Football Mailbag 6/26

GopherDigest answers your questions in this week's football mailbag...

GopherDigest answers your questions in this week's football mailbag...

gophmeister asks: Pick one guy regardless of class or position who could emerge this year to fill the shoes of the likes of Cobb, Maxx or Wilson?

Never is it easy for a school to replace three NFL guys and I don't their production can be replaced by one guy, who here's my best shot.

Replacing David Cobb - My guy is and will continue to be redshirt freshman Rodney Smith. Everything I've heard about Smith from sources who see him practice everyday to what I've seen personally out of him in person during spring practice, is that he has the potential to be everything Cobb was and could be even better. He won't be that guy for another year or two yet, but I'd be willing to say he gets the most snaps of the Gopher running backs this fall.

Replacing Maxx Williams - I know the question says one player, but I'm picking two in K.J. Maye and Duke Anyanwu. GopherDigest expects that Maye shifts over into the role as Leidner's go to receiver and Anyanwu translates into the top tight end slot left by Maxx. Everything I've heard about both this off-season is that they should be ready to go for fall camp and especially Maye could be on the brink of a huge season.

Replacing Damien Wilson - I think Jack Lynn is another guy who could take a large step forward from last year and become the leader of the linebacking core. Lynn had a great spring and got work in at Mike linebacker, so he has the position flexibility to be a three down linebacker for Minnesota. I believe he could be the Gophers leading tackler in 2015.

101stGopher asks: I am interested in anything you are hearing about the newly arrived freshmen.

Spoke with a very good source who has been around them a lot in the last two weeks since the freshmen arrived on campus and here's the latest.

- Ray Buford and KiAnte Hardin have looked very good are now my best bets to be playing as true freshmen this fall. Buford is extremely smooth in his movements and for a guy with his height and length, he's going to be special. Hardin is one of most explosive freshmen as has impressed with his speed and athleticism. He's worked out with the DB's and while his technique is very raw, he's a quicker learner. Remember that GopherDigest expects three of the six 2015 class of defensive backs to play right away and Buford and Hardin are doing all the right things early on.

- What GopherDigest has heard on Dior Johnson is that he's extremely, extremely raw with his technique. The good thing about that is Sawvel has a chance to mold Johnson the right way and Johnson has been a very quick learner. If he messes up and the correct way is explained to him, it's a one-time mistake as he does it it right the next time and the time after that. Physically, he's got some work to do in the weight room as his technique is even raw in there, but he's got the tools. Alonzo Craighton and Antonio Shenault are also doing well early on. Craighton's technique is raw, but he gets the job done is how it's been explained to GopherDigest. Shenault is as fast as advertised and could be another to potentially play this season.

- Shannon Brooks is another who has impressed with his work ethic early on. He's came in and really brought it each and every day to the weight room and the conditioning fields and with his already physical style of play, bodes well for him down the line.

- The players have started captain's practice recently and Demry Croft has been impressive as one source told me that "he could really be something", but I still don't expect him to play until his redshirt sophomore year as long as Leidner is healthy.

- I've heard that Colton Beebe has been working out on the offensive side of the ball and is among the strongest of the freshmen.

- The last freshman I'll talk about is wide receiver Rashad Still. From what I've heard, he's really been impressing during captains practice. He's a long strider that has deceptive speed and elusiveness. I heard he's been giving the freshman DB's some problems here early on.

benthere2 asks: Which player is the strongest?

While that info is very limited to the public, the two players I've heard that are the strongest are senior offensive lineman Brian Bobek and sophomore defensive lineman Steven Richardson. Both could be in big 2015 seasons.

DuluthGopher asks: With the loss of Maxx, will the offense move more towards three receiver sets, or will they continue to have Plsek and Duke on the field the majority of the time? Plus, who in your opinion will have the best career of the freshmen DB's?

To answer your first question, I'd lean toward more three wide receiver sets than last year, but it'll all be dependent the game plan of each specific game. With receivers KJ Maye and Drew Wolitarsky returning and promising players Eric Carter, Melvin Holland, Desmond Gant and Isaiah Gentry, I think you'll see more three wide receiver sets than last year.

From everything I've heard, Ray Buford could be a very very good player by the time his career is over at Minnesota. His work ethic and drive are very good and he wants to be the best player there can be and that sometimes hurts him as he gets down on himself, but he's always asking questions and wants to learn all he can. He's got all the physical tools being a legit 6'2" cornerback to be the next great Gopher defensive back and combine that with his mental drive, I think he could be a standout player here sooner rather than later.

billymarekguy asks: Who are the walk-ons and transfers arriving this Summer/Fall and where do walk-ons project for position? How much player contact is allowed with staff in Summer? Can Klein measure and work with them? Can coaches review workouts? What group(s) is Streveler working out with this Summer?

Considering this is five questions in one, this will be my second to last "question".

- The walk-ons from the 2015 class are already on campus and from what I've heard, Cashman is at defensive back, Mayer and Morse at wide receiver. The staff could add a graduate transfer long snapper in Blaine Sidders whose on an official visit today, but that'll be about it.

- I believe the coaches get a hour or two a week to work with the players, but please don't quote me on that. They can do some position work as long as there's not a ball out there.

- Klein and his staff are working with the players every day. The players lift and condition basically every day and Klein's staff right there. The players do get weighed every day so the strength and nutrition staff can work with the players on gaining, cutting or maintaining weight.

- Don't entirely clear what you mean by "reviewing" workouts as far as if they can watch them, I think they see the practice fields from their offices so there's no harm no foul if they peer out their window.

- He's been working out primarily at quarterback, but has been getting a little work elsewhere. I'm not getting into that as I need to maintain sources here, so take that as you may. I still really believe he'll be a quarterback again this next season though.

RyanBurns asks: Who are some guys who could really break out this season?

Yes. I asked myself a question. Deal with it.

After talking with some people I trust, I have a few guys who could be in for a big year.

- On offense, I'll start with freshman Rodney Smith and senior KJ Maye. Everything I've heard about Smith since he's been on campus is that he's going to be a player that Gopher fans are very happy about sooner rather than later and you could start to see that this fall. I know that Rodrick Williams has the trust of the staff being an experience veteran, but as I've said for months now, watch out for Smith. I think you see him eventually become the leading snap getter for running backs by the end of the season and 2016 should be the year Gopher fans really get a good glimpse of what Smith could be. Everything I've heard on Maye is that the light bulb that came on for Maye the last half of the season last year has continued to stay on throughout this summer and he's really become the Gophers best receiver and it's not close. He's been a great leader for these young receivers and is my main candidate to become Leidner's main guy.

- On defense, I'll stay with two guys on the defensive line in Hank Ekpe and Steven Richardson. Word is that Ekpe has cut ten pounds this off-season and looks like an action figure as he's that cut right now. He's even reportedly running with the linebackers because of his speed, so if he stays healthy, Ekpe could be on the verge of a big year. Richardson is among the strongest on the team and has been putting in work this off-season. I think the sophomore from Illinois could be take another step forward this fall. I'll also note that senior Theiren Cockran is still working on putting on weight this off-season to try and get to 260 this fall, but his main focus is on keeping his speed.

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