We are less than three weeks away from the Gopher's opening game at UNLV. We have one week of practice in the books, there are two more weeks of fall camp and then one week of prep for the Running Rebs. Week one of practices were open to the public and the week was capped by an intra-squad scrimmage.
I took part of my day to head over to TCF Bank Stadium to watch. Below are a handful of highlights/observations from the session followed by my best guess at what will be the week 1 depth chart.
- What a BEAUTIFUL morning/afternoon. I cannot wait for football season and games at TCF Bank Stadium!
- It looks as though one of the developing position battles will be at OLB. James Manuel appears to be pushing Keanon Cooper for that starting job. Most of the morning Manuel was running with Rallis and Reaves and most of what appeared to be the first team D. I would be shocked if Cooper isn't starting at UNLV and the staff moving Manuel up for this scrimmage might be a motivational move. At the very least Manuel's position changes appears to have been the right one.
- The offensive line had some issues today with false starts. Probably four false starts were called on the first team OL.
- MarQueis Gray got very animated and excited after an athletic play by Drew Goodger. Gray rolled out to his right looking for Marcus Jones who was well covered. He then checked down to Goodger who was coming across on a delayed drag. Goodger caught the ball, ran a few yards and was being closed on by Derrick Wells. But Goodger hurdled Wells and rambled for several more yards resulting in a 15+ yard gain. Gray then starts whooping, runs over to pat Goodger on the helmet and gets in Wells's face for whiffing on the tackle. I loved his excitement and his praise for Goodger, but I didn't appreciate the message he sent to Wells. It was over the top, imo.
- The two biggest plays of the day both occurred with Philip Nelson at quarterback. The first was a deep post to Isaac Fruechte who beat Martez Shabazz and Nelson hit him perfectly in stride for about a 65-yard touchdown.
- The other big play of the day was a 67-yard run by David Cobb who went off tackle right, made one guy miss and hit it outside for a huge gain. Cobb did not score but the run set up a Nelson to TD on a 12-yard flag pattern in the corner of the end zone. How many times do you think we'll have a Nelson to McDonald TD combo?
- Nelson, on those two drives, looked very good. It should also be noted that on a later drive he threw a really bad pass (both in the decision and the execution) that was picked by Briean Boddy (who was standing next to another defender who also had it picked).
- Early in the scrimmage the #2 offense, led by Max Shortell, had back to back fumbles that were recovered by the defense.
- Gray at times had a few very nice passes and at other times threw shaky balls that were not very accurate. The highlights include a 30-yard pass to Andre McDonald. Stoudermire jammed McDonald at the line and then I think released him for zone help behind him. But Gray hit McDonald in the numbers for a big gain. Gray also made a really nice pass down the sideline to AJ Barker for about a 42-yard gain. Again the coverage was provided by Stoudermire.
- On a later touchdown drive, Marcus Jones made two nice catches to extend the drive. One of his catches was a wobbly and short throw by Gray. Jones came back for the ball and ended up making the catch as he was diving back towards the line of scrimmage for 15-20 yard gain. The drive eventually was capped off by a very nice Kirkwood run where he broke a couple of weak tackle attempts. (NOTE: another site who was at the scrimmage reports that it was Jamel Harbison who made the diving catch. I thought it was Jones but either way, it was a nice catch).
- Defensively I thought Brendan Beal played well, mostly as the 2nd team MLB. He was aggressive, moved fast and made a couple of nice plays. Cedric Thompson had a pass breakup on a sideline pass from Shortell. And as the scrimmage got into the second half the defensive line really started putting pressure on the QBs and recorded probably four or five sacks.
- SPECIAL TEAMS: It looks like the kicker job is up for grabs between Jacob Wettstein and Chris Hawthorne. Both were 1-1 today with Hawthorne nailing one in the 45 yard range. Punting is still an issue. Dan Orseske shanked a punt that netted about 6 or 7 yards and I don't think he punted again. Peter Mortell boomed one that must have gone 60+ yards in the air, but he also had a shank or two. This is not a position that has been solved yet. Christian Eldred is the kid from Australia, his punts were very high with good length but he also had a couple of forgettable ones. I don't even know if he is eligible this year or not, but he is an interesting prospect.
- Devin Crawford-Tufts did not play in the scrimmage. His spot as a first team wideout was taken by Andre McDonald. I am certain that McDonald will be a regular this season. Harbison is probably good enough to play this year but if Jones is healthy, hopefully we can redshirt him.
- Jimmy Gjere was nowhere to be seen playing today. Did I miss something that he isn't healthy yet? I don't expect him to have the #1 RT job handed to him but unless he isn't cleared to go full-contact then I expected to at least see him get some reps today.
- Overall liked what I saw. I think our passing game is going to be much improved, especially if the OL cuts down on penalties and shores up their protection. I am still concerned with our pass defense. I really (REALLY) like our young receivers particularly Jones, McDonald and Harbison! I also really like our linebackers. Defensive and offensive lines are still a mystery to me.
My Best Guess at a Depth Chart
(after the jump)
|Pos.||First Team||Second Team|
|QB||#5 - MarQueis Gray||#11 - Max Shortell|
|RB||#20 - Donnell Kirkwood||#21 - James Gillum|
|WR||#1 - Brandon Green||#86 - Malcolm Moulton|
|WR-slot||#15 - Marcus Jones||#16 - Jamel Harbison|
|WR||#80 - Devin Crawford-Tufts||#12 - Andre McDonald|
|TE||#81 - John Rabe||#83 - Drew Goodger
|LT||#58 - Ed Olson||#74 - Marek Lenkiewicz|
|LG||#53 - Tommy Olson||#73 - Joe Bjorklund|
|C||#62 - Zach Mottla||#63 - Jon Christenson|
|RG||#52 - Zac Epping||#64 - Caleb Bak|
|RT||#65 - Josh Campion||#77 - Foster Bush|
|DE||#55 - Thieran Cockran||?? - Garin? Perry?|
|DT||#99 - Ra'Shede Hageman||#94 - Harold Legania|
|DT||#46 - Cameron Botticelli||#62 - Eric Jacques|
|DE||#98 - Michael Amaefula||#95 - DL Wilhite|
|OLB||#9 - Spencer Reeves||#32 - Lamonte Edwards|
|MLB||#26 - Mike Rallis||#1 - Brendan Beal
|OLB||#8 - James Manuel
||#4 - Keanon Cooper|
|CB||#2 - Troy Stoudermire||#22 -Jeremy Baltazar|
|CB||#23 - Michael Carter||#3 - Martez Shabaz|
|S||#13 - Derick Wells||#21 - Brock Vereen|
|S||#27 - Cedric Thompson||#6 - Grayson Levine|
Bring on the Running Rebels!