Sept 8, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA: Minnesota Gophers White Speed Receiver A.J. Barker (82) runs in for a touchdown against the New Hampshire Wildcats at TCF Bank Stadium. The Gophers won 44-7. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE
The Minnesota Gophers didn't have to throw the ball much in Saturday's 44-7 win over New Hampshire, but the 14 times they did, sitting there in the stands, I couldn't help thinking "Who are all these white guys they're throwing to?!?" The Gophers have had some solid White Speed Receivers (not to be confused with White Speed Receiver) before like Logan Payne,
Jared Ellerson, and some dude named Eric Decker. But suddenly they seem flush with "WSR"s. What is this, 1950? It's like a "White Out at Wide Out!"
Having this many white guys in a receiving corps is just not something we're used to seeing on a Big Ten team, but there they were playing a lot of snaps and making some big catches on Saturday. Walk-on AJ Barker had a breakout game against UNLV (three catches for 101, which was three catches and 101 more yards than he had in his Gopher career), and he looks to be here to stay with two more catches and his first career TD. He also was back returning punts and did a fine job, including a 19 yard return in the first half. JUCO transfer Isaac Fruechte (JDMill has taken to calling him the Caledonia Clipper. Or as he said in a text after Fruechte caught a 1st half TD pass "THE CALDEDONIA CLIPPER!!!!!!") caught two passes for 59 yards, including the first TD of the game, and played a lot as an outside receiver. And where did Derrick Engel come from? Another walk-on, he has just one catch in each game but both have gone for big gains, including a 22 yard catch against UNH.
As strange as it was to see, the "White Out at Wide Out" is not likely to last. Thankfully, the injury to true freshman Andre McDonald that kept him out of the UNH game isn't serious and he should be ready to go against Western Michigan. My buddy Joe and I were wondering why play after play McDonald stood on the sidelines in full pads but wasn't going into the game, and I was nervous he had done something in practice to upset the coaches. Turns out it was just an infection from a turf burn, and they kept him out as a precaution. At 6'2 and over 200 pounds McDonald may be young but he's going to have a real opportunity to be a difference maker, and I'm excited for his chance beginning this weekend.
Slot receiver Marcus Jones is one of the most explosive players in Maroon and Gold but it looks like the coaches were keeping him under wraps against UNH, as he had just one catch for 14 yards and 3 carries for 20. Ditto dynamic freshman KJ Maye, who had four carries for 11 yards and no catches. Expect both to be a big part of the offense the rest of the season.
The puzzlers to me are about three guys who I expected to see more from: senior Brandon Green, junior Malcolm Moulton, and sophomore Devin Crawford-Tufts. Green is now two years removed from major knee surgery, and was thought to be the leader for a very young group of receivers heading into the season. Through two weeks he doesn't have a catch, and he barely played against UNH. Moulton was the team's fourth leading receiver from a year ago, yet has been a healthy scratch in both games thus far. At the very first public practice in August he wasn't running with the 1's or 2's and I was surprised then, but obviously nothing positive has changed for him.
Crawford-Tufts remains a great potential talent, and with the playing time available, I was surprised at how little he played in the first half. He finished with just one catch for nine yards after catching four passes for 49 in the win over Vegas. He has good size and speed and the potential- and playing time- is there for a breakout year, so we'll see what kind of impact he can make against WMU and in the coming weeks.