Ryan Burns - GopherDigest

Gopher Illustrated's Ryan James and Ryan Burns answer subscribers questions in this week's edition of the GI mailbag

Gopher Illustrated's Ryan James and Ryan Burns answer subscribers questions in this week's edition of the GI mailbag.

Ryan James

LimegroverLeague4Life asks: How does Ryan James balance basketball and his family?

The wife stays home and raises the children instead of them being raised by a random person at a day care, I work as a teacher and a basketball writer which is two full time jobs time wise.  No problems in the summer (3 months off from teaching!) but the winter is wild.  I see the family more than you would think but less than I would like. 

Jerkmo asks: If Richard doesn't land any of the Minnesota kids for 2017, does he lose his job no matter what?

No.  The job comes down to how they do on the court this year.  If it's another bad year he will be in trouble but with what they have back, what they added, and three experienced transfers, I think this will be a motivated team that wants to prove how good they are to the rest of the basketball world, and to their own fan base.  

The 2017 recruiting is important but they have two scholarships to give.  If they miss on all the locals they offered but still bring in Isaiah Washington and Terrance Lewis for example, that's another class of ranked talent.  But recruiting isn't what will result in a job loss, it's the on court performance this winter that is everything.  And these last few days have me feeling very strongly that they will definitely get one local, and I would bet on two if I had to place a bet today.

JacksAlumGopherFan asks: Does the bball staff have an actual plan. Or moreover do they have plan b or c ready when a doesn't work. Kinda feels like brew style reacting all the time.

PG plan A.  Isaiah Washington and McKinley Wright.  That has been plan A for over a year.  Plan B now looks to be Wabissa Bede and I guess you could say Jamir Harris although I feel like he is a wing.  They have watched a couple other 2017 lead guards as well for the Plan C.

Big plan A.  Jericho Sims and Theo John.  Plan B, they only NEED one big in this class because they want to pair one, or both of these guys with Daniel Oturo next year.  So really there isn't a plan B considering they are after one but would take two because it's local talent that they wouldn't turn down.  There is another big they offered a month ago from the southeast but these two are the guys we need to know.  

Wing plan A.  Jamir Harris (he is likely being looked at as a combo) and Terrance Lewis.  The need is PG and big, and I think they would take a wing with a third scholarship if they miss on one of the bigs but it's not a huge need like the others.  But Harris and Lewis are quite interested in the program and talent like that has to be considered and if they want to be here, you bring them on.  

I really like their plan.  They are going very heavy after the three MN kids (Wright, Sims, John) and the PG they have a long time relationship with (Isaiah W).  From there they have another group they are looking at and there are about 3-4 others out there that are plan C that will come to the forefront if guys chose elsewhere.  They have a good plan in my opinion.

NLGopher asks: Basketball who will be the most impactful freshman?

Amir Coffey.  He's too versatile, too talented to not be.  I think he starts likely day one and if not day one, in the days that follow.  The guy can handle some for them, push in transition whenever, high level rebounding wing because of his length, feel, and loves to collect, turn, and push, his passing may be the top part of his game, has put up between 31 and 36 percent shooting in HS and AAU at the arc, outstanding finisher at the rim, etc etc, length that is a nightmare to deal with when he is defending you or when he's in help and getting steals/deflections, also a good shot blocker.  Will bring something every game. 

LimegroverLeague4Life asks: When will Ryan James figure out how to post his own articles?

This is a Q from Ryan Burns and I will tell him, when I get some down time! Ha.

NLGopher asks: How will Pitino be able to manage all the wing players? Coffey, Springs, McBrayer, Fitzgerald, Hurt, Gilbert, and could probably throw in Sharp as well all getting most of their minutes at the 2 wing spots.

It won't be as difficult as you think.  In that group you have seven names.  Amir can play three spots (1-3), Springs two spots (2-3), McBrayer two spots (1-2), Fitzgerald two spots (2-3 or 3-4, not sure which), Hurt two spots (3-4), Gilbert two spots (3-4), and Sharp three spots (1-3).  In that seven guys you have versatile players.  Versatile players that are going to have to compete for time day in and day out.  Of the seven, five are likely to play in their versatile line-ups along with Nate Mason and the five bigs on the roster. You take those five, Mason, and four of the five bigs and you have a group of ten guys that will make up the rotation.  Of course guys nine and ten won't get the time that others will but they will have fought for their spot.  With Amir and McBrayer having to play some lead guard behind Mason and with Pitino liking to go smaller up front (Curry at the five or maybe even Murphy here and there for a minute or two) you could also use Hurt, Gilbert, Fitzgerald, or heck maybe even Coffey as a four.  This is a versatile bunch and Pitino will be able to use them in many ways.  You originally asked about two spots but these guys will be playing more than just the shooting guard and small forward.

Ryan Burns

LimegroverLeague4Life asks: If the Gophers do indeed play a 3-4 where will Richardson play? How will they rotate guys?

Remembering back to spring ball for the few practices that Minnesota worked in the 3-4, Richardson was the 0 tech. I think they keep him inside there against the center and let him generate pressure up the middle. You'll see the 4i's being Gaelin Elmore, Scott Ekpe, Gary Moore, Merrick Jackson and Andrew Stelter. Jackson could play some nose as well.

NLGopher asks: You had Demetrius Douglas as a WR in your projected class and Scout has his position as CB are the Gophers only looking at him as a WR or would he be the ATH type that could end up at either WR or CB depending on how the rest of the class goes?

From talking with a source this week, Minnesota would take Douglas at whatever he wants to play, and right now, it sounds like he wants to play defensive back. Jay Sawvel is good with that as you note, we at Scout have him rated pretty highly there and Minnesota would take him there. If he commits, I think he'll start on the defensive side of the ball.

NLGopher asks: Which of the true freshmen do you think play this fall?

  1. WR Phillip Howard / Tyler Johnson
  2. LB Carter Coughlin
  3. LB Kamal Martin
  4. CB Coney Durr
  5. CB Kiondre Thomas

I believe a true freshman wide receiver will emerge, but not sure which at this point. Everything I've heard from workouts is that Coughlin looks like the real deal, and Martin looks good running around as well. Durr and Thomas are also as advertised. 

JacksAlumGopherFan asks: Knowing that Autry likely not coming, what are the depths looking like on the OL? If we lose 1-2 Starting OL in non conference what are the options? Interior and exterior OL seem deeper at OT than G or C.

LT: Garrison Wright - Chad Fahning / Donnell Greene

LG: Connor Mayes - Jared Weyler

Center: Tyler Moore - Jared Weyler

RG: Vincent Calhoun - Jared Weyler

RT: Jonah Pirsig - Chad Fahning / Donnell Greene

As you can see, I'd feel a lot better if an injury is to occur at the tackle position. I think that if Mayes or Calhoun go down, that you see Wright shift inside and give Fahning or Greene the tackle spot.

Ahlibobwa asks: --Which receivers appear most poised for a breakout year? I'm especially curious any news about Still? Also, what would you guess is the pecking order at WR?

--Has Melvin Holland made any progress to curing his persistent case of the 'drops' ? Dude is great at getting open but you can't play WR if you can't catch the ball.

--Eric Carter is, physically, the most similar to KJ Maye. What do you think his role is this season?

--Given reports that you've received about player progress this summer, what is your best current guess at the top 7 OLs.

--Who do you think starts alongside Travis and Myrick in the secondary?

--Any feeling on which players the coaches are most likely to place at PR/KR?

It looks like to me that Drew Wolitarsky is the most likely to step up and replace KJ's 73 catches from last year. Not sure there's a ton more to share on Rashad Still other than he's full participating in workouts. He's very energetic and active off the field. I'd say you have Still / Wolitarsky / Carter in the first group, and then it's VERY open after them. Each guy has their own question marks they need to answer. 

I firmly believe Holland has the hands to play and be a Big Ten receiver, but it's just all about confidence at this point. If he can make a few key contested catches during fall camp and get his confidence back up, I think he's got the other tools to be a receiver that can absolutely help this Gopher team this year. 

I'm interested to see what Jay Johnson has in store for Eric Carter, but I think he'll be your Z receiver that's going across in a lot of motions and crossing routes. I think his floor if he's healthy is 25 receptions.

Top 7 OL in no order:

  1. Vincent Calhoun
  2. Garrison Wright
  3. Jonah Pirsig
  4. Tyler Moore
  5. Connor Mayes
  6. Chad Fahning
  7. Jared Weyler

The starting safety spot is really interesting as everyone there has a question mark. How will Ace Rogers look coming off major knee surgery, Kunle Ayinde started to wear down during B1G play, Eric Amoako transitioning from Houston Baptist and Duke McGhee trying to prove that his Illinois and Wisconsin games weren't a fluke. I'll know a lot more a month from now, but I'd speculate at this point that Amoako and Rogers are the two front runners. As far as that other corner spot, I'd say it's a battle between KiAnte Hardin and Ray Buford with Coney Durr lurking in the background. Hardin played well enough as a true freshman last year to give you reason to think he's going to be a factor, but Ray Buford has all the physical measurables to be an absolute freak defender for Minnesota, but when will that light bulb really go on. Lot of time left for Ray. True freshman Coney Durr has an outside shot too, but I'd lean toward KiAnte at this point. 

Look for KiAnte Hardin to have a big role in the return game. Both punt and kick return. 

BigMoeU asks: Is Coughlin recovered and ready to contribute? Any newcomers that you've heard showed up bigger or stronger than anticipated?

Reports are that Coughlin is very close to 100% and that he's expected to contribute this fall. He's been participating in workouts and has looked the part of a Scout100 player.

Expectations were high for Coughlin, Martin, Durr, Thomas and the freshmen WR's, but I believe all the OL/DL will redshirt. 

BobbyBoucherJr asks: I'd like more information about Claeys recruiting philosophy vs. Kill's. How has recruiting changed under Claeys?

Claeys is even more selective than Kill was as I'd be surprised if Minnesota doesn't have the least amount of offers out in the Big Ten. 

Claeys' trusts his coaches as did Kill, but I know that things are more streamlined per say with Claeys as he's a lot more involved in recruiting that Kill was. Claeys makes time to watch film on these recruits and make the texts / messages / phone calls. I also think that Claeys is a lot more enamored with "combine" type testing with skill positions to really get a gauge of how athletic they are. If they pass that test and the film / live eval matches, there's a good chance an offer is extended. As far as with offensive and defensive line recruiting, it's less about measureables now, and more about how explosive you are in a short burst, and specifically on the offensive line, how well are you able to bend and be physical. 

NLGopher asks: For both football and basketball who will be the most impactful freshman?

Amir Coffey and Carter Coughlin.

gophmeister asks: Name one under the radar player either offense or defense you think could breakout this season.

What percentage of the offense changes and what stays the same? Are we going to spread the field more? Is there a team we are going to pattern ourselves after more?

Is the 3-4 talk a smokescreen or real?

On offense, I'd say Colton Beebe or Melvin Holland. Wolitarsky doesn't count here, and I think Beebe has an immediate impact at TE this fall and that if Holland can regain his confidence, he can step in and play a lot this fall. On defense, I'm a big Julian Huff guy right now. I think he's going to be a huge part of this defense. 

It's still really tough to say after watching a very vanilla offense this spring, but I'd say somewhere around 65-70% remains the same. It'll be about spreading the field yes, but more about getting their best playmakers in space and let them go. Watch some tape of ULL last year where Jay Johnson was to get a better idea.

The 3-4 talk is 100% real.  

ButchNashGuy asks: The questions I had were what gophmeister has. Finding out today about them meeting with Arranda as well as Claeys not sharing other schools they visited to not tip what direction JJ is taking the offense has me intrigued. 

Another question I had is how a Tracy Claeys Fall Camp will differ from  Jerry Kill one. 

It's really interesting to me that Claeys would let that Aranda nugget slip on WCCO last Sunday, because he had been telling members of his staff for months to keep that internal and not to let it leak. Now that he's the one that brought it up, Aranda came for a 36-48 hour visit in March. Gophers were very careful to make sure no one even saw that he was here in terms of, they picked him up from the airport, brought him straight to the football complex, then drove him to the hotel for the night. Picked up him the next morning, drove to the football complex and then to the airport. Claeys and Sawvel respect the hell out of his 3-4 defense at Wisconsin and wanted to learn more about it because they're both traditionally 4-3 guys and Aranda was more than happy to help. That's why you saw Minnesota toy with it for a while during spring ball for a couple of weeks. 

I didn't really get a sense that there was too much of a difference from watching spring ball as it looked similar to what Kill had. Only real difference was Claeys wanted more "team" as he wanted the OL/DL to really go live and get them to be more physical. 

GVGopher asks: Shoobe Timms, Everett Williams or Duke McGee. Which one has the best year?

Duke McGhee. He has the easiest path to significant playing time as Timms is the sixth defensive tackle right now and Williams has been passed by Jaylen Waters. 

wonge02 asks: What changes, if any, will there be in the podcasts this fall/winter for football and bball?


Luke and I will be weekly starting this week heading up to the season and then bi-weekly during the season. 

Assuming RJ and Luke will be on their normal schedule as well. 

elyento asks: Will any D lineman approach double digits in sacks? (I think I know the answer...) who will be the closest?

I guess my question would be what do you mean by "approach", as I could see a scenario where Steven Richardson gets eight sacks. I think Richardson and Julian Huff compete for the Minnesota sack title.

Ahlibobwa asks: Does the team have many injuries? If so is there anybody in danger of entering camp with a nagging injury? Particularly interested in the position groups where injuries killed us last year---OLine, DLine, Safety

Is Duke Anywanu have a chance to finally make good on the ultimate feel good comeback story? 

Isaiah Gentry: is he healthy? Is he making progress towards having a role this fall?

Latest I've heard is that Eric Amoako was just cleared to participate in workouts as he was dealing with an off-season lower body injury. Other than that, I have yet to hear anything substantial that would lead me to believe someone will be held out of fall camp.  

Last I heard, Anyanwu was participating in summer workouts in full with the hope of playing this fall. I'm pulling for him, but I just don't know that he'll be able to get back to his 2014 self.

Gentry can be healthy right now, but until he can stay healthy during camp for a longer than a week, there's not a lot to say. 

Gopherrealname asks: Who is the next Blake Cashman...a youngster nobody is talking about that will surprise (special teams or otherwise)

That no one is talking about. Phewwwww. Let's see. 

I'll say Colton Beebe, Jaylen Waters and Winston DeLattiboudere.

billymarekguy asks: Any of these guys added to roster by camp? Weiland, White, Schoenfelder, Just, K. Johnson?

Best bet from that group would be Just, Schoenfelder and Johnson. 

TKGophfan asks: special teams questions, is Santoso our hands down best punter, what can we expect from him. Is Carpenter the odds on fav at starting kicker, Is hardin our expect KR, who do you suspect will be back there with him?

Santoso is hands down the best punter on this team. He has the strongest leg on the team, and has since he arrived on campus. You'll see an increase in hang time, but what made Mortell so good was his directional kicking and spin, and those are two areas Ryan will have to work on. Carpenter is the odds on favorite for most field goal attempts, yes. Hardin will be the primary PR/KR guy and I think you'll see Antoine Winfield, Jalen Myrick and Rodney Smith. 

Ahlibobwa asks: Kiante Hardin flashed some serious talent at times, particularly in the Illinois game and a couple others. Do you think he has high end potential at CB? Will he realize that potential this year?

I think his ceiling could be a Briean Boddy-Calhoun type of player, which is obviously very good. That potential is there, but he has to stay healthy as he has a slight frame like Boddy-Calhoun. He needs to keep playing and he could be a special player come 2017/18. Ray Buford still has the highest ceiling of any player on this team right now. 

skiugophs asks: How will the Defensive staff be affected by Sawvel's move to DC? Will it impact our DB play that has been so strong the past few years?

I don't think it'll be too much of an adjustment. Sawvel still works with his defensive backs every day in practice during individual time and it's more about Sawvel is the one calling the plays, while Claeys is still a special defensive mind. Dan O'Brien will help some with the DB's while Sawvel assumes the play-calling duties, but if there's something Sawvel wants to address with the DB's, he will. 

Gopher Illustrated Top Stories