2009 Minnesota Golden Gophers Football Preview
2008 Record: (7-6, 3-5)
2008 Bowl: Insight Bowl vs. Kansas (L 21-42)
Coach: Tim Brewster (8-17 at Minnesota, 8-17 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Jedd Fisch
Defensive Coordinator: Kevin Cosgrove and Ronnie Lee
Other Key Returnees: OT Dom Alford, DT Garrett Brown, C Trey Davis, WR Brandon Green, WR Ben Kuznia, DE Derrick Onwuachi, CB Marcus Sherels, DT Eric Small, OT Matt Stommes, S Kyle Theret
Key Losses: S Tramaine Broc, LB Deon Hightower, P Justin Kucek, K Joel Monroe, TE Jack Simmons, DE Willie VanDeSteeg
Two years ago Minnesota won just one measly game. And that was a home victory over Miami Ohio in overtime. Understandably, most expected the Golden Gophers to improve during Coach Tim Brewster’s second year at the helm, but few thought that Minnesota would reach a bowl game. The Gophers impressive turnaround was just the beginning and things should be even better this season.
The Gophers return ten starters on offense and eight on defense so there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic. Quarterback Adam Weber has turned into an efficient quarterback who completed over 62 percent of his pass attempts last year. With the return of receiver Eric Decker, Minnesota should once again be one of the best passing teams in the conference. Decker caught an amazing 84 passes for 1,074 yards and seven touchdowns last season and should be in store for a huge senior campaign. The lone loss on offense is tight end Jack Simmons. He was a good safety outlet for Weber, but he is certainly replaceable and it helps that other receivers like Ben Kuznia and Brandon Green are also back.
What makes Weber and Decker’s numbers so impressive is the fact that there was virtually no ground game and the offensive line did not do a great job of protecting their quarterback. All the linemen are back and it was a pretty young group to begin with. The year of experience should help and the unit could be a strong point this season. If they are, then the ground game might not rank last in the conference. But that will also depend on DeLeon Eskridge. The 5-11 running back tallied 678 yards on the ground as a freshman last year, but only averaged 3.7 yards per carry. On a team that once was a factory for running backs, Eskridge has to do better. The biggest concern on the other side of the ball is the loss of defensive coordinator Ted Roof. The Gophers did a great job creating turnovers and, while they gave up quite a few yards, Minnesota would not make it easy for anybody to get into the end zone.
The Bottom Line for the Golden Gophers:
Willie VanDeSteeg was a big part of the defense. He tallied 19 tackles-for-loss and a 10.5 sacks during his senior campaign. It was his pressure on the opposing backfield that created many of the Gophers turnovers. If the front four cannot replace VanDeSteeg, even the eight returning starters on defense could struggle. But, of course, the biggest news out of Minneapolis is the new outdoor stadium opening in the fall. It may not be a huge advantage for the Gophers quite yet, but it will be in November.
By Joel Welser
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