eden Prairie Head Coach Mike Grant, who coached his son during High School. Grant is a 6’2” 230 pound Junior who has a solid family history, but has little experience on the field. Grant started just 4 games last season, but appeared in 12, although he only recorded 21 tackles and 12 of those were solo.

Brendan Beal was originally recruited by Florida, where he spent his Freshman year Red-Shirted due to an ACL injury. He didn’t see any time with the Gators and decided to transfer to Minnesota, sitting out the 2010 season although he still has three years of eligibility left, making him a Sophomore. Beal is a 6’3” tall 245 pound LB from Bangor, Pennsylvania that can play all three positions at LB if necessary. He had 148 tackles, 18 for loss, forced 8 fumbles and recorded 10 sacks in his Senior year of High School and has tremendous upside and should be the highest rated back-up.

Aaron Hill may be a dark horse this season but I think he and Beal are clearly the Gopher LBs of the future. Hill is a 6’2” 225 pound St. Charles, Missouri native that was a 2009 walk-on Red-Shirt. Last year during his Freshman season Hill appeared in 12 games, starting 2, recording just 14 tackles, 10 solo and recovering a fumble. Hill is a fast paced LB with good tackling skills, in High School he played both LB and RB and even has the record for TDs scored at Lutheran High School. Look for Hill to get more and more playing time, especially if the Gophers are buried in the rankings late in the season, it will be nice to see what he and Beal are capable of.

Defensive-Backs:

The Golden Gophers have a pathetic pass defense, but some of the blame can be placed on the pass rush the rest of the blame is on the lack of depth at CB. The Gophers have 3 Seniors in their secondary, Troy Stoudemire, Kim Royston and Shady Salamon while Sophomore Brock Vereen looks to have locked up the other CB position, and Senior Kyle Henderson will play the nickel back. Troy Stoudemire may be the only CB worth a shit and has impressed DC Tracy Claeys with his ability to shift from WR to CB and his return skills.

Stoudemire is from Dallas, Texas and played with fellow Gopher LB Keanon Cooper at Skyline High School and is 5’10” 196 pounds. He started 6 games at CB and had a team high 5 broken up passes. That stat alone should explain how weak the Gophers pass defense has been in the past. The team had just 11 total INTs and Stoudemire had one of those, but has also made a name for himself in the return game, needing just 97 more kickoff return yards to break the Big Ten record. Stoudemire had 29 kick returns last year for 789 yards, averaging 27.2 yards per return and recorded a career long 90 yard kick return, but didn’t reach the end-zone.

Brock Vereen will start CB on the other side of Stoudemire but as raw as the former WR is, Vereen has played in just 4 games. Vereen is the younger brother to former California Golden Bear RB Shane Vereen, so the bloodline is working in his favor. Vereen stands 6’0” 182 pounds and was a standout at Valencia High School where he helped lead his team to a 12-1 record and recorded 51 tackles, 8 INTs, a sack, and played WR bringing in 20 receptions for 474 yards and 7 TDs. Vereen was also a standout in track and field and has the speed to stay with most elite WRs, but his raw talent could blossom into a solid bump and run CB.

Kim Royston was a highly touted member of the ’06 recruiting class after a huge Senior season at Cretin-Derham Hall. He played DB and WR recording 71 tackles 4 INTs and had 41 receptions and had 15 TDs in 2005 on the way to be named first-team all-state. Royston signed with the Wisconsin Badgers but transferred after the his ’07 season and was forced to sit out the entire 2008 season due to NCAA regulations. In his Junior year Royston started every game and recorded 86 total tackles, third most on the team. He had 4 double digit tackle games, including a 15 tackle game at the Insight Bowl. Royston missed all of 2010 after he broke his leg in spring practice but was able to regain eligibility for the 2011 season after he was granted a medical hardship waiver.

Royston will be playing will fellow Cretin-Derham Hall alumni Shady Salamon, but unlike in High School when they played alongside each-other on the offensive side of the ball they will be the two starting Safeties for Gopher Nation. Salaman was a RB in High School that had 88 carries for 774 yards and 15 rushing TDs, but after a poor Freshman season registering 49 carries for 181 yards the 5’11” 202 pound South St. Paul, MN native knew he had to find his place in another position. Salamon moved to DB before the Insight Bowl and has been improving, so much so that Kill has named him a starter.

The most intriguing name on the Gophers depth chart that isn’t a starter in Minnesota’s secondary is DB Michael Carter. He was a four-star recruit coming out of High School and was even invited to play in the 2008 U.S. Army All-American game. He had 48 tackles, 20 pass break-ups and 5 INTs as a Senior and was rated as the 12th overall CB and the 140th overall player by Rivals.com. So fart Carter has been a huge bust appearing in just 19 games through his Freshman and Sophomore year, including 6 starts and has just 2 INTs, a sack and 35 tackles. Carter needs to show why he was such a huge prospect coming out of High School and when he does it may just tighten up the Gophers pass defense.

Kicker/Punter:

It seems that Jerry Kill has handed over the Kicking duties to 6’6” 198 pound Raleigh, North Carolina native Chris Hawthorne. Hawthorne was a walk-on at North Carolina State where he appeared in 3 games, but before that Hawthorne had just been playing football for a single year. He is a hybrid kicker/punter with the ability to do both well, but he will act as the schools placekicker and reportedly has good accuracy but has seen little action and we don’t know what to expect from him in a big situation with the game on the line. He attempted just 5 PATs making all of them, but also made just one FG a 25 yarder and kicked off 17 times with a single touchback. I don’t know how much I buy into the former soccer player but clearly he has impressed the Gophers Coaching staff enough to give him the starting nod.

Hopefully the Gophers will never need to see Hawthorne punt a ball because Minnesota has a solid Punter in Dan Orseske. A 6’3” 206 pound Chicago, Illinois native, Orseske punted for 3 seasons during High School and averaged 39.3 yards per punt and a net average of 38.9 yards. He had nearly 45 percent of his punts downed inside the 20 yard line and 31 percent were downed inside the 10 yard line. Orseske came to Minnesota in 2009 and earned the starting role but was diagnosed with Mononucleosis, missed the rest of the year that resulted in a medical Red-Shirt. In his Freshman season in 2010 Orseske played in all 12 games and punted the ball 49 times, totaling 1771 yards, with 15 of those inside the 20 yard line.

2011 Outlook:

After a dismal 2010 season it seems that things couldn’t get much worse for Minnesota Golden Gophers Football. In 2011 the Big Ten has been divided into two divisions the Legends and the Leaders and Minnesota is now fighting Nebraska, Michigan State, Iowa and Northwestern but the Gophers will also still play Wisconsin every year. This is going to be Kills first season as a Head Coach of a big football program, as pathetic as they’ve performed in the past, but he has some good talent at key positions.

Realistically it all comes down to QB play and the Gophers defense, if they can get it together there they can start turning the corner. MarQueis Gray is a playmaker and could be the poor man’s version of former Buckeye QB Terrel Pryor, with great athleticism, speed and the ability to still make a throw when necessary. Gray is not Pryor yet but might catch some teams off guard and snatch a game or two away from an opponent that are overlooking the Gophers.

The Gophers DBs are a solid bunch of raw talent but they need the DL to get some pressure on the QB to relieve some of the burden on the pass defense.  The Gophers have a solid leader on the defensive side of the ball with Gary Tinsley and the Gophers have enough speed and size to slow down any offense. I don’t believe that the Gophers are going to go on some phenomenal run during their first season in the Legends division of the Big Ten.

I think that the Gophers should be hoping for a 4-6 win season but I think that they will win 5 games. I don’t think they will win @USC, Miami (OH), @Michigan, Nebraska, @Michigan State, Wisconsin, @Northwestern. I think that the Gophers will win at home against New Mexico State, North Dakota State, Iowa and Illinois and their only road win will come @Purdue. That would mean the Gophers finish 5-7 (3-5 against the Big Ten) and could finish second to last in the Legends division. The Gophers would be able to roll into 2012 with high hopes and good tape to show incoming recruits.

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