Scouting the Big Ten: Minnesota

Were there the possibility of a surprise team this season in the Big Ten it could be Minnesota. A squad with a lot of offensive firepower also has some talent on defense and a bunch of solid pro-prospects.

With a return to full health, expect a big season from Ben Utecht, one of the top three pass catching tight ends in the nation. Utech combines intellect with great hands and above average speed to get the job done. While he gives effort blocking, his slender build and lack of strength yield limited results. Still, with the high demand for tight ends that can make plays down the field in the NFL these days, Utech will be a first day pick next April.

Another pair of reliable hands belongs to big-bodied receiver Aaron Hosak, who did a terrific job after transferring from junior college last year. Hosak has great size and the brain to match. He is either a very big possession receiver best inside of 15-yards or possibly an H-back at the next level. Either way you are looking at t late round choice.

Junior Terry Jackson is an elusive ball handler with solid hands but lacks the size to be a feature runner at the next level and is more of a third down back.

Likewise, Thomas Tapeh is a bit small for the fullback position he plays but has an outside shot to be a short yardage runner at the next level and his ability to catch the ball is a plus.

Guard Joe Quinn is a limited athlete but hard-working blocker.

On defense, the top players are in the secondary. Eli Ward is a nice sized safety, terrific stuffing the run but only mediocre against the pass. Physical, Ward's first move is up the field and he constantly is caught out of position.

Two years ago, we were optimistic for Ukee Dozier, though the senior seemingly took a step back in '02. At the top of his game he is a solid cover corner that can run anywhere with opponents on the field.

Though Paul Nixon lines-up at end he is built for outside linebacker. The athletic Nixon displays decent range and may be best over tight end in a three-four.

Ben West is a smart middle linebacker but has limited range and at best is a two-down defender.

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