The Minnesota Golden Gopher football team will have its offensive backfield mostly intact.
That is the good news, the bad news is that those returning players recorded 16 interceptions, 2,644 passing yards, 932 rushing yards and was sacked 22 times.
Even though the Gophers offense, especially the running game and quarterback play, was very disappointing, it looks to be very deep at these two positions.
Fifth-year senior Adam Weber returns as a fourth-year starter. His play has regressed in his previous three seasons, but two of those years were under completely new offenses. He redshirt as a freshman in 2006 learning former head coach Glen Mason’s offense. The following two seasons, he started every game and entered the national scene in the spread offense implemented by current head coach Tim Brewster.
Last season, things were at there worst for the former Mounds View Mustang, in the third different offense since he arrived at Minnesota. He dealt with soreness in his non-throwing shoulder, new throwing motion, poor play from the offensive line, inconsistency from the receivers and an overly complex pro-style system.
This season, Jeff Horton takes over as the quarterback coach and offensive coordinator. He vowed to run a simplified pro-style system.
Weber’s backup is the super-talented sophomore MarQueis Gray. He is working with both the quarterbacks and wide receivers in fall practice. He is big (6-4, 230), fast and has terrific hands as receiver. He is still a work-in-progress as a passer, but his ability to avoid tacklers and make defenders miss makes him a threat as a quarterback.
The third-string quarterback will be redshirt freshman Moses Alipate. The former Bloomington Jefferson Jaguar is a big (6-5, 235) and may have the strongest arm on the team. Brewster believes he has a lot of potential, but is not ready for full-time playing time at this level. He participated in the Under Armour All-America following the 2008 season. His father, Tuineau, was a linebacker in the NFL for the Minnesota Vikings and New York Jets.
The other quarterbacks are third-year sophomore Adam Lueck and incoming freshmen J.D. Pride and Tom Parish.
The Running Backs
Fourth-year junior Duane Bennett is expected to be the starter, but third-year junior DeLeon Eskridge will get his fair share of carries as well.
Last season, Bennett returned from a season-ending knee injury that occurred in the second game of the 2008 season. He looked a little timid in his cuts and it cost him some potentially long runs.
Eskridge played very well as true freshman after Bennett was injured, but was unable to take his game to the next level last season.
The Gophers’ biggest problem in the running game was its unability to run between the tackles. Incoming freshmen Lamonte Edwards will drastically helped in short-yardage situations. He is a 6-foot-2-inch, 215-pound big back that has some athleticism.
Two other incoming freshmen will push Bennett and Eskridge carries. They are Donnell Kirkwood and Devon Wright. Kirkwood is a shorter, more powerful back that is built similiarly to Bennett. Wright is a home-run threat every time he touches the ball with very good speed and ball skills.
Fifth-year senior R.J. Buckner and recently added walk-ons Cameron Gatling (a sophomore transfer from the University of Mary) and freshman Joe Donner look like long shots to get carries.
The Gophers return No. 1 fullback Jon Hoese, but the depth behind him is thin with the departure of Nick Rengel and Willie Schneider. Third-year sophomore Ed Cotton is the only other fullback listed on the roster.