After Achieving a Bowl Game in 2012, Gophers Thinking B1G
When Minnesota won the Big-10 title in 1967, Gopher fans probably didn’t think they would go the next 45 years without a title. But they have. If Jerry Kill is going to lead Minnesota back to the glory years of 7 national titles, he’ll have to work a miracle. Minnesota, despite having plenty of talent within the Twin Cities and nearby, is a difficult place to recruit. Even their new football stadium hasn’t done much to help recruiting despite an upgrade in facilities. The University of Minnesota is a place where football coaches lives come to die. Just ask Glenn Mason and Tim Brewster.
But don’t tell that to Jerry Kill. He doesn’t seem to care. Kill is working his tail off trying to build this program. Maybe not to the level it once was (that’s probably not even possible), but back into the upper echelon of the Big-10. That’s going to be a difficult task, but with Coach Kill’s work ethic and dedication, you just never know. One thing is certain – no Big-10 coach will out-work Jerry Kill. They might have better resources than him, but they aren’t going to out-work him.
The Golden Gophers Offense
Improved Quarterback Play Essential to Gophers Success
With Minnesota’s offense struggling, Kill decided to pull the redshirt on freshman phenom Phillip Nelson. Nelson struggled most of the season as the team’s starting quarterback, but that’s to be expected. He did have a solid performance for the Gophers in the Meinecke Car Care Bowl. That’s a good way to end the season. If Minnesota is going to have any success on offense, Nelson will have to be a major part of it.
The Gophers do have a pair of talented running backs to help things out. Donnell Kirkwood rushed for just a shade under 1,000 yards in 2012 and Rodrick Williams is a serviceable backup. Kill has built a quality offensive line with depth, size, and skill. The Gophers rush offense will be difficult to stop. But there are major concerns with the passing game. Not only is Nelson an inexperienced quarterback, he doesn’t have any proven capable wide receivers to throw the ball to. No Gopher receivers caught so many as 20 passes last year. Minnesota had better hope someone steps up and surprises early in the season or it could be a long year.
The Golden Gophers Defense
Rush Defense Improvement a Focus in the Offseason
If you paid attention to Minnesota Golden Gophers football last year, you know how bad their rush defense was. In the offseason, they put an extra emphasis on stopping the run. If Minnesota is going to get back to a bowl game, they’ll need to improve upon the 197 yards they gave up on the ground in 2012. Giving up that many numbers just won’t cut it in the Big-10.
The strength of the Minnesota defense is pass defense. They have a quality secondary led by cornerback Derrick Wells (former safety) and Brock Vereen. Keeping their secondary healthy is crucial towards the Gophers success. But if they can’t improve their rush defense, they’ll struggle even with a decent secondary.
A Final Word on the 2013 Minnesota Golden Gophers
What’s considered a success at Minnesota isn’t considered success at places like Ohio State and Michigan. The Gophers are never expected to contend for a Big-10 title. But that doesn’t mean they can’t make it to a better bowl game than the Meinecke Car Care Bowl. Phillip Nelson’s play and improvement stopping the run are the 2 biggest keys for the Gophers in 2013. The pivotal game will be the Iowa game September 28. Minnesota’s non-conference features 4 cupcakes, so it’s conceivable they could enter the Iowa game with a 4-0 record. If the Gophers are going to get over the hump and make it to a better bowl game, starting out 5-0 will be crucial.