2010 Pre Season Predictions - How Smart Were We?

We are starting to organize for a blitzkrieg trickling of pre-season posts to get you ready for the 2011 Gopher Football season. I was about to start writing the first positional upgrade/downgrade post and as a primer I went back to look at last year's posts. As I was reading posts and headlines from a year ago I started wondering how accurate were we last year? And potentially can we learn anything from last year's mistakes? So here I go with looking back on last year's previews to point out where we were brilliant and where we were abysmally incorrect.

Quarterback
TDG
- Upgrade
The Fans - Upgrade 79%

The general consensus by me was that this had to be an upgrade because Weber's junior year was just so bad. Turns out statistically Weber had maybe his best year as a Gopher and improved quite a bit. As a JR, Weber completed 52% of his passes, threw 13 TDs and 15 INTs. His SR season was much better completing nearly 56% of his passes, throwing 20 TDs and just 9 INTs. It did not, however translate to wins and the Gophers started 1-9.

TDG Quote - "I'm not here to write an apologist essay on the virtues of Adam Weber, I'm not here to type out the list of excuses why he wasn't able to succeed last year and I'm not here to make any bold predictions for Weber's 2010 season. I think we all want to see more, specifically in the win column and in his ability to keep his offense on the field."

We saw more, but it did not translate to winning or keeping the defense off the field.

Commenter Quote - nothing worth pasting

Running Back
TDG - a clear Upgrade
The Fans - Upgrade 78%

The theme of 2009, "Pound The Rock" never really worked and the notion in 2010 that we were going to improve our dreadful ground game barely played out as anticipated. But we did improve. We improved our yards per game on the ground by almost 36 yards and we didn't finish last in the league. So it was an upgrade, just not a very substantial one.

TDG Quote - "Kirkwood is described as a compact, powerful back who should excel between the tackles. Also not the fastest back in the class but he is a Big Ten type running back who should able to get those tough yards and maybe able to deliver some blows on his own."

Since I can cherry-pick my best quotes I'll go with this one, turned out to be kind of accurate.

Minnesota_v_wisconsin_031_medium_medium

Commenter Quote - "I don't think it will be worse. But I don’t see it improving either." Rencito made the most accurate assessment of the unit, without a doubt.

Offensive Line
TDG - Upgrade
The Fans - Upgrade 85%

This really was an upgrade. The 2009 OL gave up 41 sacks, the 2010 version gave up just 17. That stat alone is worthy of "improved" status. The rushing game was slightly better, the sacks were way down and penalties were down. Penalties is a team stat but the offensive line is the unit that tends to get flagged more often than others. Big Jeff Wills was better as a senior and Matt Carufel had a solid senior year. This unit was better.

TDG Quote - "So that leaves us with a number of others returning. This is another case of good news / bad news. The offensive line allowed a lot of sacks in 2009, contributed to the worst rushing offense in the Big Ten and also got their numbers announced because of too many penalties. But all of that was last year, it is a new year and there is some optimism with this group in 2010 (some optimism)."

Commenter Quote - "For this position group because they DEFINITELY can not be worse. In fact, I will go so far to say that they MUST be good this year. I am certain they know that; the success of this team rides on the OLINE."- Muststart28

Wide Receiver
TDG - Downgrade
The Fans - Downgrade 60%

We all may have been wrong here. McKnight stepped up to become one of the best receivers in the conference, MarQueis Gray was an outstanding receiver for most of the year and Eric Lair established himself as one of the best receiving tight ends in the league as well. We lost a guy like Eric Decker but we scored more TDs through the air and passed for more yards per game. The receptions were spread out and all three of the guys mentioned above have a shot at catching balls on Sundays in the future. Maybe not an upgrade over a unit with Eric Decker but also not a downgrade.

TDG Quote - "He is big, he is fast and he has steadily improved throughout his career. If anyone is going to step up and be the go-to receiver McKnight is capable of doing it."

Commenter Quote - "I think that the emphasis on the O-line, combined with any sort of diversification of the WR/TE/RB pass-play calling (beyond GET IT TO DECKER AND PRAY) should lead to a statistical upgrade for the WRs this year. Yes, maybe crazy. It’s the Ewing Theory in Minnesota." - JG2112 nailed it!

So if every position on the offense was an upgrade, why did we suck so bad last year? Well, the offense was really bad in 2009 and just a little bit better in 2010. So we upgraded at most positions but not enough to make a significant difference.

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Defensive Tackles
TDG - Downgrade
The Fans - Upgrade 42%

Eric Small and Garrett Brown's graduation significantly hurt our depth at DT from 2009 to 2010. Jewhan Edwards and Brandon Kirksey were solid but the overall production and more specifically the depth was down a little. Anthony Jacobs also played plenty of interior snaps and was more productive than the two assumed starters. This was fairly neutral with maybe a slight downgrade in 2010.

TDG Quote - "Assuming good health they will start all 13 games (yes I said 13) and should each have about 30 tackles with a few sacks. I think those are baseline numbers."

Edwards recorded 29 tackles, 3 sacks while Kirksey had 28 tackles and zero sacks.

Commenter Quote - "Kirksey and Edwards are much better DTs than Small and Brown. They were arguably better last year as only sophomores. As Juniors and now starters I totally expect great things from them. Throw in giant Ferguson who enrolled early and has all ready practiced with the team and Jacobs who can play any position on the line and the Gophers are fine with their 2 deep at the DT position. The only position that scares me is CB. At DT we will be better then last year." -

Defensive End
TDG - I didn't indicate my position but I probably was leaning towards upgrade
The Fans - Upgrade 80%

We were wrong! The 2009 group of ends was not very good and we all bought into the hype of the young ends in 2010. But they failed to reproduce even the modest numbers of the 2009 crew. D.L. Wilhite and Kendal Gregory-McGhee each had 1 sack and those two sacks were the total for defensive ends in 2010. Overall the Gopher defense recorded 9 sacks for the season, down from the 22 they had in 2009. This unit did very little in 2010, can you say upgrade for 2011? :)

TDG Quote - "The 2010 group you see above are all young. Jacobs is a junior, Wilhite is a sophomore and the rest obviously will be redshirt freshmen. Even with their lack of experience I think they will outperform the 2009 group of ends. The entire group in 2009 totaled 8 sacks, we are returning 5 of those and I'm certain this group will hit double-digits this year. "

WRONG.

Commenter Quote - "We are really that bullish on the D-line? Are these new players really that much better talent-wise than the upperclassmen who have left? I just don’t see it. Of course, Brewster praises everyone for being more athletic, but I don’t really trust his candor when it comes to evaluating his own team. He seems to think everyone is great." - Rencito if right again.

Linebackers
TDG - Downgrade
The Fans - Neural 36%

This was the best unit on the defense last year, maybe the team. But I still believe it was a downgrade from what may have been the 2009 linebacker corp which may have been the best group we have seen in Gopher uniforms. I have the utmost respect for Gary Tinsley, Keanon Cooper and Mike Rallis. And I am very excited about this crew plus Brendan Beal in 2011. They recorded 195 tackles, 20 TFLs and four interceptions. But they were not Lee Campbell, Nate Triplett and Simoni Lawrence who racked up 309 tackles, 24.5 TFLs and four interceptions. As a defensive unit the 2009 Gophers gave up 40 fewer yards on the ground. Not entirely because of the linebackers but they played an awfully big part in it. This isn't a knock on the 2010 and 2011 starters, they are a fine crew, but the 2009 Gopher linebackers were slightly better.

TDG Quote - "Their ability isn't what is primarily in question. The real questions are about how consistent and disciplined will they be over the course of the 13 game season. How quickly will they be able to read a play and get to the ball? How disciplined will they be to stay within their responsibilities and not get burned with misdirection and play-fakes. Will they be able to separate themselves from Big Ten blockers and make the tackle even when blocked. The 2009 corp was very disciplined make the plays they were supposed to make. We have no idea if the 2010 corp will be as disciplined or as productive. "

Commenter Quote - "1) size (I know there has been some debate over the weight accuracies) 2) discipline—do these guys have the self-discipline to play their roles?? Yes speed kills, but only if used with the confines of the team. 3) leadership—-Campbell was a coach on the field— both X’s and O’s and emotionally. If I had a choice between last year’s LB corps over the potential of this year’s group, I would take the known commodity." - Texas Gopher

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Cornerbacks
TDG - Downgrade
The Fans - Neutral 38%

Interesting that we actually gave up fewer yards through the air in 2010 than we did in 2009. But we gave up more touchdowns through the air and overall the defense gave up 10 more points per game. The lower passing yards may have been more a function of the run defense being so bad that teams didn't need to pass. The corners were a problem all year long and eventually a receiver was moved to defense mid-year to try and stop the bleeding. Stoudermire certainly helped (and I'm very excited about him in 2011) but the starters were different from week to week and nobody wanted to step up and take the position by the horns.

TDG Quote - "Overall, I would once again vote that this group is a downgrade. I know we have a number of young guys who are capable of stepping up and making this group stronger, but I'm not going to let pre-season optimism get in the way of what is likely going to be a thin, inexperienced 2010 set of corners. Carter is one of my picks to have a breakout year and he has all-Big Ten potential. I have very few concerns about him, but he can't do it alone."

LOL - I should have concerns about Carter, this year I'm very concerned.

Commenter Quote - "The best we can hope for is that our defensive line will be able to get some pressure this year to help out, otherwise it could be a very long year. As a season ticket holder, I am hoping for only a slight downgrade, but this position really scares me." - Narby

Safeties
TDG - vote was pending, I probably would have said upgrade
The Fans - Upgrade 51%

The answer is downgrade. Royston never played a snap, Theret missed a couple games and the freshman played like freshmen. Christyn Lewis was terrible

TDG Quote - "So this group is hard to figure out. Assuming Royston is able to come back at the same level he was a year ago and Theret's pending suspension is light then this has to be an upgrade doesn't it?"

The entire secondary was bad and the safeties did very little to help make it not so.

Commenter Quote - "Frankly, I would not be surprized if Watkins never surrenders the starting SS spot until he graduates. Additionally, the true Frosh Safety James Manuel may well push for PT in this group as well. He came in with a Big Ten body and upperclassman type strength. The seperated orientation system impremented this fall for the Frosh should assist him in the mental aspect of grasping what the DCoordinators are trying to accomplish. THIS IS A POSITION OF STRENGTH!" - muststart28

There you have it. Most of the offense was a slight upgrade while the defense was a downgrade. The net result was a 3 win season, a coaching staff change and very low expectations heading into 2011. At least we beat Iowa. Look for the 2011 upgrade/downgrade posts to be hitting your monitors in the coming days/weeks.

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