The season is just over three months away. Incoming freshmen have yet to make their way on to campus, players on suspension are still up in the air, injuries are a big wildcard and as we all know as Gopher fans ANYTHING is possible over the next few months. But let's start with a look at a projected 2-deep and since posting is light around here I'll split this into two posts and I'll begin with the offense.
Mind you, this is not a firm prediction and I'm sure I have a few starters incorrect (especially along the OL). This is intended to be a conversation starter, let's debate who will be starting where along the OL, who will be the work-horse running back and most importantly who will back up Jon Hoese at full back?
QB - this one was easy, especially since Brewster announced that Adam Weber would be the starter. Everyone has an opinion and it is usually a strong opinion on this position, but when projecting who will actually be starting (not who should be or who you want to be) this one is clear-cut. From a 2-deep perspective it becomes even more interesting when you factor in the argument that MarQueise Gray should be playing wide receiver. Then things get interesting. But for now this is the depth chart with Moses Alipate a worthy third-string.
RB - This position is maybe the most interesting battle on the roster. Eskridge and Bennett seem to be completely even heading into fall camp, but then we add some promising freshmen into the mix. Neither of the returning backs have Gopher Nation super excited. They are both solid backs who do some things well but also neither of them have all conference or game changing ability. If we go through the season with these guys splitting the vast majority of the carries I expect our running game will be OK. If any freshman emerges I believe it will be Lamonte Edwards, but it just as easily could be Donnell Kirkwood or Devon Wright. There is some reason for hope and optimism with this group of freshman backs, but they are true freshmen and there is no telling how they will adjust to Big Ten football or whether they'll be physically ready to handle it.
FB - I believe Hoese is a very solid full back. He plows through the line in short yardage situations and his blocking has been adequate. It is impossible for me to venture a guess as to who would fill that role should Hoese get injured.
WR - This position has been a frustrating one for me and I think they escaped a lot of the offensive criticism last year when they should not have been given a free pass. There are some talented receivers on the roster but they all need to take some significant steps forward in 2010, particularly in the area of getting separation from defensive backs. But this is all for another post, today we are talking about depth charts. Da'Jon McKnight was the one guy who actually took advantage of Eric Decker's injury last year. After going the first eight games of the year without a receptions, McKnight caught 17 balls for 311 yards in the final 5 games after Decker was lost for the season. If I had to pick a #1 for the upcoming season it would be McKnight. The returner with the most catches and yards is Troy Stoudermire, who I really like. The kid has break-away ability but has yet to show that ability off. Once again I think the Gopher offense will try to get the ball in his hands but this is the year he needs to flash some of that speed and turn catches into touchdowns. Brandon Green will also get a lot of snaps, but he too needs to start performing better on the field. He runs clean routes but really needs to gain more separation to be a more open target. Hayo Carpenter is the poster child for not living up to expectations (realistic or otherwise). With a year in the program behind him, maybe he has a breakout senior season and adds a dynamic play-maker to this offense. The opportunity is there, someone needs to step up. Bryant Allen, Xavier Brandon and incoming freshman Marqueis Hill have a shot at also contributing.
TE - I think you'll see a lot of both tight ends listed. I won't claim to be a great TE mind but both are big targets and should be solid in both blocking and catching passes over the middle.
OL - and this is where it gets interesting. This group was awful last year and took a lot of deserved heat. They basically are all back and one would hope improved. Based on the spring game they did do a much better job in both the running and passing game, but a spring game isn't exactly a good barometer of how they'll fair against USC and Ohio State defensive fronts. You can use a pen for the right side starters. Matt Carufel was our best lineman a year ago, for whatever that's worth and he'll be the game 1 starter at RG. Jeff Wills is going to start at RT and the behemoth tackle looked a bit more agile during the spring game. The rest of the line, both starters and backups, are just educated guesses. As you know there were five incoming freshmen recruited for the OL. The one with the best chance of contributing as a true freshman would be Jimmy Gjere. But I for one hope they all redshirt and over the next few years develop into a great group of linemen. The 2010 line? Well that may be the biggest question mark of the year.
Thoughts? Comments? Is my depth chart way off?