With Minnesota coming off an 8-4 season and seeing vast improvements, Coach Kill is hoping to continue that upward trend and in order for that to happen there will need to be a few things happen. We go over the five aspects of this football team that Gopher fans should be watching this season.
1. Mitch Leidner Taking Charge
After the bowl game against Syracuse last season, you could see Leidner looked better and would probably be the starting quarterback for next season. That became official when Phillip Nelson transferred to Rutgers and Coach Kill made it very apparent Leidner was their guy. I have heard that he has progressed from this past spring and this fall has kept making strides. The running game will be the main priority once again with a loaded backfield in this offense, but Leidner will have to make sure everyone is doing what they have to do in order to win.
2. Maxx Williams Developing
One of the Gophers top weapons last season was their big, physical tight end Maxx Williams. With a year under his belt, he has sharpen his skills and the playbook. As a mismatch nightmare, you can expect defensive coordinators will definitely be planning and scheming to find ways to stop this rising star. Williams was the second leading receiver on the team last year with 25 receptions for 417 yards and five touchdown catches. The coaches are hoping that he can rise his game to the next level this year and could be a NFL pick down the road if he keeps progressing.
3. The Wide Receiver Core Stepping Up
Minnesota had the 11th Big Ten scoring offense in 2013. One reason for that is the time of possession as the Gophers milked down the clock and wanted to control the ball most of the game, so scoring came at a minimum. The other big reason for the lack of scoring was the passing game. While many weren’t satisfied with the quarterback play, the wide receivers weren’t stepping up to the plate. I look to see freshman wide receiver Melvin Holland contribute early and possibly fellow freshman wide out Isaiah Gentry as well, who both have impressed wide receiver coach Brian Anderson so far in camp. It has also helped having that No. 1 quarterback in place for awhile now, so the wide receivers could build and strengthen their chemistry with Leidner.
4. How Well Can Berkley Edwards Bounce Back
Many Gopher fans were very excited and anxious to see the freshman dynamic playmaker Berkley Edwards. However, an injury just before the season put a brake on his Minnesota debut, but has been preparing to get going this season and looks to bring some excitement to this offense. He can be used in a variety of ways and they will most likely utilize that explosive skill set.
5. Cedric Thompson Leading
A point of emphasis Coach Kill has addressed with this team is leadership and defensive back Cedric Thompson has taken the reins from former Gopher and current Chicago Bear defensive back Brock Vereen. He wanted to be that leader because after the bowl game loss last year, he went up to Coach Kill and told him that he wanted to be one of the leaders on this team. That shocked him and really showed the maturity and determination Thompson features. He should be a key player for Minnesota this fall especially with his leadership.