Josh Turel's Minnesota Scouting Report

Turel breaks down the Minnesota offense, defense and special teams, plus he explains the Gopher zone blocking scheme. And of course, he gives you the final score of the game in advance.

Click here for Josh Turel's Zone Blocking article.


Depth Chart

3 Bryan Cupito 6-1, 195, Jr.
17 Tony Mortensen 6-3, 200, Fr.
19 Mike Maciejowski 6-3, 210, Fr.

Running Back
22 Laurence Maroney 5-11, 205, Jr.
24 Gary Russell 5-11, 195, So.
29 Amir Pinnix 6-0, 195, So.

18 Justin Valentine 6-2, 215, So.
42 Jason Lamers 6-0, 240, Jr.

Wide Receiver
84 Logan Payne 6-2, 200, Jr.
83 Jared Ellerson 6-1, 200, Sr.

Wide Receiver
82 Ernest Wheelwright 6-5, 210, So.
88 Micah Rucker 6-6, 210, So.

Tight End
89 Matt Spaeth 6-6, 270, Jr.
81 Jarod Posthumus 6-4, 255, Sr.

Left Tackle
64 Steve Shidell 6-5, 285, So.
74 Ryan Ruckdashel 6-6, 255, Fr.

Right Tackle
77 Tony Brinkhaus 6-4, 295, So.
74 Ryan Ruckdashel 6-6, 255, Fr.

Left Guard
68 Mark Setterstrom 6-3, 295, Sr.
62 Tommy Jacobs 6-3, 285, So.

Right Guard
60 Mike Nicholson 6-5, 285, Sr.
69 John Jakel 6-5, 280, So.

61 Greg Eslinger 6-3, 285, Sr.
56 Tyson Swaggert 6-4, 285, Jr.

Quarterback Bryan Cupito isn't great but he's improved this year. The passing game isn't as inconsistent as last year but it can be up and down at times. Cupito has thrown for 1,069 yards (56.3%), nine touchdowns and six interceptions. His accuracy has been sporadic but the Gophers have a big play passing game if he's on. As well all know Laurence Maroney is one of the finest backs in the country a certain top 15 pick in the NFL draft. He has outstanding speed, is patient within Minnesota's blocking scheme and is deadly in the open field. He has some of the best instincts I've seen in a back, vision, balance, cuts; you name it, he has it. Backup Gary Russell has rushed for 377 yards (7.9 avg.) and is a nice backup though Maroney doesn't need to many breathers. He's more of a between the tackles back but he's been good so far. Fullback Justin Valentine does have some versatility but he will be used mostly as a blocker. If Valentine gets a carry, it will be near the goaline.

The receivers are a solid bunch. The headliner is 6'5 Ernest Wheelwright who is always a big play waiting to happen. He's only got 14 receptions this season but he's averaging 15.8 yards a reception. The team's leading receiver is Logan Payne (15 catches, 235 yards). Payne has been a big surprise for the Gophers but he's been clutch and worked his way into the starters role. Still in my opinion, Jared Ellerson is the team's best receiver. Ellerson is a deep threat and good at working the short field, but has to overcome recent struggles to contribute. Ellerson is averaging 25 yards a catch. 5'8 Jakari Wallace is one of the fastest players on the team and has contributed throughout the year. Tight end Matt Spaeth is probably the best blocking tight end in the conference. He hits in the running attack well but he's a big target who's beginning to grow as a receiving option.

The offensive line is undersized but athletic, which is a necessity in the zone blocking scheme. The two stars are center Greg Eslinger and guard Mark Setterstrom. Eslinger is one of the finest centers in the nation; he is outstanding in the open field and works comfortably in the zone scheme. He's not a powerful guy but the scheme doesn't call for him to be. Setterstrom oddly enough is more of a power guy then a mobile player like the rest but he's a good one. He has a future on Sundays. Left tackle Steve Shidell has emerged to take over Joe Ainsle's spot and he's played well thus far. Right guard Mike Nicholson is solid while right tackle Tony Brinkhaus is an emerging star. He's nimble for his size but also very powerful, probably the second most powerful next to Setterstrom.


Depth Chart

Defensive End
99 Keith Lipka 6-3, 260, Sr.
91 William Van DeSteeg 6-4, 235, Fr.

Defensive End
92 Steve Davis 6-2, 230, Fr.
90 Eric Clark 6-4, 265, Jr.

Defensive Tackle
97 Mark Losli 6-6, 290, Sr.
70 Todd Meisel 6-4, 255, So.

Defensive Tackle
95 Anthony Montgomery 6-5, 305, Sr.
98 Neel Allen 6-3, 285, So.

Will Linebacker
46 John Shevlin 6-1, 220, So.
53 Mark Mullaney 6-0, 210, So.

Drop Linebacker
52 Kyle McKenzie 6-1, 235, Sr.
48 Mario Reese 6-3, 230, Jr.

Mike Linebacker
58 Mike Sherels 6-0, 230, So.
6 Alex Daniels 6-3, 230, Fr.

15 Jamal Harris 6-0, 180, So.
2 Dominic Jones 5-9, 180, Fr.

4 Trumaine Banks 5-10, 185, Jr.
11 Desi Steib 6-1, 185, So.

Strong Safety
20 Brandon Owens 6-2, 210, Jr.
32 Terrance Campbell 6-2, 205, Sr.

Free Safety
34 John Pawielski 5-11, 200, Sr.
23 Dominique Barber 6-0, 180, So.

The rushing defense is pretty suspect. Their best defensive lineman is Anthony Montgomery, the jumbo defensive tackle in the middle. Other than that there is really no other impact player up front. Steve Davis has come on strong and contributed three sacks but he's not a premier pass rusher and this line has only collected six sacks all season. End Keith Lipka is a defensive end/tackle tweener and has trouble getting around the edge. Mark Losli has potential up the middle and is a good player when he plays up to his capability. Overall, this is a key area but the play needs to pick up. The linebackers are decent. They have their best defender Kyle McKenzie at drop linebacker. Drop linebacker basically means strong side linebacker as many times McKenzie will drop and have the flat responsibility on a running back, or is covering a tight end. He also has containment responsibilities on the weak side, making sure that no running plays get bounced outside for big plays. John Shevlin patrols the weakside, he has excellent speed but the rest of his game is still developing. I like the middle linebacker Mike Sherels; he's collected 34 tackles thus far and is instinctive for a middle linebacker.

The secondary has been much maligned but it has played better than expected in my judgment. Trumaine Banks is a solid player, outstanding tackler and he's their best cover man. He isn't scared to play press coverage and he's broken up five passes and has one interception thus far. On the opposite side is Jamal Harris. He's seen action in past seasons and he's done a decent job thus far, breaking up six passes so far. Free Safety John Pawielski leads the team in tackles with 37. This is not surprising considering he's always been better against the run and he's a fearless and powerful hitter. He struggles in deep zone coverage but he is an excellent addition to the box. Strong safety Brandon Owens has been moved around several times on defense, from corner to linebacker now to strong safety. He's getting use to the position, collecting 27 tackles thus far this season.


Freshman Justin Kucek has struggled this year punting, only averaging 39.4 yards a punt. Jason Giannini is 7 of 9 on field goals this year. Jakari Wallace has been excellent on kick returns averaging 31.4 yards a kick. Minnesota as a team has averaged 13.1 yards a punt return and returned one for a touchdown.


Well this one has always been a little tougher than it needed to be but Michigan has found a way, in thrilling fashion to win. One thing about Minnesota, they do not respond to losses well. Last weeks crushing loss should set his game up well for the Wolverines. On offense we all know Michigan has to stop the run but they are going to need pressure on Cupito. Minnesota is excellent at pass protecting and Cupito has enough targets to hit if given time. I think if Michigan holds this offense under 20 points, they have done their job. On defense I'm not really impressed with them. Mike Hart and Kevin Grady should have good days and Chad Henne has the opportunity to take this game over. Minnesota struggles big time to get pressure up front and Michigan can hit the big play to Mario Manningham a few times if they want to. On paper Michigan looks good but that's why they play the game. The little brown jug stays where it Meechigan!
Michigan 34, Minnesota 20

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