- Mitch Leidner
- Demry Croft
- Conor Rhoda
After watching the quarterbacks throughout spring football for Minnesota, I can say that Mitch Leidner is clearly going to be the undisputed starter this fall. It really wasn't ever a question, but needed to be stated. From going back over all of my notes from the spring, inconsistency really kept Croft from taking as large of a step forward as many Gopher fans would have hoped. He's still a very young quarterback that has a lot of time to continue improving, but has to reign in those over-throws and improve upon his decision making ability. Conor Rhoda was once again a fan-favorite throughout spring ball, but the reality is that Rhoda never get a rep with the first ream all spring. While Rhoda can look solid going against the two's and three's for me to believe he's firmly in contention for the backup quarterback spot with Demry Croft, I'll need to see get more meaningful reps this fall.
Firmly believe that Seth Green and Mark Williams will redshirt this fall.
- Shannon Brooks
- Rodney Smith
- Kobe McCrary
I can't see a way that sophomore's Shannon Brooks and Rodney Smith aren't Minnesota's two bell-cow running backs come the Gophers first game against Oregon State. Both had tremendous spring season's for Minnesota as their explosion and weight increased and both seem ready to take on bigger workloads this fall. I think Shannon ultimately leads the team in rushing attempts, while Rodney will also be used heavily so they can split the load. The one question about both running backs is their durability to hold up for the duration of a Big Ten season and those concerns showed up again this spring as both missed time in 2015 with various small injuries. That's where junior college running back Kobe McCrary comes into play as the Gophers staff is very high on him and his 235 pound frame. McCrary will likely have a small role within the running back core to start Minnesota's 2016 campaign, but if injuries arise ahead of him, he'll step into a larger role. He's big enough to carry a bigger workload if necessary.
I know that James Johannesson had a heck of a spring game, but I'm not ready to jump aboard the train just yet. James made great strides during the spring and I'm happy for him that it came to the zenith on Saturday as he accumulated 130 yards and a touchdown. But from watching this running back group each and every practice that was open to the media, I'll still maintain there is a gap between Shannon / Rodney and James. Not a knock on James, but more of Rodney and Shannon are incredibly talented running backs for their age. To watch the way they maintain balance through contact, their ability to process and read the gaps at a high speed, it's just on a different level than what James showed day in and day out. Jonathan Femi-Cole also still has a ways to go in terms of his development, but he'll have time to keep working with the Scout team this fall.
X. Rashad Still - Hunter Register
Y. Drew Wolitarsky - Melvin Holland
Z. Eric Carter - Drew Hmielewski
This projection for the starters was rather easy, but predicting who would back them up is a whole different story. I feel pretty confident that Rashad Still and Eric Carter will be starting and it's very likely that Drew Wolitarsky is in that group as well, but behind those three, it's wide open. As you can tell, I'm not sold that Isaiah Gentry can stay healthy for longer than a couple of weeks before his hamstring gives him fits again, so I don't have him listed among the two deep. I'm also not sold that Holland can catch the ball consistently, or that Register can improve his route tree and cuts enough for Brian Anderson to rotate him in, but he may not have a choice. Gophers have a plethora of walk-ons at the position headlined by Brian Smith and Adam Mayer, but I'm going to say Minnesota has a true freshman rotate in with Drew Hmielewski. If Hmielewski is healthy enough to play this fall (shoulder), I think he'll make an immediate impact. He's the most college ready between the trio of Tyler Johnson and Phillip Howard, and I think he makes an appearance this fall.
H: Brandon Lingen - Colton Beebe
Y: Nate Wozniak - Nick Hart / Bryce Witham
I listed all five tight ends on the roster among the two-deeps because I think all are going to have to play with the way Rob Reeves uses his tight ends. Brandon Lingen has the potential to have a big season in the passing game with Leidner looking for a new favorite target with the absence of KJ Maye coming, he'll just have to stay healthy to do so. Nate Wozniak is going to be asked to do a lot of dirty work of the Y tight end and will have a lot of responsibilities to set the edge in the running game. Behind Lingen and Wozniak, there's a lot of youth with Colton Beebe and Bryce Witham coming off their redshirt seasons. Beebe has the versatility to play both the H and Y positions for Minnesota and I think he'll be the guy primarily rotating in with Lingen and Wozniak this fall. Nick Hart did play some last fall and will be the among the eldest members of the tight end group, but he battled injuries this spring that lost him some reps to Colton Beebe. I think he'll be battling this fall with Bryce Witham to see who can potentially earn reps on the offense. Beebe, Wozniak, Hart and Witham will have see extensive action on special teams.
LT: Garrison Wright - Chad Fahning
LG: Connor Mayes - Quinn Oseland
Center: Tyler Moore - Jared Weyler
RG: Vincent Calhoun - Jared Weyler
RT: Jonah Pirsig - Chad Fahning
The starters in this group give me hope that Minnesota's offense can improve from 2015 as they should give Mitch Leidner more time to throw and give both of the starting running backs more holes to exploit the defense through. The issue remains behind the starters, there is very little depth. Chad Fahning had a great spring, but then went down with an injury for the last few practices. He'll very likely be Minnesota's swing tackle this fall as Nick Connelly and Luke Rasmussen need more time in the weight room. Jared Weyler was almost my swing interior guy at all three positions, but I'm starting to see that Quinn Oseland is getting more and more comfortable at the left guard position as spring ball went on, and I think if he does some work in the weight room during the next few months, he should be a contender at left guard behind Connor Mayes. Tyler Moore needs to stay healthy as the drop off in level of play from Moore to whomever the backup is, will be a jump and same goes with Vincent Calhoun.