With football season just two weeks away, Minnesota fans are starting to get anxious, if not nervous, entering the third season of Jerry Kill’s tenure with the Gophers. With that said, there are many questions surrounding this season and Kyle Goblirsch, a writer at Gopher247, answered some of our questions about the upcoming season.
Assuming he is the starter, how do you think quarterback Philip Nelson will do as the full time starter in his second year? (Will there be a QB controversy this year?)
We will continue to see the maturation and development in Nelson’s game, but still not yet a finished product. In 2012, Philip was kind of thrown to the wolves in the middle of the B1G schedule, but he has had time now to reflect and learn from last year’s ups and downs. I feel in 2013 we will still see spurts of the ups and downs, it’s inevitable with any young QB, however the hope is you can minimize and limit them. I also think Nelson will be asked to be more of a game manager with the focus on a power running game – something we saw in the Meineke Car Care Bowl last winter. I expect a lot of play-action from Nelson.
As for the controversy, well, the common belief that the No. 2 quarterback is every fan’s favorite stands true for a reason. The ebbs and flows within a season happen with every team and every athlete. When the down points hit, we will hear from the fans absolutely. I’ve been extremely high on Leidner since he was a junior in high school, yet, I feel firmly Philip is and should be the starter going into this season. The in-game experience he got last season is something that can’t be easily taught.
Who do you believe will develop into the number one receiver during the season?
I think the receiver core is more talented and balanced then some think. It’s young for the most part, but there is solid talent there that can assist in the Gopher passing game. We will most definitely see guys like Jamel Harbison, KJ Maye, Isaac Fruechte, Andre McDonald and the two newcomers Eric Carter and Drew Wolitarsky work in and get their numbers. However the one that keeps standing out to me is senior Derrick Engel. He really came on last year after the departure of AJ Barker, and his 20 yards per catch shouldn’t be ignored. Engel runs great routes, has very good hands and makes plays when you need him.
All talks about the Gophers defense seem to revert back to defensive end Ra’Shede Hagemen. Just how big of a season do you think he will have?
Hageman is a workout freak, and is by all accounts from the staff completely locked in and ready for a big final season in Maroon and Gold. I believe with all the focus on his pad level throughout the off-season that we will most importantly see an increased presence from him in the running game. He may not put up the NCAA College Football video game stats some fans want to see, but he will do exactly what the staff wants from him in getting penetration and forcing things to re-direct.
In the passing game, Hageman has had his way with some of the lesser teams. Last year, three of his six sacks came against non-conference opponents. It’s important he makes his presence felt in B1G play as well this season.
Jerry Kill is still looking for his signature win here in Minnesota. Looking over the schedule, which game looks to give the Gophers the best shot at that signature win?
I look at it as there are three possible “signature” wins on the schedule season in my opinion; Wisconsin, Michigan and Nebraska. Northwestern is on the rise, but not to the “signature” level yet for me personally, and I’m a fan of everything Pat Fitzgerald is building. Penn State had a great season with everything that was surrounding its program last season. I’m just not sure a win over Penn State would be considered signature level.
With all that said, it’s really the Wisconsin game for me that has the highest probability for a successful signature win. They control, and frankly dominate the last decade. However Matt Humbert of The Daily Gopher pointed out on our board the other day that the average margin of victory for Wisconsin over the last 10 times in Minneapolis is only 3.3. Over the last four in Minneapolis when the Badgers were at their strongest, it ballooned up to 10.75.
Add in that Wisconsin will be coming off of a three game stand, and the Gophers will be coming off a bye week. And of course the unknown of what to expect and how the Badgers will actually adapt to their new coaching staff.
Opposite of that, which game is the biggest trap game for the Gophers this year?
Most would probably tag the San Jose St. match-up as the most likely for a trap game. However I think the game the following week against Iowa has the best opportunity for a letdown.
The San Jose St. game reminds me of the Syracuse game last season. It’s a strength vs strength match-up. San Jose St. is a very good passing team, and the strength of the Gopher’s defense is expected to be the pass defense.
Week 5 against Iowa the Gophers could potentially be entering the match-up 4-0 and feeling confident. Iowa has a tougher schedule off the bat, and could be anywhere from 1-3 to 4-0. Should Iowa enter the game 1-3 or 2-2, Gopher fans will most likely start paving the path for Floyd to return to Dinkytown. However unlike the San Jose St. match-up, Iowa’s strength is in their running game, something that has long been an issue for the Gopher defense.
What do you think the Gophers overall record will be for the 2013 season?
Joe Funk on our site has been very vocal in projecting an eight win season. I strongly feel this team is very much improved year over year. My hold up in matching Joe’s projection is the schedule does have tough spots. The bottom for me is six. Currently I’m predicting a seven win season and another bowl birth.