Saturday’s news of the suspension of wide receiver Andre McDonald from the rest of training camp has fans questioning the depth of the Gophers receiving corp.
Considering this is McDonald’s second violation of team rules in the last year, this could mean that his services will be not available for the non-conference portion of the schedule and likely even most of the Big Ten season, if at all in 2013. Pair the loss with that of junior Devin Crawford-Tufts earlier in the summer to track and field, head coach Jerry Kill will have to rely on a young and inexperienced stable of receivers to catch passes from quarterback Philip Nelson.
One big shake-up that was also announced on Saturday was that freshmen Donovahn Jones will be moving full-time from a signal caller to a wide out. He played in that position at the team’s first open scrimmage at TCF Bank Stadium a week ago and has turned some heads on the coaching staff since.
This may be a push athletically between McDonald and Jones, but teaching the first year player from Stockbridge, Ga. how to play wide receiver in a limited amount of time will be a challenge.
There are 16 other wide receivers on the Minnesota preseason roster and roughly half will probably see action during the season. At the point of his removal, McDonald was roughly fourth or fifth on the depth chart. With Minnesota being a run first offense, it will be rather unlikely to see the Gophers with four receiver sets in the spread formation or going empty with no tailback in the backfield.
Running the football will be the team’s bread and butter. Unfortunately, they will need to accomplish something in the passing game if the team wants to keep opposing defenses from stacking the box against them and committing to the running game. More pressure will be put on veterans Derrick Engel and Isaac Fruechte to stretch the field and help the ball carriers.
Mix in young receiving talent like Eric Carter, Jamel Harbison, K.J. Maye and Jones on the outside and Minnesota should still compete at a comparable level in 2013.
The drama that tends to come with the wide receiver position is continuing to hurt its own development. Hopefully for Kill, Nelson, and the rest of the Maroon and Gold, this will be that last setback before the season opener against UNLV so the team can generate some momentum with the help of some new talent at the position.