April 29, 2008

Big Ten Blogger Roudtable - Springtime Ed.

The spring football game has come and passed. While there was slightly more excitement surrounding the annual scrimmage, it was still met with a collective yawn across Gopher Nation. Partially because nobody has ever cared about the Gopher's spring game and partially because most of the incoming flux of talent is yet to arrive on campus. So while this game was important for the further development of the offense the other side of the ball was missing what could be half of it's likely starters.

With the passing of the Spring Game we have to give an assesment for the rest of the Big Ten Blogosphere to know where the Golden Gophers stand.

1. I love spring. Flowers blooming. Birds chirping. Bones breaking. ACL's tearing. List the injuries your team sustained and describe their impact on 2008.

No significant injuries that will affect Fall 2008

2. Break down the major position battles going on with your offense.

The major offensive decisions are on the right side of the offensive line and wide receiver.

Here is who started the spring game along the OLine

LT - Dom Alford - should be a lock to start
LG - Ned Tevale - should also be a lock
C - Jeff Tow-Arnett - JR who started three games at LG in 2007
RG - Ryan Wynn - rFR got the starting nod over DJ Burris who started 11 games in this spot last season
RT - Jason Meinke - the walk on JR got the start but will likely have to work to keep it

Who is battling for C, RG and RT?

  • DJ Burris - started 11 games at RG and was a Sporting News All Big Ten freshman. Currently Burris is listed as a Center and will battle with Tow-Arnett, but should nobody step up to lock down RG expect Burris to make the switch.
  • rFR Chris Bunders - should see some time and push Meinke at RT.
  • JR Ryan Ruckdashel - reserve for two seasons and has appeared in 21 games as a Gopher. Should be given a chance to prove he is a viable starter at RG.
  • SO Andy Brinkhouse - possibly in the mix for RT.
I know this is so exciting to discuss who are the starters at C, RG and RT. I can hardly sleep at night while I think of the different combinations and how it will best block Weber's front side. But getting production on the right side is very important to the development of the offense in year two.

At WR there isn't a ton of intrigue either. Who will start opposite Eric Decker is up in the air but since there will be 5 or 6 receivers contributing on a regular basis who starts and who actually gets balls thrown their way are two different things.
  1. Eric Decker - JR
  • Ralph Spry - SO
  • Brandon Green - FR
  • Xavier Brandon - FR
  • Brodrick Smith - FR
  • Trey Herndon - SO
  • David Pittman - JR
But most of the offense returns and should progress in their development.

3. You knew this was coming. Break down the major position battles on defense.

How much time do you have to read this? I could list the defensive starters for the spring game but there is a pretty good chance that 11 different names will be atop the two-deep come September. The hard part here is that many of the incoming freshmen will be relied upon to push the incumbent starters or take over completely and most of them are not yet on campus.

Lets take a quick look at all of the positions...

Defensive End - Willie VanDeSteeg and Will Brody
competition? - JR-Lee Campbell, rFR-Anthony Jacobs, FR-Brandon Kirksey

Brody will almost certainly not be a starter come game 1. My money is on Jacobs to earn the starting spot opposite Willie VDS. But competition will ensue at RE.

Defensive Tackle - Eric Small and Garrett Brown
competition? - FR-Jewhan Edwards

Both saw significant time in 2007 but this was a major weakness. I fully expect to see Edwards starting at DT very soon.

Linebacker - Steve Davis, Nate Triplett, Kevin Manion
competition - FR-Sam Maresh(MLB), JR-Deon Hightower, FR-Spencer Reeves, rFR-Andre Tate

This area was awful last year too. I would not be surprised to see Maresh, Reeves and Hightower as the starting backers this year. That would be two true freshmen, I know.

Cornerback - Ryan Collado, Marcus Sherrels
competition - JR-Traye Simmons, FR-Troy Stoudermire, FR-Tim Dandridge

Collado improved as his freshman season wore on and then everybody expects Traye Simmons to be our best CB once he arrives on campus in June. Sherrels makes things interesting. He was a recent conversion from WR to CB and the staff has had a lot of good things to say about him. Adding some depth and anybody who can play back there is a good thing and there was little chance Sherrels was going to see much time on offense so give defense a shot.

Safety - Kyle Theret and Tramaine Brock
competition - JR-Simoni Lawrence, FR-Keanon Cooper

Game 1 should have Brock and Lawrence starting at FS and SS respectively. Both are JUCO transfers who will be instant upgrades. I am a fan of Theret and like what he brings but he'll be there for depth.

4. Who are the unknown kids on your team that will be household names come December?

This question isn't fair because outside of Minnesota everybody on this team is an unknown commodity but I'll pick a name.

QB/WR/PR/CB - David Pittman

The JUCO transfer is a super athlete and will be a key member of the spread coast offense. I imagine OffCord Mike Dunbar is waking up in the middle of the night with new plays that come to him in dreams to spotlight Pittman.

How would you describe the general mood around your program? Are you gearing up the tailgate party for a conference title run or do you get the impression there are going to be a lot of empty seats in your stadium this year?

Conference title is out of the question. I have an IV of maroon and gold kool-aid permanently being pumped into my veins but not even I could imagine an Illini-esque run to the Rose Bowl. Fans are excited to see the young kids come in and show us what Big Ten athletes look like. There are high expectations for what was the most talented recruiting class in school history, but they are mostly freshmen and this is a year to build for the next couple.

What I know everyone is looking forward to are the new unis!


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