2013 Minnesota football's 10 things to know: Turns and talent

USA TODAY Sports

The Year 3 Turn was very good to Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill at previous stops. But with a Gopher squad built to tread water and lacking in star power, Kill has his work cut out for him in 2013. For more Minnesota, visit The Daily Gopher.

Confused? Check out the glossary here.

1. Chicken thighs and margin for error

It's something every college football fan, especially a rube following a program down on it's recent luck, knows of and points to: The Year 3/4 Turn.

You see, years 3 and 4 of a head coach's tenure are generally when fruits of their labor arrive in the win/loss column. All the time recruiting, developing and changing a culture builds towards this moment, where coaches finally get the chance to field their vision for the program with players and schemes more fitting of their strengths versus the imbalances created by transitory seasons.

By year 3 or 4, coaches have most of the pieces in place. Then, and only then, do you see "The Turn."

That's from a lovely Daily Gopher piece about the Minnesota program heading into Jerry Kill's third year. Sometimes it takes a little longer than three years to peak, and sometimes, while you are dealing with the talent you inherited in the first year or two, you stumble across something useful and/or innovative, and things turn more quickly. But entering Year 3, the Kill culture has begun to take hold in Minnesota. Or, at least, it better have.

As the piece references, Jerry Kill has tended to, well, kill in his third year on the job, especially in his most recent positions at Southern Illinois and Northern Illinois. The man can coach. But the MAC and Gateway conferences have much more of an even playing field than the Big Ten. Here are the last five Minnesota coaches (not including Lou Holtz, who bailed after two seasons), their records in years 3-4, and their total records for the rest of their time in Minnesota:

  • Tim Brewster (2007-10): 7-13 in years 3-4, done midway through fourth year
  • Glen Mason (1997-06): 14-10 in years 3-4, 56-42 after first two years
  • Jim Wacker (1992-96): 6-16 in years 3-4, 10-23 after first two years
  • John Gutekunst (1986-91): 8-12-2 in years 3-4, 16-26-2 after first two years
  • Joe Salem (1979-83): 9-13 in years 3-4, 10-23 after first two years

Minnesota is a hard job. It's not impossible, but it's difficult. The Big Ten money is good, but the money is good for every Big Ten school. The facilities have been upgraded, but most Big Ten facilities have been upgraded lately (and in today's arms race, they'll all be upgraded again soon). The natural recruiting draw is not as strong as that of many in the conference. If you can win at Wisconsin or Iowa, you can win at Minnesota, but the Gophers have either not done a good job of making hires or not done a good job of supporting the hires they have made. And aside from a solid run of success from Mason (seven bowls in eight seasons and, yes, Glen Mason Territory), the Minnesota program has been running in place, behind most of the rest of the league, for 50 years.

(Wow, that paragraph sounded more depressing than I intended.)

In preparing for this preview, I was also reminded of another piece I read recently. Here's The Ralphie Report talking about Colorado spending cuts. Naturally, I'd have probably loved the food analogy even if it didn't work. But this one works.

The best way to grill chicken is to toss some bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs on your grill with minimal seasoning. You pay little to no attention to them, wait until they get to temperature, toss them on the plate, and accept your friends' congratulations for cooking up the best chicken your guests have ever had. More delicate (worse) cooks buy up the boneless skinless chicked breasts, which have to be deeply marinated, carefully tended, and monitored closely lest they turn into inedible lumps of chicken based charcoal. For this analogy to work, we are the boneless, skinless breasts, and USC is the bone in, skin on thighs.

They literally have to do nothing to continue to be delicious, juicy, and desirable; just toss that shit on the grill, leave it alone, and you'll continue to be the most delicious, desirable program on the block. On the other hand, we're boneless skinless chicken breasts. Everything we do has to be managed carefully, spent on excessively, and even then we generally will receive lesser returns.

In the Big Ten, Minnesota is a chicken breast. And the grill operator has not been up to snuff. Still, the Gophers did reach a bowl in Kill's second season, albeit with a team that was not markedly better than any of Minnesota's last five. You can find momentum if you're spinning for it, but recruiting has in no way picked up, and though experience is solid throughout, the Gophers head into 2013 without 2012's best offensive player and probably three of its four or five best defensive players. Has culture taken hold enough to hold off disadvantages in athleticism, recent history, et cetera?

2. How low is too low (for recruiting rankings)?

There are plenty of examples of coaches taking two- and three-star talent and coaxing three- and four-star production out of it through the years. I'm not just talking about Boise State and TCU, either. Virginia Tech has been overachieving compared to its recruiting rankings for a couple of decades, as have teams like Wisconsin, Missouri, Texas Tech (under Mike Leach), and even Arkansas (under Bobby Petrino). You don't have much margin for error, but you can make bowls and win games with mediocre recruiting rankings if your talent identification and development skills are high enough.

That said ... damn, have Minnesota's recruiting rankings been low. The Gophers' two-year ranking of 58th ranks just ahead of Kansas, Illinois, and Iowa State and behind Northwestern, Houston, Washington State, Indiana, and other schools not known for recruiting resources or prowess.

Of course, Kansas State is 61st. So there's that. All Jerry Kill has to do is coach at a Bill Snyderian level, and Minnesota can win a lot of games, I guess. I'm in no way a "recruiting rankings are everything" guy, but there is a bar you have to clear, and I don't think Kill has cleared it yet.

2012 Schedule & Results

Record: 6-7 | Adj. Record: 5-8 | Final F/+ Rk: 79
Date Opponent Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L
30-Aug at UNLV 30-27 W 27.1 - 17.3 W
8-Sep New Hampshire 44-7 W 25.8 - 19.3 W
15-Sep Western Michigan 28-23 W 30.2 - 22.8 W
22-Sep Syracuse 17-10 W 23.6 - 22.6 W
29-Sep at Iowa 13-31 L 20.6 - 36.6 L
13-Oct Northwestern 13-21 L 21.6 - 26.9 L
20-Oct at Wisconsin 13-38 L 25.8 - 35.1 L
27-Oct Purdue 44-28 W 38.6 - 28.2 W
3-Nov Michigan 13-35 L 22.9 - 33.0 L
10-Nov at Illinois 17-3 W 23.6 - 30.7 L
17-Nov at Nebraska 14-38 L 14.6 - 24.4 L
24-Nov Michigan State 10-26 L 3.3 - 36.5 L
28-Dec vs. Texas Tech 31-34 L 28.0 - 31.3 L
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
Points Per Game 22.1 96 24.7 46
Adj. Points Per Game 23.5 103 28.1 63

3. It actually started out pretty well

Minnesota no doubt took advantage of a cakey early schedule to reach six wins. In fact, when the bowl pairings were announced, I was incredibly confused by Minnesota's inclusion in the Meineke Car Care Bowl because in my head, the Gophers were 4-8.

On paper, however, despite tight wins over bad UNLV and Western Michigan teams, Minnesota did play reasonably well early on. The Gophers got some unlucky breaks against both the Rebels and Broncos but held on, and they did beat a Syracuse team that was about to improve rather significantly.

And then they played well just one to two more times the rest of the year.

Adj. Points Per Game (first 6 games): Minnesota 24.8, Opponent 24.3 (plus-0.5)
Adj. Points Per Game (last 7 games): Opponent 31.3, Minnesota 22.4 (minus-8.9)

The win over Purdue was decisive, and the bowl performance was perfectly solid, but aside from those two games, Minnesota's offense was far below average after mid-September (we'll get into why below), and the defense regressed by about a touchdown as well. When you've got a young team, and you're in Year 2 of a new regime, you'd like to see in-season growth, and thanks at least in part to injuries, Minnesota didn't have that.

Offense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 111 83 78 85
RUSHING 68 83 90 74
PASSING 109 71 65 75
Standard Downs 87 91 87
Passing Downs 79 61 86
Redzone 72 74 70
Q1 Rk 86 1st Down Rk 109
Q2 Rk 58 2nd Down Rk 51
Q3 Rk 85 3rd Down Rk 78
Q4 Rk 103

4. Not particularly good at anything

There are 25 advanced rankings listed above; Minnesota's offense was between 58th and 91st in 22 of them, higher (barely) in one, and lower in two. The Gophers were average to poor across the board, though there are some pretty easy explanations for that. Quarterback MarQueis Gray couldn't stay healthy, the offense fell into a slump with Max Shortell, and against Wisconsin, Kill pulled the redshirt off of star freshman Philip Nelson to replace Shortell. At that point, you're basically sacrificing present-tense results for the future tense.

Adj. Points Per Game (with Gray): 26.3
Adj. Points Per Game (with Shortell): 22.0
Adj. Points Per Game (with Nelson): 22.4

Nelson was awesome versus Purdue (15-for-22, 246 yards, three touchdowns) and distinctly mediocre (46 percent completion rate) the rest of the way, but he was a freshman. That happens. Meanwhile, No. 1 receiver A.J. Barker caught five passes for 135 yards and two scores versus Purdue, then missed the rest of the season with an ankle injury and, well, other issues.

In theory, Minnesota wanted to be a run-first offense, first to maximize Gray's run-pass skill set, then to protect the younger, less effective quarterbacks. The main problem with that was that the Gophers were worse at running than passing. The line, shuffled often, was average, and the running backs were below average. That the line returns eight players with starting experience (100 career starts) is probably a good thing. But some new blood at running back wouldn't be bad at all. There was just no explosiveness whatsoever at the position.

Wow, this is a much more negative preview than I was intending. Let's just move on.

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2013 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards Comp
Rate
TD INT Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Philip Nelson 6'2, 215 So. *** (5.7) 75 152 873 49.3% 8 8 7 4.4% 5.1
Max Shortell


65 116 853 56.0% 6 5 9 7.2% 6.2
MarQueis Gray


34 59 472 57.6% 5 2 5 7.8% 6.9
Mitch Leidner 6'4, 233 RSFr. ** (5.4)






Chris Streveler 6'2, 209 Fr. *** (5.5)






5. Nelson's job, for better or worse

Gray ran out of eligibility, and Shortell, seeing the writing on the wall, transferred to Jacksonville State. Unless Kill ends up pressing the reset button again with a freshman or redshirt freshman (which he has done in each of his two seasons), the quarterback job is Nelson's for the foreseeable future. Now he just needs to find some receivers.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
TD Adj.
POE
Donnell Kirkwood RB 5'10, 223 Jr. *** (5.6) 218 925 4.2 3.1 6 -12.5
MarQueis Gray QB 67 420 6.3 5.6 5 +9.1
Philip Nelson QB 6'2, 215 So. *** (5.7) 62 243 3.9 3.6 0 -5.5
Rodrick Williams, Jr. RB 5'11, 235 So. *** (5.5) 57 261 4.6 2.8 2 -2.2
James Gillum RB 5'11, 214 Sr. *** (5.5) 27 73 2.7 2.5 1 -5.7
Max Shortell QB 25 121 4.8 3.0 0 +0.2
K.J. Maye WR-Z 5'10, 197 So. *** (5.5) 17 57 3.4 1.1 0 -2.8
Marcus Jones WR 5'8, 166 Jr. ** (5.4) 7 34 4.9 2.3 0 -0.4
Berkley Edwards RB 5'9, 185 Fr. *** (5.7)





Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Yds/
Target
Target
Rate
%SD Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
A.J. Barker WR-X 46 30 577 65.2% 12.5 15.0% 50.0% 12.5 79.7
Isaac Fruechte WR-Z 6'3, 204 Jr. ** (5.4) 42 19 256 45.2% 6.1 13.7% 45.2% 6.4 35.4
Devin Crawford-Tufts WR-X 6'2, 193 Jr. *** (5.5) 30 16 189 53.3% 6.3 9.8% 56.7% 6.3 26.1
Derrick Engel WR-H 6'2, 187 Sr. ** (5.2) 29 18 375 62.1% 12.9 9.4% 48.3% 13.0 51.8
MarQueis Gray WR-X 27 12 121 44.4% 4.5 8.8% 55.6% 4.6 16.7
John Rabe HB 22 14 143 63.6% 6.5 7.2% 54.5% 6.7 19.8
Andre McDonald WR 20 10 121 50.0% 6.1 6.5% 45.0% 6.6 16.7
K.J. Maye WR-Z 5'10, 197 So. *** (5.5) 18 11 49 61.1% 2.7 5.9% 50.0% 2.7 6.8
Drew Goodger TE 6'5, 265 Jr. *** (5.6) 16 13 115 81.3% 7.2 5.2% 75.0% 7.7 15.9
Marcus Jones WR 5'8, 166 Jr. ** (5.4) 15 6 67 40.0% 4.5 4.9% 53.3% 4.1 9.3
Brandon Green WR-Z 13 6 70 46.2% 5.4 4.2% 23.1% 7.6 9.7
Donnell Kirkwood RB 5'10, 223 Jr. *** (5.6) 9 7 23 77.8% 2.6 2.9% 22.2% 0.1 3.2
Jamel Harbison WR-X 5'11, 199 RSFr. *** (5.6)








Eric Carter WR 5'11, 177 Fr. *** (5.7)








Drew Wolitarsky WR 6'3, 215 Fr. *** (5.6)








Nate Wozniak TE 6'9, 255 Fr. *** (5.6)








6. More, please, Mr. Engel

Just know this about Highlight Yardage averages: Anything less than four yards per highlight opportunity is pretty bad. The only Minnesota runner to average better than even 3.6 was Gray, and he's gone. If freshman Berkley Edwards is ready (and semi-explosive), he could see plenty of opportunities this fall.

Meanwhile, just know this about per-target receiving averages: Anything less than 6.5 yards per target is pretty bad. The only returning Minnesota receivers to average better than 6.5 in 2012 were Barker (no longer on the team), little-used tight end Drew Goodger, and Derrick Engel. Of course, before the bowl game, Engel only had 14 catches for 267 yards for the season. His bowl performance (four catches, 108 yards) hinted at something impressive, and his full-season, per-target averages hinted at the same; heading into 2013, he is the only receiver who has even slightly proven himself a downfield threat. Junior Isaac Fruechte had nice per-catch averages, but they were ruined by an awful catch rate, and speedy return man K.J. Maye was used basically as a long-handoffs guy.

Somebody needs to get downfield if Minnesota has any chance of taking pressure off of both Nelson and the run game. Who will it be?

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 103.8 2.82 3.45 38.0% 52.3% 18.3% 84.6 5.4% 7.6%
Rank 53 86 42 75 121 52 84 76 79
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Career Starts/Honors/Notes
Ed Olson LT 6'7, 309 Sr. *** (5.6) 28 career starts
Zac Epping C 6'2, 321 Jr. *** (5.5) 21 career starts
Caleb Bak RG 6'3, 302 Jr. NR 14 career starts
Josh Campion RT 6'5, 326 So. *** (5.7) 13 career starts
Tommy Olson LG 6'4, 301 Jr. *** (5.7) 11 career starts
Marek Lenkiewicz LT 6'5, 289 Jr. *** (5.6) 5 career starts
Jon Christenson C 6'4, 306 So. NR 5 career starts
Jimmy Gjere RT 5 career starts
Zach Mottla C 6'2, 277 Sr. NR 3 career starts
Ernie Heifort LG 6'5, 281 So. NR
Joe Bjorklund RG 6'5, 288 So. *** (5.5)
Foster Bush RT 6'5, 303 So. *** (5.5)
Isaac Hayes OL 6'2, 304 RSFr. *** (5.6)
Jonah Pirsig OL 6'9, 308 RSFr. *** (5.6)

Defense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 33 67 76 63
RUSHING 74 96 94 99
PASSING 12 37 42 31
Standard Downs 75 85 76
Passing Downs 39 34 43
Redzone 59 88 43
Q1 Rk 79 1st Down Rk 83
Q2 Rk 63 2nd Down Rk 47
Q3 Rk 29 3rd Down Rk 28
Q4 Rk 56

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 96.4 3.12 3.60 39.6% 66.0% 19.2% 132.9 5.1% 9.0%
Rank 75 92 100 66 49 66 20 46 24
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Ra'Shede Hageman NT 6'6, 311 Sr. *** (5.7) 13 27.5 3.9% 7.5 6 0 2 1 0
D.L. Wilhite DE 13 25.0 3.6% 11 8.5 0 0 1 0
Roland Johnson DT 6'1, 286 Sr. *** (5.5) 10 17.5 2.5% 5 2 0 0 0 1
Michael Amaefula DE 6'2, 244 Jr. *** (5.5) 13 14.0 2.0% 5 2.5 0 0 0 2
Cam Botticelli DT 6'5, 290 Jr. ** (5.3) 13 14.0 2.0% 0.5 0.5 0 0 0 0
Alex Keith DE 6'3, 237 So. ** (5.4) 12 12.5 1.8% 3.5 1.5 0 1 0 1
Scott Ekpe NT 6'4, 281 So. ** (5.4) 13 12.0 1.7% 4 0 0 0 0 1
Ben Perry DE 6'5, 253 Jr. ** (5.3) 13 7.5 1.1% 1 1 0 2 1 0
Thieren Cockran DE 6'6, 238 So. ** (5.4) 13 4.5 0.6% 1 1 0 0 0 0
Harold Legania DT 6'4, 308 Jr. *** (5.5)

Jordan Hinojosa DT 6'3, 272 So. *** (5.5)
Owen Salzwedel DE 6'6, 235 Fr. *** (5.6)






7. Freak mode

The 6-6, 312-pound converted tight end vertical jumped 36 inches this offseason when the Gophers tested him. More impressively, the former basketball standout (he used to play AAU ball against first-rounder Royce White) says he can still do a 360 dunk even though he's well over three bills. "But," Hageman adds, "it doesn't look as pretty as when I was 250."

Tackle Ra'Shede Hageman was given a lofty No. 2 ranking in Bruce Feldman's offseason Freaks List, ahead of fellow freaks like Baylor's Lache Seastrunk, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, and Oregon's Colt Lyerla. That's impressive. He was one of the conference's better pass rushers from the tackle position, but as he acknowledged in the Feldman piece, he was prone to taking plays off from time to time. And even with a "freak" at tackle, Minnesota's run defense was quite poor.

If he can form a consistent disruptive presence up front, that would be tremendous because the front seven needs a little bit of help. D.L. Wilhite is the only departure up front, but he was basically the only decent pass rusher beyond Hageman. The depth up front could still be a strong suit, but it the line will have to thrive to offset a complete rebuild at the linebacker position.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Mike Rallis MLB 13 57.5 8.2% 5 1 0 0 1 0
Aaron Hill SLB 6'2, 231 Sr. NR 13 57.0 8.2% 4 1 2 2 3 0
Keanon Cooper WLB 13 56.0 8.0% 4.5 0 0 1 2 0
James Manuel WLB 6'2, 225 Sr. *** (5.6) 13 40.5 5.8% 3 0.5 0 1 0 1
Spencer Reeves SLB 10 14.0 2.0% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Brendan Beal MLB 11 10.5 1.5% 0.5 0 0 0 0 0
Lamonte Edwards SLB 11 7.0 1.0% 0.5 0 0 0 0 0
Jephte Matilus LB 6'1, 238 So. *** (5.5) 4 0.5 0.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Damien Wilson MLB 6'2, 254 Jr. ** (5.4)

De'Vondre Campbell WLB 6'5, 225 So. *** (5.6)

Nick Rallis LB 5'11, 227 RSFr. *** (5.5)

De'Niro Laster LB 6'3, 220 Fr. *** (5.7)

Rayfield Dixon LB 6'3, 196 Fr. *** (5.6)







8. Linebackers don't matter (well, not exactly)

One of my favorite tidbits I learned while writing my book (I wrote a book! Buy my book in a couple of weeks!) came from "Dr. Bob" Stoll, one of college football's best handicappers. In essence, he pointed out that we tend to overreact to turnover at the linebacker position.

Linebackers are perhaps more interchangeable than their counterparts at other positions. That's a good thing for Minnesota in 2013, as the Gophers are starting over a bit. Seven Minnesota linebackers got a reasonable amount of playing time in 2012; two return. The ranks had already thinned out before Brendan Beal retired from football and Lamonte Edwards was dismissed (for being an idiot, basically). At this point, it will be interesting to see how the Gophers fill in a two-deep.

Still, some mandatory new blood could help. Minnesota's linebackers were not particularly adept at blitzing, pass coverage, or run support last year (but hey, other than that...), so even if turnover did mean a lot at linebacker, there still might not be much reason to think the Gopher LBs will be any worse this time around.

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Troy Stoudermire CB 13 70.5 10.1% 3.5 0 0 3 0 0
Derrick Wells CB 6'0, 206 Jr. ** (5.4) 13 60.0 8.6% 2.5 0 2 10 0 1
Brock Vereen S 6'0, 202 Sr. *** (5.6) 13 48.5 6.9% 1.5 0.5 2 9 0 0
Michael Carter CB 13 41.5 5.9% 0.5 0 4 15 0 0
Cedric Thompson S 5'10, 211 Jr. ** (5.2) 13 33.5 4.8% 0 0 2 3 0 0
Jeremy Baltazar CB 6'0, 197 Sr. ** (5.4) 13 12.0 1.7% 0 0 0 2 0 0
Antonio Johnson DB 6'0, 207 So. *** (5.6) 12 9.0 1.3% 0 0 0 1 0 0
Briean Boddy CB 5'11, 186 Jr. *** (5.5) 13 6.5 0.9% 0 0 0 1 0 0
Damarius Travis S 6'2, 208 So. *** (5.5) 13 6.0 0.9% 0.5 0 0 0 0 0
Martez Shabazz CB 5'11, 172 Sr. *** (5.5) 9 4.5 0.6% 0.5 0 1 3 0 0
Eric Murray DB 6'0, 194 So. ** (5.4) 13 4.5 0.6% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Grayson Levine S 5'11, 202 Jr. *** (5.5) 7 1.5 0.2% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Steven Montgomery DB 5'10, 210 So. *** (5.6) 7 1.0 0.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0

9. A hell of a pair of corners is gone

Minnesota's run defense was quite poor in 2012, but the Gophers could lean on a stout pass defense to bail them out of trouble from time to time. The pass rush was strong, as mentioned, and Minnesota had a terrific pair of corners in physical Troy Stoudermire and late-bloomer Michael Carter. Carter was seventh in the country with 19 passes defensed, and he almost single-handedly won the bowl game with two terrific, late interceptions.

Now they're both gone. Everybody else returns, including a couple of solid disruptors in corner Derrick Wells and safety Brock Vereen. If Minnesota can maintain some sort of pass rush with Hageman and company, the secondary should still be able to lock down a top-50 passing defense. Carter in particular was impressive last year, but the question marks for Minnesota still come in run defense and linebacker depth.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Christian Eldred 6'3, 185 Jr. 67 38.1 5 22 22 65.7%
David Schwerman 2 31.0 0 0 0 0.0%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB TB%
Jordan Wettstein 54 62.3 27 50.0%
Chris Hawthorne 6'6, 200 Sr. 1 65 0 0.0%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Jordan Wettstein 33-34 9-12 75.0% 5-10 50.0%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Troy Stoudermire KR 22 23.3 0
K.J. Maye KR 5'10, 197 So. 8 22.2 0
A.J. Barker PR 19 7.1 0
Michael Carter PR 5 10.4 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 88
Net Punting 108
Net Kickoffs 21
Touchback Pct 20
Field Goal Pct 94
Kick Returns Avg 81
Punt Returns Avg 82

2013 Schedule & Projection Factors

2013 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
31-Aug UNLV 106
7-Sep at New Mexico State 123
14-Sep Western Illinois NR
21-Sep San Jose State 68
28-Sep Iowa 44
5-Oct at Michigan 28
19-Oct at Northwestern 40
26-Oct Nebraska 21
2-Nov at Indiana 62
9-Nov Penn State 24
23-Nov Wisconsin 16
30-Nov at Michigan State 18
Five-Year F/+ Rk 88
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 58
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* -2 / -1.7
TO Luck/Game -0.1
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 16 (10, 6)
Yds/Pt Margin** +0.0

10. Better start 5-0

Minnesota plays five teams projected worse than 60th in the Football Outsiders Almanac 2013. The Gophers play four of them in the first four weeks of the season, three at home. Throw in a home game versus Iowa, and you've got an incredibly navigable September. Minnesota better take full advantage of that, however, because there might not be a sure win on the schedule after that. The remaining home games are against top-25 teams, and the two remaining teams with the worst projected rankings (Northwestern and Indiana) host the Gophers.

The third- and fourth-year window really is the time when culture takes hold for a coach. Jerry Kill was wonderfully successful in his head coaching career before heading to Minnesota, and he could certainly reach Glen Mason levels at some point in the coming years.

But as hard as I try, it is difficult for me to be optimistic about this squad. Philip Nelson is still developing, and he has no obvious skill position stars to help him out. His line should be decent, but that only matters so much if the ball-carriers are lacking. And on defense, a star up front might only be able to offset a linebacking unit bereft of known play-making ability, and the secondary has to replace its best ball hawk.

This feels like a team built to tread water, and while the Gophers could certainly eke out another six-win season in 2013, it is difficult to see how the ceiling is much higher than that just yet. Surprise me, Gophers.

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