A terrific start to the Gophers 2003 season took a step back after a devastating loss to Michigan last year. Still, Minnesota ended the season respectably with a bowl invitation. They should find themselves in a similar situation this year and will benefit from a greater amount of NFL talent on a roster.
Marion Barber III is a powerful, interior running back who has the tools to be an every-down ball carrier at the next level. Also a smart and instinctive runner, Barber sees the field, finds the hole and is able to pick up yardage off initial contact, breaking several tackles during a single carry. Also excelling in pass protection, Barber puts his strength to use when asked to block. Only a junior, he is already very high on draft boards.
Center Mike Eslinger is an explosive blocker on the pivot and a lineman relatively effective in motion. Quick with his hands, Eslinger displays good adjustment and works hard until the whistle blows. He lacks size, playing strength and is a blocker presently better helping out linemates as opposed to handling one-on-one blocking situations by himself. Another junior, he must be watched.
Receiver Jared Ellerson is an elusive pass catcher with potential for the 2006 draft.
On defense, Anthony Montgomery is an explosive tackle who combines quickness, agility and leverage to disrupt the offense. He displays top hand technique getting off blocks and is solid stuffing the run. Just a junior, Montgomery stands to improve all aspects of his game but is a very good NFL prospect for the future.
So to is outside linebacker Kyle McKenzie. A terrific athlete, McKenzie plays with great speed, range and is able to make plays in any direction on the field. Very good in pursuit, McKenzie also does a solid job stopping the run on the outside. Undersized, his best and possibly only position at the next level is on the weak side.
Ukee Dozier is a solid zone cornerback playing speed and explosion. Dozier is able to quickly plant then break on the pass and plays with a good degree of suddenness. Not one to mix it up, Dozier has trouble defending larger receivers and rarely volunteers to help support the run. One of the few seniors we are watching on Minnesota, he looks like a solid late round-pick for a zone-cover defense.
Scouting the Big 10: Minnesota
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