GopherDigest answers your questions in this week's football mailbag...
TKGophFan asks: All our young QBs have another year in the system. The biggest concern that most have expressed is at QB, and most think if Mitch went down we are done for the season. How do you see us doing in the Starting QB position, and if Mitch went down are we in a world of hurt, or do we have better than expected back up QBs?
It depends to me how long Mitch were to go down.
If Leidner is down for a week or two, I think the Gophers will be fine with Streveler as the read option would seriously become the huge play in the offense during that time. Streveler is one of the best athletes on the team and I wouldn't have a serious issue with it for a short period of time. If Mitch goes down for a majority of the season, I wouldn't be surprised if the Gophers decide to give Jacques Perra a shot if the passing game doesn't develop under Streveler. I believe that Demry Croft will be redshirted at all costs this year unless there is some major injury bug that hits the position. To really give you a condensed answer, I think if Mitch goes down for a significant period of time, things aren't looking the greatest, but if it's for a few weeks, they'll be fine.
billmarekguy asks: Most likely to get WR offer from Gophs: Wesson, Hmielewski, Spielman or Kjetil? Anyone else after Poljan?
My order would be Drew Hmielewski, J.D. Spielman, Isaiah Weston and Kjetil Cline.
Really like what I've heard from a couple Gopher sources about the workout Hmielewski put in a few weeks ago at Minnesota. The staff is very high on him and thinks he can definitely contribute at a high level potentially for them, but they're being selective about offers at this point. Spielman is just behind Hmielewski as he's got some offers form Nebraska and Iowa, but he's yet to camp at any of these schools. If I had to choose a school for Spielman right now, I'd say Nebraska though. Last I heard, Spielman was planning on camping at Minnesota this weekend though, so we'll have to see. Weston has all the athletic ability that you'd want and I firmly believe he could excel in the Big Ten from an athletic standpoint with his size and speed and jumping ability. The issue is his football skill, which is the most important at the end of the day, is so extremely raw is ridiculous. He's a ways off yet from tapping into that talent, but maybe he turns a corner this fall. Cline has some division one offers, but after seeing him camp at Minnesota, I don't expect the Gophers to offer much going forward.
With Tony Poljan, there's not much going on in his recruiting. Poljan arrives in Minneapolis tomorrow for an extended stay with his parents here and he'll also camp this weekend to work with quarterbacks coach Jim Zebrowski one on one. He's told GopherDigest that he's firm to the Gophers and really has shut down his recruiting.
TKGophFan asks: If Jeff Jones Truly plays the slot this year, will he have have a realistic chance to move back to being a full time RB next season? Something that very few people mention is our junior DBs, how do they stack up in the depth chart, and after the big four graduate this year, do any of them have a chance to be NFL drafted?
I fully expect Jeff Jones to spend a majority of his time at wide receiver this fall and I truly wouldn't be shocked if ends up starting there sometime throughout the season. I'm probably a lot higher on Jeff at wide receiver than most, but from the reports I've heard throughout the summer, he's continued to impress even though he really hasn't played receiver before this spring. He's one of the best athletes on the team with another off-season under his belt at the position, plus outside of K.J. Maye, things are really open for the other starting receiver. All that being said, I think that the chance is realistic of Jeff moving back to running back, but you're also talking to one of the drivers and owners of the Rodney Smith bandwagon. All I've heard about Rodney since he's stepped on campus is that he's the real deal and as I've said, I think he starts by the end of the season and doesn't look back going into next season as the starter. Jeff absolutely has a chance to move back to running back, but receiver may also be the spot for him as well. We'll see how things unfold, but I think a lot depends on how Smith does this season as well.
There aren't too many junior defensive backs on the depth chart as Jalen Myrick and Ace Rogers are really the only ones. As far as the NFL, I think it's too early for both to start making claims like that as both have a lot to prove this season. Myrick played a lot in the nickle package last season and while he had his moments, he has to be much more consistent this season. Rogers is coming off a JUCO season where he was an All-American, but has to adjust to Big Ten football.
billmarekguy asks: Any news on new recruits on campus?
The latest I've heard is that at this point, I really expect KiAnte Hardin, Dior Johnson and Ray Buford to play as true freshmen. Hardin is really the name that keeps coming up over and over as his speed and versatility are something that Minnesota is really going to need this season with a lack of depth at both receiver and corner. Dior has the most physically ready tools of all the freshman and that's one of the huge reasons why he'll probably play this season. The same can be said for a guy like Ray Buford whose got a huge frame and good work ethic. All three are guys I'd be expecting to push for starting time next fall.
A few other names I've heard good things about lately are Hunter Register, Colton Beebe and Julian Huff. GopherDigest has learned that Register has progressed well since he's arrived on campus and is getting much better at wide receiver. Beebe has really been excelling in the weight room and in workouts since arriving to campus and I think he'll have a role on special teams this fall. Huff is one of my favorites from this past spring and after soaring up into the two deeps after graduating early and participating in spring ball, Huff hasn't let up. I think he'll be another candidate to play on special teams as a true freshman, especially if Nick Rallis is still having problems with his recovery.
TKGophFan asks: Is this a year where we can finally redshirt 90 percent of the freshman? I know Kill knows what the team needs and isn't afraid to pull a redshirt, but man Cobb would be looking like a Heisman possibility this year if he had redshirted. Not a knock on Kill, I am just being hopeful. How do you project Alex Mayes this year in playing time? is he a sleeper on the O line?
I'd say 90% is pretty high considering Kill loves to remove redshirts, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Here's my WAY TOO EARLY prediction for freshmen who play this fall though because why not:
1) LB Julian Huff
2) ATH KiAnte Hardin
3) CB Ray Buford
4) S Dior Johnson
5) FB Colton Beebe
6) WR Rashad Still
I could absolutely seeing either Tyler Moore or Quinn Oseland playing as freshman if injuries occur well, but I'd really like to see them redshirt. I have a hard time seeing one of the freshmen running backs playing just because of log jam of talent there already. I project Still to play because again, I think wide receiver is one of the most open spots on the team and I don't think Anderson is hesitant to play true freshman.
RyanBurns asks: What other players on the team are you hearing good things about?
Again, yes I did ask myself a question. Boom.
If there's someone I'm on the hype train for someone on defense, I'm definitely the conductor of the Hank Ekpe train. I again hear that he's been running with the linebackers throughout the summer workouts, he's dropped ten pounds and most importantly, is the healthiest he's been during his career as a Gopher. He had a great spring and I believe he'll give the Gophers a player with a viable pass rush beyond Theiren Cockran. Speaking of Cockran, I'm hearing that he, Gaelin Elmore and Julian Kafo are joining Ekpe in running with the linebackers. Very good news for fans who have been yearning for that speed rusher off the edge. GopherDigest has heard that Kafo is dropping weight to try and regain some of that speed from high school after putting on weight during his redshirt year. Straight line speed isn't an issue for Kafo or Elmore.
Heard again that fans should be expecting sophomore defensive tackle Steven Richardson to take another step forward this fall. He's already one of the strongest on the team and with his first true off-season to get more explosive, things could be bright for this Gopher defensive line if Scott Ekpe is healthy. Robert Ndondo-Lay is another guy whose done well in putting on additional weight this off-season while maintaining his speed.
As Kill has mentioned, the Gophers really need some of these redshirt receivers to step up in Melvin Holland, Isaiah Gentry, Desmond Gant and Jeff Jones. I expect Jones and Holland to more than likely have roles early on in the season and Gentry and Gant to join them as the season progresses.
Football Mailbag 7/14
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