Gophers Offensive Preview: Part 1

The Minnesota Golden Gophers' 2010 season was one to forget for most Gopher fans. The Maroon and Gold struggled for much of the season culminating in the firing of head coach Tim Brewster. New head coach Jerry Kill will look to turn the 2011 Gophers into a successful team. One of the big changes for Minnesota will be a new look on offense.

New Offensive Philosophy

With new offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover calling plays, the Gophers will have a new look offense not only in style but as well as personnel. Limegrover will be bringing over his own multiple-style, run-heavy attack which was ranked 10th in the nation in total offense last year at Northern Illinois.

This new offense will see the quarterback lined up under center, in the pistol formation and out of the shotgun. It will also be reliant on the quarterback's legs as well as his arm with a number of designed quarterback running plays and read-options.

The passing attack will involve a lot of ball control type passes with play-action mixed in to keep defenses off balance to prevent the opposition from stacking the box against the run.

Fresh Faces

With the departure of four-year starter Adam Weber, the Gophers will now turn their offense over to dual-threat quarterback MarQueis Gray. In his first two years as a Gopher, Gray has seen most of his action as a Wildcat quarterback and last season at wide receiver. As he transitions over to full-time signal-caller, Gray will showcase an above average arm strength to go with blazing speed.

The biggest question marks surrounding Gray are his accuracy and the ability to read opposing defenses. Should Gray become injured or fail to run the offense effectively true freshman Max Shortell has shown this fall that he possess a strong arm and decent accuracy but lacks the athleticism that Gray brings to the position.

Redshirt freshman Tom Parish will also be in the mix as primary back-up to Gray. Parish possesses more athleticism than Shortell and has shown to be one of the most accurate quarterbacks on the team.

The offensive line is another position that will be in-flux with the loss of three starters from last year's squad. Luckily for the Gophers, most of this year's offensive line has three seniors who have seen significant playing time throughout their careers either as back-ups or in spot starts.

The offensive line will rely heavily on Ryan Orton, Ryan Wynn, and Chris Bunders to hold down the interior of the line as they will have talented, but inexperienced, underclassmen Ed Olson and Jimmy Gjere playing tackle.

Depth could be an issue, at least when it comes to experience. The Gophers have relatively few upperclassmen backing up all five positions on the line and a bevy of true or redshirt freshmen as primary back-ups.

Freshmen and Junior College players could see significant playing time with question marks at the wide receiver.

Marcus Jones is a name most Gopher fans should be familiar with since the quick freshman wide receiver enrolled early this January and was able to familiarize himself with the playbook and participate in the spring game. Entering this fall, he will be expect to see a majority of the playing time as a slot receiver.

The Gophers will also be counting on JUCO wide receivers Ge'Shun Harris and Malcolm Moulton to step up and take the pressure of returning star wide receiver Da'Jon McKnight. Harris is a big possession type receiver who can go use his frame to out-muscle smaller defensive backs for the ball. This fall, he has shown a consistent set of hands and looks to be the front runner as the other starter opposite McKnight.

Moulton has also had a good fall, showing off decent speed and agility to go along with a great jumping ability. Also in the mix at wide receiver is redshirt sophomore Victor Keise who has shown a consistent set of hands as well as good route running.

Along the offensive line true freshmen Tommy Olson and Foster Bush have stepped up this fall and are currently working with the second team offensive line. Another freshman to watch will be Josh Campion. Both Campion and Olson have come in with college ready builds. Bush has been a surprise backing up at right tackle this fall where most fans thought he might need to redshirt.

At the running back position, the Gophers have a bevy of young talented freshmen and redshirt freshmen backing up Du'ane Bennett. Donnell Kirkwood has the most experience in this group of players but has suffered a hamstring injury this fall, which has kept him out of competition. When healthy, Kirkwood has average speed and runs with good leverage and balance. Despite being banged up, Kirkwood is still eyeing the Gophers' opener at USC for his return.

A player who has really taken the most of his opportunity is David Cobb, a late addition to the 2011 class. This fall, Cobb has shown very good speed and has been making a case to see the playing time this season with some of the runs he's been able to break off in practice.

Lamonte Edwards and Devon Wright are two more backs looking to make a name for themselves. Edwards is more of traditional north-south power back where Wright is more of an off-tackle speed back. The Gophers have plenty of options when it comes to their stable of running backs.


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