Four Days and Counting

Past Gopher stars such as Marion Barber III and Laurence Maroney have departed for the NFL, but there are still plenty of players to keep an eye on as Indiana (5-4/3-2) prepares for Saturday's match-up with Minnesota (3-6/0-5)...

Alex Daniels, DE - And Charlie Emerson thought he had it rough…the Hoosiers' starting right tackle had to learn a completely new position just two weeks before the start of the season when he made the move from defensive end to offensive tackle. But even that move pales in comparison to what Daniels has been through. Daniels entered fall camp as a linebacker, but was moved to tailback during two-a-days to provide some depth behind Amir Pinnix. He took to his new position well, climbing to No. 2 on the depth chart and ran for 155 yards in a season-opening 44-0 win over Kent State. Since then, though, he's seen his playing time dwindle on the offensive side, so Glen Mason has moved him back to defense – this time, to defensive end. He was one of three offensive players who was moved to shore up some holes on the defensive line last week, along with former offensive linemen Otis Hudson and John Jakel. Daniels had five tackles in the second half against Ohio State.

Dominic Jones, KR/PR - Indiana is the Big Ten's best in both kickoff returns (23.9/return) and punt returns (12.9/return), and the Hoosiers already have four special teams touchdowns thanks to Marcus Thigpen's three kickoff returns and Tracy Porter's one punt return. But Minnesota has its own special teams weapon in Dominic Jones. Jones is averaging 24.2 yards/kickoff return (including a 99-yard TD) and averages 11.2 yards on punt returns. The 5-8, 190-pounder is also a starter in the secondary, where he's split time between strong safety and cornerback and ranks third on the team with 52 tackles. But he'll pose the biggest threat to the Hoosiers with what he can do in the return game.

Amir Pinnix, TB - In recent years Minnesota has generally utilized a tailback rotation, and it's worked wonders for Coach Glen Mason's squad. But with the loss of Gary Russell to ineligibility in the off-season, the Gophers have had to rely almost exclusively on the 6-0, 205-pound Pinnix. He's responded by averaging nearly 90 yards/game this season, including 5.0 yards/carry and a team-best six touchdowns. That includes a 28-carry, 173-yard effort in Minnesota's conference opening 27-21 loss to Purdue. While Pinnix hasn't had a 100-yard day since the encounter with the Boilermakers, there's still plenty of reasons for IU to be concerned about the Gopher tailback. Afterall, Indiana does surrender 171.4 rushing yards/game, a total that ranks 101st nationally out of 119 I-A teams.The only league teams that have had less luck in stopping the run are Purdue (175.2 yards/game) and the Gophers (178.1 yards/game).

Matt Spaeth, TE - Spaeth followed one of the best tight ends in Minnesota history – current Indianapolis Colt Ben Utecht – and has a chance to break most of Utecht's records for production by a Gopher tight end. The team's second-leading receiver with 35 catches for 439 yards, Spaeth needs only 43 yards to pass Utecht for career yardage, and his 97 receptions is already the best for a tight end in school history. Spaeth missed last week's 44-0 loss at Ohio State with an apparent wrist injury, and the severity of the injury – and his availability for this weekend – appears to be up in the air. That would be a big loss for the Gophers, as quarterback Bryan Cupito referred to Spaeth as the "best player on the team," and he's had a couple of big games against Indiana in recent years. In 2004 Spaeth had six catches for 95 yards and a pair of touchdowns in IU's 30-21 win in Bloomington, and last fall he had four catches for 66 yards and a 17-yard touchdown in Minnesota's 42-21 win at Memorial Stadium.

What's coming up:
On Monday – Five Numbers to Note
On Tuesday - Four Players To Know
On Wednesday – Three Big Concerns
On Thursday – Two Key Matchups
On Friday – One Bold Prediction

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