Matt Spaeth – TE – Round 3 – Pittsburgh
Anthony Jacobs – DE – 6’2” – 225 – Northfield, MN
Clint Brewster – QB – 6’1” – 185 – Denver, CO
Andre Tate – RB – 6’2” – 215 – Mendota Heights, MN
Trey Davis – OL – 6’2” – 275 – Farmington, MN
Chris Bunders – OL – 6’3” – 305 – Maple Grove, MN
Ryan Orton – OL – 6’4” – 265 – Eden Prairie, MN
Key Players Returning:
Amir Pinnix – RB – Sr.
Ernie Wheelwright – WR – Sr.
Steve Davis – LB – Jr.
Steve Shidell – OT – Sr.
Tony Brinkhaus – C – Sr.
Dominic Jones – CB – Jr.
Willie Van DeSteeg – DE – Jr.
John Shelvin – LB – Sr.
Mike Sherels – LB – Sr.
Minnesota 2007 Offensive Outlook
After an average 2006 season under Glen Mason, the Golden Gophers are looking for greener pastures with new coach, Tim Brewster. Big changes are coming on the offensive side for the Gophers in 2007. The Gophers will implement a spread offense, and it will be a new quarterback running the show. Junior Tony Mortensen appears to have the first shot at locking down the QB slot, but it will be important to watch how he handles the new offensive scheme. Mortensen doesn’t enter the season with much experience as a starter. A player to keep an eye on is freshman Clint Brewster. The son of Tim Brewster is a highly touted quarterback prospect who could battle for early playing time, but don’t expect the coach’s son to be handed the offense on a silver platter.
The backfield is set with senior Amir Pinnix. Pinnix averaged five yards per carry last season including ten touchdowns. He is a prototypical running back with size and speed and will be counted on to keep the offense rolling. Sophomore Jay Thomas will serve as the back-up for Pinnix. Thomas averaged 6.1 yards per carry last year on 37 attempts and scored four times.
Ernie Wheelwright, a senior, enters the season as the number on receiver. Wheelwright caught 26 passes including five receptions for touchdowns. Although Wheelwright’s statistics were not outstanding, the top two receivers from 2006 are gone this season. Logan Payne and TE Matt Spaeth were the top targets ahead of Wheelwright last year so it will be his time to shine in 2007. In the new spread offense receivers will have many opportunities to show their worth. Eric Decker will be counted on along with Marc Cheatham and Mike Chambers. Jack Simmons has big shoes to fill at the TE position, but has shown he can be a reliable target.
The offense line should be dependable considering the return of three starters including seniors Tony Brinkhaus at center and Steve Shidell at tackle. Junior Matt Degeest will see his first action as a starter this season at right tackle, but he has plenty of game experience to step in and contribute right away. Sophomores Ned Tavale and Ryan Ruckdashel will start at the guards. Tavale returns as a starter. The offensive line should solidify what appears to be nice looking offense. It will be important for the entire offensive unit to prepare during the summer to install the spread offense.
The Minnesota defense was not overly impressive last year when you look at the numbers. They allowed 26 points per game in 2006, and teams could move the ball on the ground and through the air on them. Despite those problems, improvements should be seen in 2007. The Gophers return a decent number of starters this season on defense at key positions.
The defensive line will be led by junior DE Willie Van DeSteeg who can disrupt plays in the backfield. Van DeSteeg racked up 14.5 tackles for loss in 2006 including ten sacks.
Senior DT Neel Allen returns as a starter and will be joined by juniors Alex Daniels and Eric Small. Van DeSteeg is a player that is capable of making game changing plays, and the Gophers will need him to do that often.
Three starters will fill the linebacker positions. Seniors John Shelvin and Mike Sherels give the defense a nice pair to solidify the middle. Sherels had an impressive 2006 season with 104 tackles and three interceptions. Shelvin will be joined by junior Steve Davis at OLB who has moved this season from DE.
The secondary will be tested this season after a disastrous 2006. Teams threw at will against the Gophers last year averaging nearly 270 yards per game. Junior CB Dominic Jones is a tremendous talent but will have his work cut out for him facing the Big Ten’s top receivers. Although, it’s not a task he can’t handle. He’ll have the help of two seniors at the safety spots. Dominique Barber led the team in 2006 with four interceptions, and Duran Cooley appears to land the second safety position after starting in four games last year.
The Minnesota special teams are set when it comes to returns. Dominic Jones
ranks among the best returners in the nation at returning kicks.
When it comes to kicking, the Gophers don’t have the top legs in the conference, but they shouldn’t be a major deficiency. Junior Justin Kucek is a smart, accurate punter who can keep the ball away from returners.
Junior Jason Giannini can be counted on to nail field goals inside of 40 yards.
Junior Joel Monroe will be waiting in the wings if Giannini happens to struggle
2007 Minnesota Golden Gophers Prediction
Prior to 2006, Minnesota had put together three straight winning seasons. After a sub par season the Gophers decided to part ways with Glen Mason and turn to Tim Brewster. Brewster brings a new attitude to the Gophers which should also give the players a renewed sense of energy. This roster has athletes that can be successful on the field, but it will be interesting to see how they respond to changes in the coaching staff. Don’t expect to see major changes in the amount of wins this season, but the Gophers will be respectable. Look for Minnesota to finish around .500 in 2007. Brewster has big plans for the Gophers in the future, but a Big Ten Championship doesn’t appear to be coming this season.