Changes vs. Opportunities

The Gophers are losing one of their best and most experienced players to the NFL, but they have a couple of stars waiting to emerge. We look at those, plus the coaching changes and the potential for another Michigan showdown.

The Gophers are truly explosive on the offensive end and most of that is due to the running of Laurence Maroney. He has been one of the best running backs in the Big Ten each of the last two seasons and now that Marion Barber has opted for the NFL, Maroney has a chance to put huge numbers on the board. Maroney ran for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns while averaging 6.2 yards per carry a year ago and those numbers clearly have a chance to get even better.

QB Bryan Cupito did a good job of getting his feet wet last year as he threw for 2,097 yards and had a 14-7 TD-interception ratio. Cupito suffered from some inconsistency - he completed just 47.1 percent of his passes - but he should be much more comfortable in 2005.

COACHING CAROUSEL: Glen Mason promoted David Lockwood to defensive coordinator from his post as the secondary coach. This is a key move since the Gophers had so many holes on the defensive side of the ball the last two years. The Gophers also hired Kerry Cooks as defensive secondary coach and Carey Bailey as defensive line coach, and reassigned Moe Ankney from defensive ends to outside linebackers coach.

SCHEDULE SITUATION: If the Gophers can handle Purdue in the Big Ten home opener, they once again have a chance to be undefeated when Michigan rolls into the Metrodome in the sixth game of the season. The last two years, the Gophers have blown fourth-quarter leads against the Wolverines. Anyone want to bet it won't happen again?

QUOTE TO NOTE: "What we do defensively will be under the microscope daily, and I expect to see improvement. We've got a lot of questions to answer. It starts with personnel. Making sure you have the right guys on the field and at the right positions, and then being very critical of what we're doing. Is it the best thing for us to have a chance to be successful?" - Glen Mason on the improvement that needs to be made on the defensive side of the ball.

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