Minnesota Golden Gophers
Head Coach; Jerry Kill 3rd season 9-16
“In a Word”…experienced…This is my team to watch in the Big Ten in 2013…they have 18 starters back with ten of those on offense. All five offensive line starters and that is huge with Kill….Jerry wants to run the ball…and then run some more. His lines are generally fundamentally sound and technically well coached. He has two beefy HB’s in Donnell Kirkwood and Rodrick Williams..they are each over 230 lbs and it hurts to tackle these guys all game long. Sophomore QB Philip Nelson had the last few games of 2012 to get playing time and it should benefit him this year…he has some young kids pushing him, but he should hold them off…Kill’s QB’s are usually bigger guys who have strong arms, but can move if they have to…and all the QB’s on the roster fit this description. The Gophers only offensive weakness is experience at the WR position…AJ Barker quit last season, so a dependable set of hands needs to develop or a MSU 2012 –like season could develop. I doubt that happens with the Gopher coaching staff….he has to do more with less talent everywhere he has been…the kids will be sound fundamentally. The line may end up being the best in the Big Ten if you look at production…the Olson brothers will anchor the left side of the line…and with Zac Epping you have one of the better C prospects and he is a junior….the right side will be stationed by Josh Campion and Caleb Bak…as long as Nelson plays within the system and doesn’t make too many costly mistakes, this unit could be very effective…they will not be flashy, but effective.
“In a Word”…darkhorse…Minnesota finished ranked number 33 in total defense in the nation in 2012…and 12th vs the pass…seven of those starters will return this season and the defense should continue to improve with under-the-radar DC Tracy Claeys calling the shots. Claeys has done a masterful job at bringing in the right guys and using the perfect formations to get this defense back on the map and it begins in 2013 upfront with NT Ra’Shede Hageman…he had six sacks and almost eight TFL’s to go with 35 tackles…the Gophers need some pass rushing help from their defensive ends…they are currently a bit undersized and tend to get manhandled by the Big Ten’s tackles on a regular basis…so improving strength and skill with these folks will only help in generating some negative offensive plays…the LB’s are led by Aaron Hill who is the leading returning tackler…the other starters will be JUCO transfers and one of them has all kinds of talent. I keep getting notes about De’Vondre Campbell about how good he is…we’ll see…Coach Kill loves his secondary…probably because of the versatility as any of the listed eight on the two-deep can play any of the four positions…there is talent here, but one thing I keep hearing about this secondary is that it is filled with hitters…guys that love to hit…in all the research I have done for these previews, I haven’t seen the term ‘hard hitter’ more anywhere than Minnesota.
Minnesota 2013 Schedule
The Gophers will open their 2013 campaign Thursday night at home vs UNLV and then travel to Las Cruces New Mexico to battle the Aggies..then finish the nonconference schedule with homers vs Western Illinois and San Jose State…the ‘Phers then host Iowa for homecoming and travel to Ann Arbor….after a bye week, Minnesota goes to Evanston, hosts Nebraska, travels to Bloomtown and hosts Penn State before their final bye week…then Wisconsin closes out the schedule at TCF Bank Field and the season schedule ends the following week in East Lansing….I fully expect the Gophers to win their first five games…but then three of their next four are on the road against teams that are expected to make bowl games in 2013…those last three games aren’t very fun to look at either. If Jerry Kill makes his usual big improvement in year three as he always does, he will earn it…he should hit seven wins in 2013..with eight being a possibility and then a bowl game.
Minnesota Could’s Should’s and Will’s
Minnesota could enter October unbeaten for the 1st time since 2005.
The Gophers should be one of the better running teams in the conference in 2013.
Minnesota will finish over .500 for the first time since 2005.
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