College Football Preview: The 2014 Minnesota Golden Gophers
Minnesota shoots for another postseason appearance in 2014.
2014 College Football Preview
An improving Minnesota Golden Gophers club looks to take another step forward in 2014.
Overview: Minnesota has enough returning talent to make some of their rivals squirm but the glaring question is whether it's enough to beat the elite teams in the Big Ten which didn't happen in 2013.
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Offense: Phillip Nelson took most of the snaps in 2013 and was never much more then a 50% passer. Freshman Mitch Leidner threw for 619 yards including a 200+ yard perfomance versus Syracuse in their Bowl and takes over the reins full time with Nelson transferring. Although Leidner wasn't accurate in the air he ran for 477 yards and averaged 5.4 yards per pop. He'll provide the defense with something else to think about when David Cobb (237-1202) and Rodrick Williams Jr. (60-332) aren't carrying the ball. Maxx Williams steps up to the top target in the passing game with 400 yard receiver Derrick Engel graduating but virtually everyone else is back. The O-Line is deep and experienced with eight players having starting experience.
Defense: The defensive line loses their top player in Ra'Shede Hageman (13 TFL-2 S) so the group needs to build around Theiran Cochran who recorded 13 TFL and a team high 7.5 sacks. Five others played in 13 games so a few have to step up to the plate and deliver. The linebacking unit lost two of the top three and similar to the defensive line there were four others that saw action in at least ten games and need to produce. The secondary returns it's top three safeties and while the cornerback position thinned there are enough players that saw time a year ago that can form a decent rotation. The Golden Gophers were a top 50 pass defense in 2013 and any help from the front seven should result in no drop off.
Special Teams: Minnesota has to find a placekicker but returns strong leg punter Peter Mortell and is 43+ yard average. The return game is solid with Marcus Jones returning kicks and punts with TD's in both a season ago.
Outlook: The Golden Gophers should field a solid offense with the defense being pretty good as well if they can fill a few spots. However I still struggle to get a grip on this team from a win standpoint. A Bowl invite looks like it's in the cards but no prediction on number of wins.