Offensive Outlook: Still Explosive Without Barber

The Gophers lost one of the better running backs in the country when Marion Barber III decided to enter the NFL, but with Laurence Maroney back in maroon the running game shouldn't suffer much. And the rest of the offense looks even more stable.

The Gophers could have one of the more powerful offensive attacks in the Big Ten and perhaps the nation.

While it would seem that this unit lost some significant explosiveness with the loss of Marion Barber III to the NFL, don't worry about a team that had the No. 5 running game in the country.

Laurence Maroney decided to stay and he is even quicker than Barber. He has rushed for more than 1,000 yards each of the last two seasons and without his outstanding running mate he could approach 2,000 yards this season if he can stay healthy. Head coach Glen Mason should have a decent backup for him in Amir Pinnix, who rushed for more than 100 yards in the Gophers' spring game.

QB Bryan Cupito was untested at this time last year. He was decent in his first year under center and should be poised for a solid season. Cupito completed 123-of-261 passes for 2,097 yards with an impressive 14-7 TD-interception ratio.

WR Ernie Wheelwright made a big impression last year with his speed and explosiveness. He caught 30-654-7 a year ago and is looking for double figures in his TD total.

WR Jared Ellerson has the size and speed to make big plays. Ellerson caught 37 passes a year ago and he should be able to catch at least 50 this year since Cupito should be better. Jakari Wallace flashes quickness and averaged 17 yards per catch a year ago.

TE Matt Spaeth caught 24-298-4 a year ago and can eat up ground in the red zone with his wide body. He also does a very solid job as a run blocker.

The offensive line is anchored by C Greg Eslinger, who is an All-America candidate. Eslinger has great understanding of the position and the athleticism and confidence to be a dominant player.


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