Ryan Burns - GopherDigest

GopherDigest's Ryan Burns answers our subscribers questions in this week's edition of the mailbag

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

5844cx asks: After hearing all spring/summer (and not just from you) that Hank Ekpe was going to be a star, I've barely noticed him on the field the first two games.  What happened? Who do you think the next commit is going to be?  Anybody besides Tyler Johnson or Aime even a possibility before OV's start piling up in mid to late October?

Well you would have noticed him a lot more if he would have seen that the Colorado State QB had the ball in the endzone for an easy safety, but that's here nor there. I believe a lot of what the Gophers have done with their defensive ends through two games is scheme dependent, and that's why you've seen the DE's drop into coverage more than I've seen in previous years. With TCU QB Trevone Boykin being extremely mobile in the pocket and the quick hitting schemes of Colorado State, there hasn't been a lot of 5-7-9 step drops from the QB's, not giving Ekpe or Theiren Cockran a chance to get a speed rush around the edge. That being said, both guys need to take it up a notch these next two non-conference games before the Big Ten season begins. I know the talent is there with Ekpe and that was on display all spring and fall camp as his first step is very explosive, so I'd advise everyone to give things a few more games. 

As far as football recruiting goes, Minnesota is sitting at 16 commitments with the addition of JUCO OL Vincent Calhoun earlier this week, so there's only more than a handful of spots left. From what I've heard lately, expect things to be on the quieter side, especially with official visits. Sounds like the combination of early kickoffs and the Gophers still identifying their top targets at positions such as tight end and defensive end, are playing a part into that, so maybe a couple of official visitors before Nebraska game, but I wouldn't be surprised to see zero as well. 

With who the next commit could be, I'd say it'll probably be either Tyler Johnson, Antoine Winfield and to a lesser extent Walvenski Aime. Johnson would make sense as he's visited most of the schools interested in him, but I don't think it'll happen as last time I spoke with his father, he told me that they wanted to visit Wisconsin and Iowa before coming to a decision, and that hasn't happened yet. Antoine Winfield makes the most sense to me, but I wonder how long he waits to see if Ohio State will offer. I could see him pulling the trigger shortly after visit if his parents approve of the Gopher staff and campus. With Aime, I think he waits awhile yet to see what his options are, and with the Gophers other top targets needing to visit, it might be over a month until you see the next Golden Ticket. 

5844cx asks: Also, I've cringed somewhat watching the reports of JD Spielman tearing it up in the first two games with Eden Prairie.  I've always surmised, given the timing of how everything went down, that the Snelson commitment (and to a lesser extent, Howard's prior commitment) probably influenced Spielman's decision, perhaps substantially so.  How confident is our staff that Snelson is going to be on board come February?  And are we keeping in contact with Spielman just in case? 

To answer your first question, from the sources I've spoken with on the Gopher and Spielman side, Dredrick Snelson, nor Drew Hmielewski, nor Phillip Howard's commitment had any influence on what happened with J.D. Spielman to Nebraska. Yes the Gophers have two "X" receivers committed, but if Spielman wanted to be a Gopher, Minnesota would have accepted it with open arms. As far as how confident that Gopher staff is with Dredrick Snelson, I'd say they feel pretty good about it right now. Snelson has been loyal to the Minnesota staff in terms of visits, so until something happens, things are fine. As far as if Minnesota is keeping in touch with Spielman, you have to remember it's a two way street there. The Gophers can try and call, or message Spielman all they want, but if the recruit doesn't reciprocate, not a lot the Gophers can do. Know that Minnesota is very happy with their current core of wide receiver commits. 

Bones1228 asks: Now that Gentry will supposedly be back this week, what are your expectations for him?  What can he offer to the passing game?

My expectations are that Minnesota is now going to have a big, long strider in the deep ball game instead of Eric Carter or KJ Maye. Not a knock against Maye or Carter, but having a guy who is 6'4" instead of 5'10" on a deep ball makes me feel a little bit better on Leidner's chance on connecting. I know that the Gopher staff is extremely high on Gentry, which is why you've heard Kill talk about him to the media so much and saying how the Gophers will now add another playmaker for this offense. I believe early on, so the next two games, he'll be used more as a deep threat, but if he stays healthy, I expect that role to grow, especially with the assortment of tight end injuries. 

daaabush asks: What are the chances we break in QB 2 in the Kent St game? They have to get QB 2 some reps in the "just in case," scenario. Thoughts?

I'm torn on this one. I obviously can see two scenarios where: 1) Minnesota just puts in Chris Streveler in if it's a blow out and the Gophers run some read option for the rest of the game. And 2) Minnesota puts in either Jacques Perra or Demry Croft for a few series to get them some experience as well. 

The issue is, I'm not entirely sure what the Gophers staff will do. I've definitely got the vibe from sources that Minnesota is still very content with having Mitch Leidner as their quarterback, so while I do believe they realize that they'll eventually need to use another QB not named Chris Streveler down the line, I don't know that it'll happen until their hand is forced. I guess we'll all find out on Saturday though. 


Gopher Illustrated Top Stories