Previewing the Minnesota Offense

GoBlueWolverine's Josh Turel breaks down the Minnesota offense by analyzing the Gopher personnel.

Statistical Leaders:

Bryan Cupito: 57 of 90 attempts for 742 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions

Amir Pinnix: 55 carries for 386 yards and two touchdowns
Alex Daniels: 63 carries for 299 yards and five touchdowns

Logan Payne: 19 catches for 245 yards and five touchdowns
Matt Spaeth: 15 catches for 202 yards and one touchdown

Offensive Personnel:


#3 Bryan Cupito  6-1, 195, Sr.
#17 Tony Mortensen  6-3, 200, So.
Running Back:
#29 Amir Pinnix  6-0, 195, Jr.
#6 Alex Daniels  6-3, 230, So.
#34 E.J. Jones  5-9, 185, Fr.

#18 Justin Valentine  6-2, 215, Jr.
#49 Jeremy Faue  5-11, 215, Jr.

As is always the case with Minnesota, the offense starts with the running game. The ground attack got it’s tune-ups against Temple and Kent State before, but was stymied on the road against California.   Things got back on track in a loss to the Purdue Boilermakers last week when Amir Pinnix rushed for 173 yards.  Pinnix, who is the Gophers starter, has the most experience in an unproven runningback corps, having carried the ball 78 times last season and 55 times this year. Pinnix combines solid size with outstanding quickness, making him a nice fit for the Gophers scheme.

Backup Alex Daniels brings rare size to the position after moving from linebacker. At 6’3, 230 pounds, Daniels runs with much more power than Pinnix and will be used in short yardage and goal line situations. He is still getting accustomed to the scheme, but shows the muscle and toughness that fives Minnesota a change of pace in the backfield.

Freshmen Terrence Sherrer and EJ Jones are two youngsters that could receive a few carries.  Fullback Justin Valentine has been used mostly as a blocker thus far, but he is capable of running the ball as well. 

"These guys don't have the experience, but they're very, very talented," Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr said regarding the Gopher backs.  "I think they really complement each other because one is 256, a converted linebacker, so you know what he brings to the table. He's gained over 300 yards. Amir Pinnix is the same thing. He's a 200-pounder with great feet and finds the hole well."


Wide Receiver:
#84 Logan Payne  6-2, 200, Sr.
#14 Eric Decker  6-2, 215, Fr.
Wide Receiver:
#1 Ernest Wheelwright  6-5, 210, Jr.
#12 Mike Chambers  6-1, 195, Fr.
Tight End:
#89 Matt Spaeth  6-6, 270, Sr.
#80 Jack Simmons  6-4, 215, So.

Unlike many of the players in the Gophers ground game, their aerial attack is comprised of a number of experienced players…starting with senior quarterback Bryan Cupito.  Cupito doesn’t have the strongest arm in the league, but he has managed to increase his productivity over his career thanks to his progress in poise and decision making departments. He has thrown three interceptions this year, but he is generally smart with the football and is completing 63% of his passes.

The top receiver this year has been senior Logan Payne. Payne isn’t the best athlete but he finds a way to be productive. Look for him to be the go-to-receiver in the short passing game. The top deep threat for the Golden Gopher offense is Ernest Wheelwright. Wheelwright has caught only six passes, but he can break a game open at any moment. Inconsistency has been his primary weakness. 

Eric Decker and Mike Chambers are the two top reserves. Decker provides nice size and blocking ability, while Chambers brings more speed to the lineup.

Tight end Matt Spaeth is one of the best in the nation. The 6-6 270-pound senior is an outstanding blocker and he plays the game as physical as anyone. He has also increased his role in the passing game, having caught 15 passes for 202 yards and one touchdown thus far.

"What I think they really present that makes it so difficult to defend is they've got a quarterback, Bryan Cupito, who is very smart," Carr said.  "The passing attack that they want to utilize, he's outstanding because it's based on the run. When you get eight or nine guys up now, he looks out and sees single coverage, he sees a free safety in the middle of the field…now he's going to audible to individual cuts. They've got excellent receivers. Ernie Wheelwright is in his 10th year…at least it seems like he's been there forever.  Matt Spaeth…Glen Mason has called him the finest tight end in the United States. As a coach, you don't make that kind of a statement unless you're sure. Offensively, they've always given us and everybody problems."

Offensive Line

Left Tackle:
#64 Steve Shidell  6-5, 285, Jr.
#73 Jason Meinke  6-5, 235, Fr.

 Left Guard:
#77 Tony Brinkhaus  6-4, 295, Jr.
#56 Tyson Swaggert  6-4, 285, Sr.

#56 Tyson Swaggert  6-4, 285, Sr.
#74 Ryan Ruckdashel  6-6, 255, Fr.

Right Guard:
#66 Ned Tavale  6-2, 305, Fr.
#75 Otis Hudson  6-4, 290, Fr.

Right Tackle:
#78 Joe Ainslie  6-7, 300, Sr.
#92 Matt DeGeest  6-5, 250, So.

The offensive line has played decently for the Gophers, but it needs to perform better.  The strength of the line is on the left side behind the two returning starters Steve Shidell and Tony Brinkhaus. Brinkhaus may be the top run blocking guard in the conference and is one of the strongest players on Minnesota's roster. Center Tyson Swaggert is improving.  If guard Ned Tavale and tackle Joe Ainslie can step up, this could be a very solid unit later in the season.

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