The pundits are nearly universal in their assertion that the Gophers are going to be a horrible football team this fall. Predictions of 2 or 3 win seasons, with one or even no wins in conference, are all over the internet.
Right or wrong, those of us who count ourselves as fans of this squad have a more optimistic view. Many have seen the Gophers practice or scrimmage and have had first hand views of the talent that this Gopher team has. Many feel that despite the tough schedule the Gophers have and the list of things that are against the Gophers that this team has a different feel with a truly "team" attitude.
I am certainly among those who are optimistic that the Gophers will at least pull out a .500 season and head to another bowl game. But there are absolutely some things to be nervous about as we look forward the Gophers kicking things off in Murfreesboro on September 2nd.
Here are a couple of things that I'm a bit nervous about as we head toward the season and what questions I think need to be answered.
Adam Weber's accuracy
Enough people are saying that Adam Weber's confidence is back, but I haven't heard much talk about his accuracy. One of Weber's big issues last season was inaccurate passes to even wide open receivers. Often hitting WR's high over the middle, putting them in danger of injury, or throwing to the wrong shoulder of a running back in the flat, there were plenty of examples of Weber's poor accuracy last season. The fact is that Weber's poor passes often limited how effective his receivers could be after the catch.
With his increased confidence, will Adam Weber's accuracy as a passer improve?
The Daily Gopher has learned that Simmons and Sherels are gone. In their place as starters at the CB position will likely be Michael Carter and Ryan Collado. Quite a pair these two: Carter the ultra-talented CB who the Gophers stole from West Virginia with just one year of experience, Collado the ultra-experienced CB who has been very good in run defense over the years but maddeningly inconsistent in pass defense.
We know Carter has the talent, but being in only his second season, is he ready to be an every game starter and the #1 CB on the Gopher squad?
Has Collado grown enough as a pass defender to be an every-down CB?
That was a fine, fine LB group last season. The talent of Simoni Lawrence, Nate Tripplet and Lee Campbell was a boost to the Gopher defense... but so was their experience. They were well versed in the pace and physicality of Big Ten play and worked well as a unit.
There's reason for optimism as we've heard nothing but good things about Mike Rallis at strong-side linebacker, but what do we have outside of Mike Rallis? Questions.
We know the trio of Gary Tinsley, Spencer Reeves and Keanon Coooper is talented, but will they be ready to step up to cover the middle and the weak-side?
Will a true starting group of linebackers emerge?
Can this group gel the way that the previous squad of LB's did as a unit?
Plenty has been made of the poor offensive line play over the last couple of years, and that the O-line will be manned by players with a lot of experience this season, which means things should be much better.
But the actual running backs haven't been discussed often as part of the problem in the running game in the past. In my mind, offensive line experience aside, there are plenty of questions at running back.
Will the burst of speed and toughness that we saw out of Duane Bennett in the first few games of 2008 be back now that he should be fully recovered from injury?
Is DeLeon Eskridge a suitable Big Ten running back?
Is the early steam on Donnell Kirkwood legit? Have we finally found a back that can actually "pound the rock"?