Breaking down quarterback performance, the top running back, and defense prospects for next season
It may only be spring, but the Gopher football team is already practicing and preparing for next season. There are several question marks for the team going into next season, mostly revolving around offense.
Who will be the number one running back?
Senior David Cobb graduated after an incredible season in which he set the Gophers’ rushing record in a season with 1,626 yards. Both Cobb and backup running back Donnell Kirkwood have departed, leaving possible replacements Rodrick Williams and redshirt freshman Jeff Jones.
Williams looks to be the starter right now, but four star recruit Jeff Jones should provide a huge impact and may eventually overtake Williams. Expect sophomore Berkley Edwards to spend some time at both running back and receiver.
Expectations are high after the Gophers first New Year’s Day bowl game appearance in more than 50 years.
How will Mitch Leidner perform this season?
Leidner had some moments last season, but he was still arguably the weakest quarterback in the Big Ten. Leidner was up and down all season, with the lowlight being his performance against Wisconsin. With a trip to the Big Ten title game at stake, Leidner completed just give passes on 18 attempts in the Gopher loss.
However, in the previous game against Nebraska, Leidner showed great poise and made a couple of big plays in the game-winning drive. Leidner will be without his top receiver, tight end Maxx Williams, and occasional big-play receiver Isaac Fruechte. With the loss of Williams, expect Leidner to run as much, if not more, than last year. His completion percentage will also have to come up if he hopes to be the full-time starter.
Will defense be able to overcome loss of four key seniors?
Cedric Thompson, Damien Wilson, Derrick Wells, and Cameron Botticelli—four invaluable players for 2014’s Minnesota defense—all graduate this year. However, expect the defense to be incredible again under coordinator Tracy Claeys. The defense was consistent all of last season, and kept the team in the game when the offense sputtered. Cornerback Eric Murray, defensive lineman Thieran Cockran, and linebacker De’Vondre Campbell should all step up and have a big season this year.
Expectations are high after the Gophers first New Year’s Day bowl game appearance in more than 50 years. The Gophers are 0-3 in bowl games under Jerry Kill, but hopefully this is the year the Gophers break that streak. The Gophers will face a tough test opening the season with Texas Christian University at TCF Bank Stadium on September 3. Be there!