By: Jordan Kruger | KFAN.com
Week 1 Gopher Preview:
(8/28) Tomorrow night the MN Golden Gophers (6-7) kickoff the 2013 season at home against the UNLV Rebels (2-11). The Gophers are coming off of a disappointing season, but look to set the tone in Jerry Kill’s third year. The Rebels, are also coming off of a poor season, but they have their leaders in passing, rushing, and receiving yards returning this year. Minnesota has a similar situation only losing walk-on wide out, AJ Barker. The Gophers are bringing back a lot of young players, starting 11 true freshmen in 2012-2013.
There have been many questions this off-season about the Gopher’s QB position battle. The sophomore, Phillip Nelson, will return as the starter for the Gophers. Coach Kill announced last week that he had made a decision regarding his quarterback competition. Nelson starting is no surprise to most Gopher fans. Nelson was talking to reporters last week about how the transition this season will be much easier. Last year Nelson was getting used to what Big Ten football was like, he will be more prepared on what to expect. This was also a main topic Coach Kill emphasized with Nelson gaining experience each day. The Gophers offense has changed a great deal from last season. This year, Philip Nelson will be under center instead of the shotgun that was seen last year. I anticipate great success for the Gophers offense if Nelson throws under 22 passing attempts, establishing the run and taking the pressure off of Nelson in the pocket.
Defensively the Gophers will be led by senior end, Ra’Shede Hageman, who is projected to be a 2nd round draft pick. Hageman is the leader of what is suspected to be a strong defense for the Gophers this year. The secondary seems to be the strong point of the Gopher’s football team. Creating turnovers will be key for the Gophers if they want to have success in the Big Ten this year, and improve from a 6-7 year in 2012-2013.
This off-season has been a busy one for the Gophers. Minnesota lost WE Devin Crawford-Tuffs, leaving the team to focus on track and field. Tuffs was selected to the freshman all Big Ten team. Due to a team rules violation, LB Lemonte Edwards was asked to leave the team for an arrest dealing with a stolen iPhone. Also the Gophers lost OL Zach Mottla to a career ending leg injury, causing some young players to move into crucial roles on the O-line. Also sophomore WR, Andre McDonald, was excused from camp due to a violation of team rules.
The 2013 season marks Jerry Kill’s 3rd year as the head coach of the Golden Gophers. Really no excuse now for the Gophers, as Coach Kill will have all of his guys essentially playing, with most of the young players having Big Ten experience. Coach Kill and the Gophers need a signature Big Ten win this season, along with a strong nonconference performance to get people excited about what this team can do. The Gophers look to set the pace against UNLV for a five game home stand, which will make or break their season before a tough remaining Big Ten schedule.
Big Ten Games to Watch:
(8/31) Syracuse @ Penn St- This is an intriguing B1G Ten match-up in week 1. Syracuse and Penn St are both waiting to release information on their starting QB situation until kickoff. PSU is an interesting team coming off of an 8-4 season under Bill O’Brien. Many people consider them to be reestablished as a B1G Ten powerhouse. I think PSU could be a major contender in the Leaders division, potentially taking the Leaders title from OSU.