MINNESOTA PREVIEW: Four Days and Counting

Minnesota QB Adam Weber gets mot of the notoriety, but there are plenty of other players on the Gopher roster that IU needs to be concerned about. HoosierNation.com kicks off its day-by-day preview of this weekend's match-up with "Four Names to Know"...

DeLeon Eskridge, RB – A lot of people thought it would be Indiana that was relying on a true freshman tailback to lead the team's ground attack, but it's instead been Minnesota. While IU freshman Darius Willis appears headed to a redshirt season, Gopher freshman DeLeon Eskridge has emerged as his team's No. 1 tailback. The 5-11, 190-pounder from San Francisco carried the ball a combined four times in Minnesota's first two games, but burst onto the scene in game three when he carried 24 times for 114 yards and three touchdowns in a 35-23 win over Montana State. Eskridge got his opportunity when the opening day starter, Duane Bennett, was lost for the season to a knee injury. Eskridge has responded with three straight games of at least 75 yards rushing and has provided the Gophers with plenty of offensive balance.

Eric Decker, WR – The 6-2, 215-pound junior is a big, physical wideout who is Minnesota's version of Andrew Means. Like Means, Decker is a two-sport standout who also plays outfield on the Gophers' baseball team, where he hit .329 with three home runs and 28 RBI this past season. It's in football, though, where Decker is at his best. In the first five games of the 2008 season, Decker has caught 37 passes for 506 yards and four touchdowns, and he's caught at least one touchdown pass in six of his last seven games. His 7.4 receptions/game ranks him first in the Big Ten and ninth nationally, and he's the only receiver in the Big Ten averaging at least 100 yards receiving/game (101.2). Indiana is familiar with Decker's abilities based on 2007, when he caught eight passes for 74 yards and a touchdown in IU's 40-20 win in Bloomington.

Traye Simmons, CB – Minnesota dipped into the junior college ranks in the off-season to try to shore up its play in the secondary, and it's been very pleased with the results. Simmons is a Marietta, Ga., native who originally signed with Clemson two years ago, but failed to qualify and spent the last two seasons at College of the Sequoias. He was the nation's fourth-ranked junior college cornerback last season, and he's stepped into the starting lineup and leads the Gophers with two interceptions and tops the national rankings with 11 passes defended, including three last week against Ohio State. Safety Tramaine Brock, meanwhile, is another JUCO transfer who leads the team with 34 tackles, seven more than Simmons who ranks No. 2.

William VanDeSteeg, DE - VanDeSteeg had a huge sophomore season, totaling 10 sacks in 2006 to earn second-team All-Big Ten honors. But he dropped off significantly a year ago, totaling only 29 tackles, eight tackles for loss and one sack (it came against Indiana). A big reason for VanDeSteeg's dip, though, was the fact he broke a bone in his wrist just before the start of the campaign. He's back to full strength this season and has 20 tackles, six tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks in the Gophers' first five games. He'll be trying to anchor a Gopher defense that that has given up huge days to Kellen Lewis in each of the past two seasons – 396 yards of total offense in 2006; 323 yards of total offense in 2007.

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


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