Spring football is in the air, and with our Spring Practice Primers the Eye On College Football Blog gets you up to speed on what to look for on campuses around the country this spring. Today we look at Minnesota.
Spring Practice Begins: Thursday, March 22
Spring Game: Saturday, April 21
Returning Starters: Six on offense, five on defense, both specialists
Three Things To Watch For:
1. A little RG3 in Marqueis Gray. Minnesota's coaching staff went down to Waco this offseason to spend time with the Baylor coaching staff in hopes of learning a few tricks about how to better utilize Marqueis Gray the same way Baylor did Robert Griffin. For the most part, Gray was the Minnesota offense last season, and the more ways the Gophers can find to utilize him with the ball in his hands, the better off the team will be. It'll be interesting to see what kind of twists the Gophers might have picked up down in Waco.
2. Playmakers on offense. Something Minnesota can really learn from Baylor and RG3? Surround your quarterback with playmakers. Minnesota goes into the spring without a featured running back, and without a go-to receiver now that Da'Jon McKnight is gone. Minnesota threw for 1,804 yards last season, and McKnight was on the receiving end of 760 (42%) of those yards. Brandon Green finished second on the team with only 190. So between Green, Malcolm Moulton and Devin Crawford-Tufts, a new leader has to emerge amongst the receiving corps.
In the backfield Donnell Kirkwood showed some flashes in spot duty last season, but 3.6 yards per carry won't cut it as a featured back in the Big Ten. Especially if he wants to hold off fellow backs James Gillum, David Cobb and Devon Wright.
3. Changes up the middle on defense. The Gophers lost both starting defensive tackles, their middle linebacker and a safety from the 2011 defense. Which means there are going to be new faces in the middle of the Minnesota defense, an area of importance anywhere, but especially in the Big Ten. Finding capable players at all these spots will be a priority this spring and into the summer, as will the search for a couple of pass-rushing defensive ends. There's work to be done on a defense that has only one true playmaker in cornerback
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