I ran a similar story sometime last spring focusing on the current Gopher roster breaking it down by position and class. This is generally interesting when looking at the current recruiting class and guesstimating where the coaching staff will be focusing their recruiting efforts.
Below is the roster matrix, put together with the best information I had available. Mind you, this table isn't perfect but it should be rather close. A few things worth noting...
- Below is just a list of scholarship players. We have other guys who are on the roster to help fill in certain positions but they do not have a scholarship and that I thought was a pretty clear distinction.
- I am not 100% certain on who actually has a scholarship. Most of the roster is pretty easy. MarQueis Gray has a scholarship, Judd Paffrath does not. But guys like Ed Cotton and A.J. Barker are more difficult to ascertain (for the record I assumed Cotton will be a scholarship player next year as our only fullback and Barker will not be).
- Some positions are less clear than others. The official Gophersports.com roster lists nearly all of our offensive linemen as OL. That makes it kind of hard to figure out who is a guard, who is a center and who is a tackle. So I had to make some assumptions. Same can be said for linebackers, defensive line and defensive backs. This is pretty easy for upperclassmen but those who redshirted in 2010 are much harder to judge, and it will change. Of the 11 verbals and redshirt freshmen linemen several will be interior linemen but guessing who will be a guard and who will be a center is virtually impossible right now.
- The current set of verbal commitments (as of 12.20.10) is going to change. Kill will very likely add a handful of players to the roster and a few of the verbals will likely choose to go elsewhere. But as of today this is the best I can do.
Ultimately this should be a fairly solid list.
So the next step is trying to figure out what we can learn from this?
1 - We have some areas of need. We were a 3-9 team in 2010 who lost to South Dakota, so this is a big "DUH" right? But looking at this roster matrix I think is helpful.
Tight End jumps out at me on the offense, along with WR. We have two seniors anchoring the tight ends this year. Eric Lair had a really nice junior season and he could be one of the top tight ends in the Big Ten this coming fall. Tiree Eure is a big boy who will play this year a lot. But after that we have an incoming true freshman. That is a problem. We have a couple sophomore TEs who are not on scholarship, but this position is a pretty significant position of need.
We have a handful of younger receivers but clearly our best two receivers are seniors and in 2012 we'll be relying on guys like Victor Keise and Logan Hutton. We need an injection of talent at this position (JUCO?). MarQueis Gray will have the luxury of Da'Jon McKnight and Brandon Green this fall but I don't think it is ideal to head into his senior season with Keise and Hutton, or a couple freshmen as his primary receivers.
Defensively we could use some help at defensive tackle. We are losing Jewhan Edwards and Brandon Kirksey at tackle this year and despite having five guys returning, those two are going to be really hard to replace and we might be very weak on the interior line in 2012.
The secondary could always use more guys. Were Michael Carter performing near expectations, I would not be nearly as concerned with our corners but he has not performed well in two years and until he does this will make me nervous. And safety isn't much better. There is a chance that James Manuel and Kenny Watkins will be groomed into very good safeties. And there is a chance that Brock Vereen, Tyrone Bouie and maybe Marcus Jones will all be talented corners. But a strong secondary is so vital and until I start seeing better production out of these guys, this will always be a position of need.
2 - The junior class is very light. And it took a hit with the loss of Bryant Allen.
Only nine scholarship juniors next year is troubling. Having a strong group of upper-classmen is vital to sustained success. We have a large group of seniors, especially on offense. And we have a lot of young guys who could all grow into very good players. But the 2012 senior class will be light. Expect this class to be supplemented by a few JUCOs.
MarQueis Gray is likely the most talented player on the roster and without a doubt he is the best player in this junior class. But during his senior season he'll be relying on a lot of younger guys to help make his offense go.
3 - We have some areas of strength.
Offensive line has a number of young and talented individuals. 11 freshmen and incoming verbals are in the plans. That should be enough to field a good Big Ten offensive line. In 2013 we'll have Ed Olson anchoring LT, either Jimmy Gjere or Brooks Michel at RT, and then your pick from eight other guys to fill in the remaining three spots. One would think that over spring 2011, fall 2011 and spring of 2012 we'll be able to groom a very nice offensive line that will be a strength of this team in 2012 and 2013.
Running back could also be a strong position as we go into the future. We have 2 solid seniors who will start this coming fall. But we then have three other backs who will have a year to get some carries before they are put into the spotlight of carrying the rushing load. We've seen Donnell Kirkwood have some success and there is plenty of time to see if Lamonte Edwards is talented enough to be a featured back. This group should be OK. We may not have any Heisman candidates in this group but it should be pretty solid.
I kind of like our linebacker depth as well. This coming fall we'll return our 2010 starters. Then in spite of losing Mike Rallis and Gary Tinsley we'll still return Brendan Beal, Keanon Cooper and Spencer Reeves in 2011. That gives us a lot of time to develop the likes of Dwayne Mitchell, Willie Tatum, Brent Singleton, Peter Westerhaus, Quinn Bauducco and others without having to throw them into the fire too soon (like our secondary).
I also like our defensive ends. This is still based on potential more than production. But we played a lot of young guys this past fall and most of them will be around for the next three years. Somebody needs take some steps forward in the next year to make this unit something feared or at least a position of strength but the young talent is there. This is where we hope the Kill staff is able to coach guys into football players.