Continuing on with our countdown. You the readers voted on who you though were the the 10 most important players to the success of the 2018 Gopher football team. Based on your responses we released players 6 through 10 yesterday and here are the top 5.
In this set of five names, the first place name was never really in question, it will surprise no one who ranks atop this list. But 2, 3 and 4 were all very close to each other. Below are your top 5 most important Gophers for the upcoming season.
#5 - Carter Coughlin
Carter Coughlin is a leader on the field and last year you saw that he was turning into a very productive player. As he continues to gain strength, he’ll only get better. But it’s his athleticism that makes him so valuable and productive on the field. His 6.5 sacks ranked him 6th in the Big Ten last year, I expect that number will go up.
GN Take: I really think you see Coughlin take a big leap as a junior in terms of leadership on the field and production.
#4 - Tyler Johnson
Talk about having a breakout sophomore season. Tyler Johnson was a stud early and often last year. He showed that he’s the kind of receiver to go up and snag those 50/50 balls and be a reliable target for his quarterback. Johnson is the first Gopher receiver in a very long time who was able to get some separation on a regular basis and make himself an open target. His two-year numbers are better than half of the names on the Gophers top-10 receivers list and should be the number one target again this year.
GN Take: With the other talent at this position being so young, Johnson will be very important to helping whomever is under center and giving the passing game some life. And the offense some balance.
#3 - Tanner Morgan
The current favorite Gopher quarterback among fans after Morgan had a pretty good spring game. Morgan is the redshirt freshman and with his additional year in the program, he has a leg up on Vic Viramontes and Zack Annexstad. Will he be the week 1 starter? Quite possibly. But this team needs a quarterback to step up and take the reigns of the offense, this year and getting ready for the next.
GN Take: I know QB is the most important position on the field, but I’m of the opinion that with this team the overall success will be more dependent on others. If Morgan or another QB steps up to really lead this team and be reliable, then that’ll make a huge difference. But if we get mediocre and inconsistent play, well I’m kind of expecting that and we’ll get most wins from our defense and ground game.
#2 - Antoine Winfield Jr.
It was very tight among Johnson, Morgan and Winfield for the #2 spot. Winfield was having an outstanding season last year before going down with an injury and from that point on the defense just wasn’t the same. Part of a defensive core that is going to be make this defense fun to watch the next couple seasons.
GN Take: Arguably our most talented player on defense, but also a position where there would be significant drop off should he miss significant time again. Incredibly important.
#1 - Rodney Smith
Number 1 on the field and number 1 in our hearts. Smith already ranks in the top 10 among Gopher running backs in career yardage. Currently sitting 8th on the Gopher all-time list with a chance to move up into the top 3 assuming a healthy and productive senior year. For many reasons he is the team’s most important player but when your team does not have a quarterback on the roster who has taken a snap in a Gopher uniform, you better have a reliable running back.
GN Take: Yeah, without a proven quarterback and Shannon Brooks missing the entire season, Smith is critical to the success of the Gopher offense.