2008 Minnesota Golden Gophers Football Preview

Big Ten football fans

2008 Minnesota football preview

2007 Record: 1-11, 0-8
Head Coach: Tim Brewster

Minnesota Players Drafted:
Dominique Barber - S - Round 6 - Houston

Top Recruits for the Golden Gophers:
Vincent Hill - WR - 6’0” - 190 - New Berlin, NY
Brandon Green - WR - 6’0 - 175 - Chicago, IL
MarQueis Gray - QB - 6’4” - 220 - Indianapolis, IN
Keanon Cooper - LB - 6’0” - 190 - Dallas, TX
Traye Simmons - DB - 5’11” - 175 - Visalia, CA
David Pittman - QB - 5’11” - 195 - Pasadena, CA
Sam Maresh - LB - 6’4” - 250 - Champlin, IL
Tim McGee - DT - 6’4” - 195 - Scooba, MS
Kevin Whaley - RB - 5’9” - 175 - Virginia Beach, VA

Key Players Returning for Minnesota:
Steve Davis - LB - Sr.
Willie Van DeSteeg - DE - Sr.
Adam Weber - QB - Soph.
Duane Bennett - RB - Soph.
Eric Decker - WR - Jr.
Lee Campbell - DE - Jr.
Deon Hightower - LB - Sr.
Jack Simmons - TE - Sr.
Ned Tavale - LG - Jr.

Minnesota 2008 Offensive Outlook

The offense seems to have a nice future with sophomore Adam Weber behind center. Weber had an impressive first season at the helm in 2007 where he threw for 2,895 yards and 24 touchdowns. He also led the team with 617 rushing yards and five touchdowns. The one area Weber needs to improve is his interceptions. He threw 19 picks in 2007, but expect that number to drop in 2008 as Weber enters the season with more experience.

Sophomore Duane Bennett will be the feature back. Bennett averaged 4.1 yards-per-carry in 2007 on 107 attempts, but his work load will increase this year. It remains to be seen how durable Bennett can be for a full season as the number one back. Junior Jay Thomas brings speed to the offense, but he has had two ACL surgeries which may factor in to his durability. The Gophers need to find depth at running back to keep Bennett and Thomas fresh throughout the season. Brewster will look to some incoming freshmen to settle in and gain experience to build depth.

Weber has a big-time target in junior WR Eric Decker. Decker led the team with 67 receptions last year and tied for the lead with 9 touchdowns. The Gophers will need new starters to step in and take the focus off of Decker. Defenses will be able slow down Decker until other receivers earn respect. Freshman Brandon Green comes to the Gophers with high expectations to make an immediate impact. Sophomores Tray Herndon and Ralph Spry have a little experience, and junior David Pittman could emerge from this group as a starter. Senior TE Jack Simmons has good hands and should become a nice option for Weber.

The offense lost two key pieces of their line in center Tony Brinkhaus and LT Steve Shidell. This leaves the line as the biggest area of concern on offense heading into the season. Sophomores Dominic Alford and DJ Burris are projected to start and RT and RG, respectively. Both have prior experience, and junior Ned Tavale has started at LG. Junior Jeff Tow-Arnett will step in as the new center, and Jason Meinke, a junior, could win the RT position. The line will need to find chemistry, and freshman Chris Bunders and Ryan have nice potential to break into the starting lineup if a change is needed.


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Minnesota 2008 Defensive Outlook

The Golden Gophers defense ranked last in the Big Ten defending the run and pass last season. Improvements will need to come at every position, but there are some playmakers on the defensive line. Senior DE Willie VanDesteeg appears to be recovered from a broken wrist he suffered in 2007, and he will look to return to the level he brought to the defense in 2006 when he recorded ten sacks. Junior Lee Campbell returns as a starter at DE. Juniors Eric Small, Tim McGee, and Garrett Brown will rotate on the inside.

Senior LB Deon Hightower ranked second on the team with 70 tackles last season, but has had issues with a bad shoulder. His shoulder has recovered from surgery and Hightower is primed for a big season. Senior OLB Steve Davis should be better this season after making the transition from DE last year. Junior Rex Sharpe is expected to land the final starting position at OLB, and freshman Sam Maresh is a highly touted recruit who could earn immediate playing time.

The defensive backfield will undergo a facelift after the 2007 version allowed an average of nearly 290 yards through the air per game last season. Junior college transfer Traye Simmons provides immediate help and should step in as the number one cover corner. The rest of the secondary is still in competition and will stay this way into the season. Sophomores Ryan Collado and Kyle Theret started as freshman last year, but showed they needed time to develop. Juniors Marcus Sherels and Tremaine Brock have emerged during practices and haven starting potential. True freshmen, such as Keanon Cooper, are also being considered as possible pieces of the puzzle in the secondary.

Minnesota 2008 Special Teams

Senior Joel Monroe only had nine field goal attempts last season, but he hit on seven of those kicks including one from 54 yards. Justin Kucek, another senior, returns as one of the top punters in the Big Ten giving Minnesota stability in the kicking game.

Sophomore Harold Howell averaged 23.1 yards per return as the primary kickoff return specialist in 2007. Junior David Pittman will contend with Howell to return punts.

2008 Minnesota Golden Gophers Prediction

Tim Brewster will need to get the Golden Gophers ready to fly out of the gate and win games early in the season because their schedule get considerably tougher as the season progresses. Their first four games are winnable, but they open Big Ten play at Ohio State and go to Wisconsin late in the season. The Golden Gophers do not play Michigan State and Penn State this year.

The offense has the ability to put up points, but the defense will need to play much better than last season to give Minnesota any chance of reaching a Bowl game in 2008.
If they do not win their first four games, they will not be Bowl eligible. Brewster will not hesitate this year to play true freshman to build for next season.

Minnesota Golden Gophers 2008 Football Schedule

August 30 - Northern Illinois
September 6 - @ Bowling Green
September 13 - Montana State
September 20 - Florida Atlantic
September 27 - @ Ohio State
October 4 - Indiana
October 11 - @ Illinois
October 25 - @ Purdue
November 1 - Northwestern
November 8 - Michigan
November 15 - @ Wisconsin
November 22 - Iowa


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