Quaterback – C:
Philip Nelson has promise, but he must become a more consistent passer. He has the arm talent to get there. I’m not sold on Mitch Leidner or Chris Streveler being competent B1G backups, but we shall see…
Running Back – B+:
I think Minnesota has all the ingredients. The hard running, physical styles of Donnell Kirkwood and Rodrick Williams should complement the speedy Berkley Edwards perfectly. For the first time in 8 years, there is real talent and depth in the Gophers backfield.
Offensive Line – B:
Lots of depth and “potential” here, however this unit must stay healthy in order to maximize it. The Olson brothers are the key, if they can stay healthy then look out. Highest ceiling of all the Gopher units in my opinion.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends – C:
Like Philip Nelson, the wide receivers and tight ends do not lack talent and potential, but must be more consistent. The lack of a true #1 WR must be addressed in fall camp. Andre McDonald has all world potential and Jamel Harbison looked fantastic in the spring game less than 8 months after tearing his ACL. Isaac Freuchte is a solid receiver who should more than double is catch total from last year. Maxx Williams looked the part of a big time tight end in the spring game. Potential to be much better than the letter grade, but not a lot to go off of right now.
Defensive Line – B:
Ra'Shede Hageman “looks” like the best and most intimidating defensive player in the B1G. However, Big Shede must become more consistent and not take plays off, the latter of which he listed as one of his goals after the spring. Roland Johnson is a nice space eater in the middle and Thieren Cockran has all B1G potential at DE.
Linebacker – D:
Right now this unit is a complete unknown and a real concern. De’Vondre Campbell has all the tools, he held offers from Texas, Kansas State, and Tennessee before signing with the Gophers. Damien Wilson has caught a bunch of people’s eyes as well. James Manuel and LaMonte Edwards are undersized linebackers that need be become more consistent. This group has potential, but right now it is a complete unknown.
Secondary – B+:
Loads of talent and depth at safety and cornerback. I think it’s the strength of the team. Don’t laugh I’m serious. Derrick Wells, Briean Boddy, Jeremy Baltazar, Martez Shabazz, and Eric Murray are all legitimate B1G corners. The safety spots will be occupied by veteran Brock Vereen (arguably the smartest player on the team) and Antonio Johnson.
Special Teams – D:
This is a major concern. The Gophers currently lack a punter or place kicker they can rely on. The return game should be fine.
Overall team grade – C+:
I see strengths and weaknesses on this team, and ultimately I expect them to be just barely better than last year. Staying healthy will be key. Some positions lack depth such as linebacker, quarterback, and defensive line. I used the word “potential” ad nauseam.