January 9, 2008

Looking ahead to 2008 Football - Minnesota

January is an interesting time for college football and much of what happens now affects what will happen next fall.

Around the Big Ten underclassmen are deciding whether or not to declare for the NFL Draft (they have until Jan. 15th). The Big Ten looks to be stronger next year as many schools are brining back plenty of very good starters. Will the Gophers be able to take a step forward in a conference that should be stronger? Can they get a win this year?

The gophers don't have to worry about anybody leaving for the draft. Recruiting is a KEY for next season's team. 2007 was more than forgettable so 2008 can't come soon enough. Let's take a look at the 2008 roster and schedule...

OFFENSE - the offense loses 2 on the OL and 2 skill position players. All 4 were solid, but the experienced gained by the younger players should compensate for any losses. If Weber improves and cuts down in his interceptions this unit should be better in 2008 than we saw in 2007. A full season of Dunbar's offense under their belt should allow this offense to grow in complexity and be harder to defend. Here's hoping at least.

QB - Adam Weber
RB - Duann Bennett
TE - Jack Simmons
WR - Eric Decker
WR - Brandon Green - 1st yr starter (shown right)
WR - Ralph Spry
RT - Matt DeGeest
RG - DJ Burris
C - Jeff Tow-Arnett
LG - Ned Tavale
LT - Dominic Alford

2nd String Offense
QB - Clint Brewster - rFR
RB - Jay Thomas
WR - Tray Herndon
WR - Vincent Hill - FR
WR - Marcus Sherels
TE - Nick Tow-Arnett
OT - Anthony Brinkhouse
OT - Roszell Gayden - FR (may redshirt)
OG - Ryan Ruckshadel
C - ???

QB - MarQueis Gray - redshirt
QB - Tony Mortenson - likely transfer
QB - John Nance - redshirt
TE - Eric Lair - my guess is redshirt or pass Tow-Arnett on depth chart
Most 2-star recruits - redshirt

DEFENSE - this unit was BAD last year. There will be several new starters or regular contributors in 2008. I don't have high expectations for this unit, but it can't be worse so I guess it can only get better. We lose a DT, 2 LB's, CB and S to graduation. That may seem like a lot but only Barber at S is going to be difficult to replace. Starters are harder to predict here. There are a number of talented kids coming in who may push last year's regulars. This depth chart may end up being completely wrong but it is my best guess. Again, don't have too high of expectations here other than it has to be better.

LE - Anthony Jacobs - 1st yr starter
DT - Jewhan Edwards - 1st yr starter (pictured right)
DT - Garrett Brown
RE - Willie VanDeSteeg
WLB - Spencer Reeves -1st yr starter
MLB - Sam Maresh - 1st yr starter
SLB - Deon Hightower
CB - Traye Simmons - JUCO 1st yr starter (pictured right)
CB - Ryan Collado
SS - Curtis Thomas
FS - Tramain Brock - JUCO 1st yr starter

2nd String Defense
DE - Lee Campbell
DE - Derrick Onwuachi
DT - Eric Small
DT - Otis Hudson
LB - Andre Tate - rFR
LB - Steve Davis
LB - Rex Sharpe - incoming JUCO
LB - Kevin Mannion
CB - Jonothan Dandrige - FR
CB - Troy Stoudermire - FR
SS - Kyle Theret
S - Simoni Lawrence - FR

LB - Gary Tinsley - FR, will redshirt
ATH - David Pittman - could be too much of an impact player to redshirt, but I don't where he'll end up (WR, DB, PR, QB)
DL - Brandon Kirksey - could push for PT, but my money is on redshirting

I see up to six new starters on defense. That is a major overhaul but for a unit that was dead last in the world of D1 football it is probably exactly what is needed. Last year they were often out of position, couldn't tackle, couldn't put pressure on the QB and were just not as athletic as their competition. Adding some athletic youth who hopefully can tackle will take care of half of the problem. And then we can hope that Jacobs, Edwards and a healthy VanDeSteeg can give us improved play on the defensive line. Don't expect miracles or a unit that dominates anything. But maybe we'll be able to force a few more punts and make a couple more big plays throughout the season.

SCHEDULE - Overall this should be an improved team. The offense with experience and the defense with added athleticism/talent. Will they be making a trip to Pasadena next year, um not likely. It is a light non conference schedule and it is favorable for home/away match ups. Here is my VERY early schedule prediction...

MAC Opponent TBD - W (1-0)
@ Bowling Green - W (2-0)
Montana State - W (3-0)
Florida Atlantic - W (4-0)

@ Ohio State - L (4-1) - 1% chance of winning
Indiana - W (5-1) - we can win this one, 68% chance of win
@ Illinois - L (5-2) - I think UI will struggle this year but on the road this is a loss, 20% chance
@ Purdue - L (5-3) - winable, 45% chance
Northwestern - W (6-3) - both units are better for us, they bring new coordinators 81% win
Michigan - W (7-3) - this is my upset pick, they are losing a LOT and will go through the pains of new systems as we did without the right personnel 50.1% chance
@ Wisconsin - L (7-4) - 19% chance, but road game = loss
Iowa - W (8-4) - very winable at home, 73% win

8-4 seems pretty aggressive. The Michigan game is probably a loss but that is my upset special. Indiana, Illinois and Purdue could all go either way. So officially I think 4-0 non conference is reasonable and should be expected this year. 4-4 in conference is aggressive but 3-5 isn't crazy. I expect us to be more competitive with a defense that will occasionally stop (or at least slow down) somebody.

I am excited already. Fortunately I have a competitive basketball team to watch through March April.


T-Mill said...

Interesting outlook. When you look at what happened to the Gophers in 2007 they really weren't that far off, sot he potential is there for a turnaround with even marginal improvement from the defense. You guys lost two in overtime, and four more by a touchdown or less, so really Minnesota was what, 10-15 plays from a bowl season? That's not too bad.

Anonymous said...

I liked the position breakdown but I think you're being too optimistic on the record.

I have a feeling that they'll lose one of those non-con games and will only win 2-3 in the Big 10. A 5 or 6 win season will still seem like a nice improvement.

Tom said...

I generally err-on the side of optimism. I think that 4-0 non-conference is an absolute MUST. Big Ten season aside, they can't lose a game with that NC schedule. After that there are a few winable home games in the conference season and given some confidence with 4-0 maybe they'll get a couple.