The Spring Game is here!! Last chance for some Gopher Football before August. As practices have wrapped up and the Spring Game is played tomorrow, here are a few questions heading into the game. I don't actually expect that any of these questions will be answered tomorrow, but hopefully we see a little something that will gives us all a bit more confidence heading into Fall Camp...where the questions will actually be answered.
I do think that there are some questions that really cannot be answered till Fall Camp (quarterback play for example) and some that can't be answered till we get into games (corner backs, till they start going up against better receivers). But even if the Spring Game is a little meaningless (see Berkley Edwards past performances), there are things we can glean.
1 - Who Steps Up at Wide Receiver?
KJ Maye really had a very nice senior season and stepped into the role of possession receiver very nicely. His improvement and production were incredibly valuable, and will be missed. So who steps up? It appears as though the starters are going to be Drew Wolitarsky, Eric Carter and Rashad Still with the likes of Melvin Holland Jr and Isaiah Gentry battling for snaps as well.
If I had to decide now I would say that Wolitarsky is the guy who leads the receivers in receptions. He'll be the senior who sees things click and becomes a favorite target of Leidner's when he needs it. Rashad Still, he will be your play-maker. He had a really nice freshman season and after an offseason to better grasp his position and add some strength, he could be a dangerous play-maker in this Gopher offense. Will be interesting to see how the younger guys have matured over the offseason.
2 - Who Plays Along Offensive Line and Where?
Lots of questions here but really I'm curious who starts and where. I'll start with what I think we know. I would say that there are probably three spots along the line that we are pretty sure of the starters. Alex Mayes at LG, Tyler Moore at C and Jonah Pirsig is a lock at RT. I'm excited to see Moore in his sophomore season and I think he is going to be a real leader on this line, maybe not this year but eventually. Pirsig is going to be an anchor on the right side unless situations dictate that he has to move over to the left.
The remaining questions are who starts at LT (kind of a big deal) and who starts at RG. One of the JUCO transfers is certain to man the RG spot and the other will compete with Chad Fahning and Nick Connely. For now I anticipate that Vincent Calhoun will start at RG and Garrison Wright will be the man at LT. But stay tuned and this is one area of focus for tomorrow's game.
3 - Back-up Quarterback
Not really a question but just interested in watching the backups play.
Mitch Leidner is your starter and he will be for 13 games next season. Can we all just agree that this is going to happen (barring injury)? Please? Cause I really don't want a third year of Mitch struggles, everybody wants the back-up, families break up and blogs are split as people fight about who is "right." Can we please just accept this as a fact, right now? I don't care how good Demry Croft or Seth Green looks tomorrow, they are fighting for the back-up role.
Both of these young quarterbacks are intriguing athletes. It will be fun to see how Croft has matured and grown. With Leidner injured all Spring, I'm sure this has been a great opportunity for him to get rep after rep of leading the team and playing with the 1s. You will see Connor Rhoda getting plenty of action tomorrow as well.
It should also be intriguing to watch Seth Green and get a glimpse into his raw talent as a true freshman. If we are lucky he is going to be able to redshirt and learn things before being thrust into action because one guy ahead of him struggles.
4 - Defensive Line Depth and Play-Makers
Who is going to be part of the rotation and is this going to turn into a defensive strength? Defensive Tackle was wiped by injuries for much of last season but most return with JUCO, Merrick Jackson added to potentially make this an area of strength for the middle of Jay Sawvel's defense. Having Anderw Stetler, Yoshoub Timms and Gary Moore backing up Jackson and Steven Richardson should give this unit plenty of talented bodies to throw out there.
End is a little thinner and has opportunities for someone to step up. I'll be curious to see how Jerry Gibson has transitioned to DE and maybe he'll be able to make an impact.
5 - Offensive Coordinator Jay Johnson's Offense
I know that tomorrow will be rather vanilla and players are still learning the offense, but I'm anxious to see what kind of a game he will call. We probably won't learn much but it is better than nothing right?
More than anything it will be fun to watch some Gopher Football on the field once again. We are months from real football, but I'm excited to see this team and very excited for the season.
I am very comfortable with most of our defense, I love our running backs and am thrilled we have a solid, senior quarterback leading us. If the offensive line comes together, some receivers step up and we get some play-makers along the defensive line; this team may be kinda good.