GopherDigest answers your questions in this week's football mailbag...
BigTicket184 asks: What's your best guess on how the WR recruiting saga played out this year? Did Snelson make JD not as much of a priority? Did we like RCB more than Drew due to the offer? Did we prefer Drew to JD or did his commitment come together once it became apparent that JD was going to Neb? Would we have taken all 4 if JD wanted to come here?
Alright let's take this question by question.
I don't think it was Dredrick Snelson that made J.D. Spielman less of a priority as it was that Minnesota already has two slot receivers committed in Phillip Howard and Drew Hmielewski. I understand that you want all the talent you can get, but taking three slot guys is a lot for one class. Would the Gophers have accepted JD's commitment? Yes. But with the current group of receivers they have committed already, I believe they aren't too broken up about it.
Moments after Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman and Drew Hmielewski finished their camp with Minnesota, sources told GopherDigest that while both were impressive and Bowman left with an offer, Hmielewski was the one that stole the show. His raw talent and athletic ability was on display and really caught the attention of all the Minnesota staff that were there. Anytime you run under 4.5 at Minnesota, you're moving as their watches are slow, PLUS that was the first time that Hmielewski had run a 40 yard dash. Ever. The reason that Hmielewski wasn't offered on the spot that day as the staff was hesitant because of his serious desires to play baseball as well. After speaking with head baseball coach John Anderson, who also wants Hmielewski, it was decided he could play both at Minnesota if he wanted, so the staff offered him a couple weekends ago. Long and complicated answer, but Hmielewski's focus will be on football more than baseball from the way I understand things, and this Minnesota staff is very excited about that.
I've heard this rumor a couple times now and I'd love to put it to rest. Drew Hmielewski to Minnesota and J.D. Spielman to Nebraska are totally independent decisions and had nothing to do with one another. If anything, I'd say from the sources I talked with that Minnesota wanted Drew more than J.D., but again, they would have taken both if they both wanted to be Gophers. Spielman never told the Gopher coaches of his decision until he announced from the sources I spoke to, in fact, he hadn't spoke with certain key members of the Minnesota staff for weeks prior. So not surprising at all for either decision.
GustieGopher asks: Is this the year the Gophers finally beat Wisconsin? And why or why not? And perhaps this is an article for another time, but it would be fun to get your predictions for the B1G season ... team rankings, east and west winners, projected All-B1G first team.
I hate to keep saying this, but it all depends on the quarterback play for Minnesota and Wisconsin that day. Fans from both team's will tell you that the position has it struggles, while the running games and defenses are the two strengths. Personally, I think it's the year Minnesota gets the Axe back, but a lot of it comes down to injuries as it's the last game of the season for both teams. If it is Leidner vs. Stave, I think Minnesota gets the edge as I believe their defense is stronger.
I'll do something like that here soon including my prediction for Minnesota in 2015.
DLunstad asks: With practices that are open to the public, do teams really send scouts to watch? In turn, will we send scouts to TCU's open practices?
Love me a question about football espionage in late August.
Personally at the 7 practices I was at, the only scouts I saw there were NFL scouts as there wasn't any decked out in TCU gear, so it was tough to say. It's a tough question to answer as I know neither team will admit to sending scouts to each others practices, but I doubt it happens as there are any serious schematic changes for either team. Who knows though.
Bones1228 asks: Let's say there are 30 carries between RB's against TCU. What's your gut feeling on how they are distributed? (So not including Leidner keeps and WR jet sweeps, etc.) Do you think we'll see the LB's being rotated more this season?
I would lean toward this kind of a distribution:
Rodrick Williams: 16
Rodney Smith: 10
Berkley Edwards / Shannon Brooks: 4
I say this because I believe the staff will try and limit the carries to Rodrick, Rodney and the other RB's to keep them fresh as possible as all will be getting their jitters out during the first game. If Berkley's healthy, I think he'll get a couple of carries to switch things up, but if not, wouldn't be surprised to see Shannon get a carry or two, even though if Berkley is hurt, I think it'll more than likely be Rodrick at 18 and Rodney at 12. As the season goes on, I think it'll be a more even split between Rodrick and Rodney.
I don't know that rotation is necessarily the right word here, but I expect more certain "packages" for different linebackers in the two deeps. There may be certain packages where Jack Lynn, Julian Huff and Everett Williams are on the field at the same time, or Jonathan Celestin and Everett Williams, so yes I expect Sherels to keep his linebackers fresh throughout the game.
Bones1228 asks: What is the word regarding the recruitment of Romeo Finley and Willie Baker?
Nothing too positive for Minnesota that I know. I expect both to stay in the SE part of the United States.
Rostovgold asks: Ryan, do you think Jones plays against TCU? Who is actually the backup to Mitch?
By Jones, I assume you mean Jeffrey Jones and if he's healthy, which it sounds like he's close to being, than yes. He's been impressive during the numerous practices I saw, and even though he had a nondescript scrimmage, when healthy, he'll be on the field for Minnesota.
I addressed the back-up quarterback issue earlier today and I'll link that video below, but I'll explain it in simple terms. If the injury is less than two weeks, I think Chris Streveler is the quarterback. If it's longer than two weeks, than I believe either Demry Croft or Jacques Perra get the nod, and I'd be leaning toward Croft right now.
Fencejumpersasks: If Plsek is out for an extended time (have you heard any estimates?), do you think the offensive staff has to adjust the playbook somewhat as Goodger and Plsek were somewhat unique in their roles last year? Does that raise any concerns for you Burnsie, or do you believe other tight ends will compensate for an extended loss of Plsek?
The time-frame I've heard on Plsek is near the opener for TCU, but I don't think they'll do too much adjusting. Love the basis of the question, but the two guys who I believe slide into their roles are Brandon Lingen and Nate Wozniak. I've heard a lot of praise of the sources I've spoken with about Wozniak so far in camp and he's better blocker than people give him credit for. Put that together with guys like Noah Scarver, Jerry Gibson and even Chris Streveler potentially, I think they'll be fine there.
Losing Lincoln Plsek, Maxx Williams and Drew Goodger to start TCU is definitely not an easy thing to do, but I expect a group of five or six guys to try and do so. I am a little concerned about whoever the primary run blocking tight end is, but I won't know the answer until TCU comes.
Football Mailbag 8/21
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