Gopher Football: Five freshman with big upsides


Who’s going to be the next superstar freshman at the University of Minnesota? Here’s a list of five guys who could have an immediate impact on the Gopher football team as true freshmen or junior college transfers. Without further ado I give you the five impact newcomers to the Gopher football team in the 2013 campaign.

1. Berkley Edwards: Edwards is the brother of former Michigan and current NFL receiver Braylon Edwards. He has the speed and elusiveness that the Gophers lacked in 2012. He compliments big, physical backs like Roderick Williams and Donnell Kirkwood perfectly. Kirkwood and Williams have the ability to wear down a defense and just when the opposing defense is spent with their hands around their hips the Gophers can unleash the speedy Edwards.

Edwards reminds me of Northwestern running back Venric Mark and he reminds Matt O’Connell (Gopher Illustrated) of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice in stature.

If Edwards can be a hybrid of Mark and Rice they will be in (sorry to steal a line from Coach Brew) … tremendous shape.

2. De’Vondre Campbell: Long and athletic linebackers are at a premium in this day and age of college football and Campbell, who held offers from schools such as Tennessee, Texas, and Kansas State, is the type of athlete that is rarely found at Minnesota. Minnesota defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys is a guy who loves speed and the ability to cover the field from the linebacker position, both of which Campbell does perfectly. Campbell sticks out like a sore thumb due to his height, even Jerry Kill admitted as much saying that Campbell stood out to him after the first day of camp because of how tall he was.

3. Damien Wilson: As soon as he stepped on campus he was expected to compete for the starting middle linebacker job. He is currently locked into a great battle for the starting middle linebacker spot with redshirt freshman Jack Lynn. Wilson was a tackling machine at Jones County Community College in Mississippi where he led the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) and was fourth in the nation with 122 tackles, 76 of which were solo as a sophomore. Wilson also has adequate size for a Big Ten linebacker at 6-foot-2 and 254 pounds. He should immediately help the Gophers stop the run, something Minnesota struggled to do last year with undersized linebackers such as Mike Rallis and Keanon Cooper who were converted safeties. Wilson will provide beef in the middle and Campbell will provide length on the outside, something that hasn’t been seen at the linebacker position in Minnesota for many years.

4. Eric Carter: Quick, elusive, and a confident player that believes he can make every catch. He doesn’t have the size or speed of a slot receiver like Percy Harvin, but he has a knack for getting open and making plays — something that the Minnesota receiving corp needs desperately. But expect a learning curve with freshmen receivers such as Carter and Drew Wolitarsky.

5. Ryan Santoso: Since Rhys Lloyd graduated, the Gophers kicking and punting has been mediocre at best. Santoso, who is similar in stature to Oakland Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski, has the talent to be a difference maker in the kicking game. Veteran kicker Chris Hawthorne should not be counted out too and is actually ahead of Santoso on the depth chart for place kicking duties according to Jerry Kill.  However, I personally would be surprised if Santoso doesn’t land at least one of the kicking jobs (punter, field goal kicker, or kickoffs).  My bet is Santoso starts the season as a kickoff specialist and by seasons end has the field goal and punting duties as well.

Honorable Mention: Drew Wolitarsky (freshman wide receiver), Demaris Peppers (freshman defensive tackle), De’Niro Laster (freshman linebacker)