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Game Thread Game Eight: Ohio State 45, Minnesota 31 (final)


Loves Buckeye History
Staff member
'16 & '17 Upset Contest Winner
Here's an SI write-up on Minny's spring game. Gary Russell was a 2004 recruit from Walnut Ridge H.S. Looks like our defense will need to watch out for Maroney, Russell, and Goldy Gopher. :wink2:

No surprise: Gophers' offense dominates spring game

Posted: Saturday April 16, 2005 2:57PM; Updated: Saturday April 16, 2005 3:06PM


MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The Minnesota Gophers didn't keep score during their annual spring game on Saturday, but it was no secret who came out on top.
Amir Pinnix had 10 carries for 112 yards and two touchdowns and Gary Russell rushed 10 times for 106 yards and two more scores as the offense dominated the defense.
"The offensive play was better than the defense," coach Glen Mason said. "I was a little disappointed in the defense because they've been playing better this spring, but they didn't make many plays out there. I still believe we've got a good football team and we'll be OK."

The Gophers have made their mark as a running team for most of Mason's tenure, especially the last two years when Marion Barber III and Laurence Maroney became the first teammates in NCAA history to each rush for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons.

Even with Barber leaving school early for the NFL and Maroney limited to one trick play because of a sore knee, the Gophers showed their depth at the position on Saturday.

"There's been a lot of attention given to the running backs because Maroney's been injured -- not seriously injured -- and Barber decided to leave early," Mason said. "I thought both Gary Russell and Amir Pinnix had pretty good springs, but they played better today. They finished off strong and looked pretty good."
Instead of playing a conventional game pitting one team of Gophers against another, Mason elected to go primarily with matching the No. 1 defense against the No. 1 offense and the backups against the backups. No score was kept.

Both No. 2 units started the game, and Russell broke a 57-yard touchdown run on the third play from scrimmage. That set the tone for the afternoon, as Russell and Pinnix used superior blocking from the offensive line to run through, around and past what appeared to be an overwhelmed defense.

Pinnix scored on a 44-yard run and a 1-yarder and Russell's other score came when he took the ball off tackle and cruised untouched for 19 yards.

"The offensive line did a great job," Pinnix said. "They opened up some holes I have never seen. They deserve all the credit."

Heading into spring practice, Mason made defense the priority.

The Gophers ranked 75th in the nation in total defense last season, routinely missing tackles and giving up big chunks of yards on third-and-long situations.

Mason downplayed the defense's struggles on Saturday, saying he was satisfied with their performance through all of spring practice.

"I still think we're very much improved at the linebacking corps," Mason said. "So I feel pretty good about the defense."

New defensive coordinator David Lockwood said he has been pleasantly surprised by the play this spring, especially that of linebacker Jon Shevlin.

"The main thing is we got out of it healthy," Lockwood said. "We have to be more disciplined. We got some guys trying to do a little too much right now. If you can take away the big plays, then we're probably sitting pretty good."

"We had a few communication errors between the linebackers and the secondary, and you have to hand it to the offense -- they did play well," Shevlin said.

Another question mark entering spring was the kicking game after the team lost Rhys Lloyd to graduation.

But Joel Monroe and Jason Giannini both looked good on Saturday. Monroe made field goals of 48 and 43 yards and Giannini drilled all of his extra points.

"It was a big, big question because Rhys Lloyd was gone," Mason said. "We've got more than one placekicker, and they looked good today."

Starting quarterback Bryan Cupito was 6-for-8 for 74 yards in limited duty, and Maroney's lone play was a goof -- a 75-yard touchdown run in which he faked a reverse the mascot, Goldy Gopher.
Upvote 0


Loves Buckeye History
Staff member
'16 & '17 Upset Contest Winner

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Preview 2005
Minnesota Golden Gophers

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[font=Arial, Helvetica]Want the CFN Gopher Preview in printable pdf?
Sign up here

Head coach: Glen Mason
9th year at Minnesota: 51-45
20th year overall: 110-109-1
Returning O Lettermen: 18
Returning D Lettermen: 16
Returning ST Lettermen: 1
Lettermen Lost: 13
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[font=Arial, Helvetica]Ten Best Gopher Players
1. RB Laurence Maroney, Jr.
2. C Greg Eslinger, Sr.
3. WR Ernie Wheelwright, Soph.
4. WR Jared Ellerson, Sr.
5. OG Mark Setterstrom, Sr.
6. DT Anthony Montgomery, Sr.
7. DT Mark Losli, Sr.
8. LB Kyle McKenzie, Sr.
9. RB Amir Pinnix, Soph.
10. OT Joe Ainslie, Jr.
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2005 Schedule
</TD></TR><TR><TD align=left width=27>[font=Arial, Helvetica]9/[/font][font=Arial, Helvetica]3[/font]</TD><TD align=left width=119>[font=Arial, Helvetica]at Tulsa[/font]</TD></TR><TR><TD align=left width=27>[font=Arial, Helvetica]9/10[/font]</TD><TD align=left width=119>[font=Arial, Helvetica]Colorado State[/font]</TD></TR><TR><TD align=left width=27>[font=Arial, Helvetica]9/17[/font]</TD><TD align=left width=119>[font=Arial, Helvetica]Florida Atlantic[/font]</TD></TR><TR><TD align=left width=27>[font=Arial, Helvetica]9/24[/font]</TD><TD align=left width=119>[font=Arial, Helvetica]Purdue[/font]</TD></TR><TR><TD align=left width=27>[font=Arial, Helvetica]10/1[/font]</TD><TD align=left width=119>[font=Arial, Helvetica]at Penn State [/font]</TD></TR><TR><TD align=left width=27>[font=Arial, Helvetica]10/8[/font]</TD><TD align=left width=119>[font=Arial, Helvetica]at Michigan[/font]</TD></TR><TR><TD align=left width=27>[font=Arial, Helvetica]10/[/font][font=Arial, Helvetica]15[/font]</TD><TD align=left width=119>[font=Arial, Helvetica]Wisconsin[/font][font=Arial, Helvetica] [/font]</TD></TR><TR><TD align=left width=27>[font=Arial, Helvetica]10/2[/font][font=Arial, Helvetica]9[/font]</TD><TD align=left width=119>[font=Arial, Helvetica]Ohio State [/font] </TD></TR><TR><TD align=left width=27>[font=Arial, Helvetica]11/5[/font]</TD><TD align=left width=119>[font=Arial, Helvetica]at Indiana[/font]</TD></TR><TR><TD align=left width=27>[font=Arial, Helvetica]11/12[/font]</TD><TD align=left width=119>[font=Arial, Helvetica]Michigan State[/font]</TD></TR><TR><TD align=left width=27>[font=Arial, Helvetica]11/19[/font]</TD><TD align=left width=119>[font=Arial, Helvetica]at Iowa[/font]</TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE></TD></TR></CENTER><CENTER></TBODY></TABLE><TABLE id=table13 height=299 cellSpacing=0 width=169><TBODY><TR><TD align=left width=165 bgColor=#ffffff height=253><TABLE id=table17 cellSpacing=0 width=169><TBODY><TR><TD bgColor=#800000>
[font=Arial, Helvetica]CFN Prediction: 8-3
2004 Record: 7-5

</TD></TR><TR><TD align=left bgColor=#ffffff>[font=Arial, Helvetica]Preview 2004 predicted wins[/font] <TABLE id=table18><TBODY><TR><TD align=left>[font=Arial, Helvetica]9/4[/font]</TD><TD>[font=Arial, Helvetica]Toledo[/font][font=Arial, Helvetica] W 63-21[/font]</TD></TR><TR><TD align=left>[font=Arial, Helvetica]9/11[/font]</TD><TD>[font=Arial, Helvetica]Illinois State[/font][font=Arial, Helvetica] W 37-21[/font]</TD></TR><TR><TD align=left>[font=Arial, Helvetica]9/18[/font]</TD><TD>[font=Arial, Helvetica]at Colorado St[/font][font=Arial, Helvetica] W 34-16[/font]</TD></TR><TR><TD align=left>[font=Arial, Helvetica]9/25[/font]</TD><TD>[font=Arial, Helvetica]Nwestern[/font][font=Arial, Helvetica] W 45-17[/font]</TD></TR><TR><TD align=left>[font=Arial, Helvetica]10/2[/font]</TD><TD>[font=Arial, Helvetica]Penn State[/font][font=Arial, Helvetica] W 16-7[/font]</TD></TR><TR><TD align=left>[font=Arial, Helvetica]10/9[/font]</TD><TD>[font=Arial, Helvetica]at Michigan L 27-24[/font]</TD></TR><TR><TD align=left>[font=Arial, Helvetica]10/16[/font]</TD><TD>[font=Arial, Helvetica]at Michigan St[/font][font=Arial, Helvetica] L 51-17[/font]</TD></TR><TR><TD align=left>[font=Arial, Helvetica]10/23[/font]</TD><TD>[font=Arial, Helvetica]Illinois[/font][font=Arial, Helvetica] W 45-0[/font]</TD></TR><TR><TD align=left>[font=Arial, Helvetica]10/30[/font]</TD><TD>[font=Arial, Helvetica]at Indiana[/font][font=Arial, Helvetica] L 30-21[/font]</TD></TR><TR><TD align=left>[font=Arial, Helvetica]11/6[/font]</TD><TD>[font=Arial, Helvetica]at Wisconsin L 38-14[/font]</TD></TR><TR><TD align=left>[font=Arial, Helvetica]11/13[/font]</TD><TD>[font=Arial, Helvetica]Iowa L 29-27[/font]</TD></TR><TR><TD align=left>[font=Arial, Helvetica]12/31[/font]</TD><TD>[font=Arial, Helvetica]Music City Bowl
Alabama W 20-16
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By Pete Fiutak
Did Minnesota miss its window?
On the verge of being the Big Ten's next big thing for the last two years, everything was humming along nicely only to lose to Michigan in gut-wrenching fashion followed up by horrific performances against Michigan State to end all Big Ten title hopes. Now the league is back to being nasty meaning the Gophers might continue to be just another very good team that doesn't make a real run at a conference title. To break the cycle of disappointing seasons (at least by the suddenly high standards expected of them), they need a tougher attitude and most importantly, a tougher defense.

Head coach Glen Mason and his staff have put together a juggernaut of a rushing offense that should pave the way for a monster season for RB Laurence Maroney. The line is outstanding and the receiving corps might be the most talented in the Big Ten. The problem is a defense that hasn't been consistent in years and always seems to have a major problem tackling someone. The other problem is to get mentally tough enough to get past major disappointments.

How does a team as good as Minnesota lose to Indiana 30-21? How can it lose five out of its final six games, and then beat a rock-solid Alabama team in the Music City Bowl? This is a talented team that has the potential to be a real thorn in everyone's side, but that's not enough for Mason in his tenth year at the program.

He has taken Minnesota from point A to point B, and perhaps even a bit further with a ten win season in 2003. Now he needs to show the world that his team can beat the big boys again with the last truly impressive victory coming at Ohio State in 2000. There will be some big chances to make a big splash, but if it doesn't happen, there can't be any more hangovers. This is a team due for a big break and a big season, but it'll also need to make its own luck.

The Schedule: At Tulsa, Colorado State and Florida Atlantic should mean a 3-0 start, and then things get tricky with the Big Ten schedule that doesn't have much of a break until the November 5th game at Indiana. With no Northwestern and no Illinois, the Gophers will have to play all the big boys including road trips to Michigan, Iowa and a resurgent Penn State. Purdue, Wisconsin, Ohio State and new nemesis Michigan State have to come to the Dome.
Best Offensive Player: Junior RB Laurence Maroney. While Amir Pinnix and Gary Russell will get more than their share of carries, the 5-11, 205-pound Maroney will be the featured star of the offense and should be the Big Ten's signature offensive star. It'll be a major disappointment if he doesn't blow past the 1,500-yard mark.
Best Defensive Players: Senior DTs Anthony Montgomery and Mark Losli. There are several major problems and holes in the Gopher defense, but tackle won't be one of them with two big, experienced bodies in the middle. With a general lack of size on the line, these two have to stay healthy.
Key player to a successful season: Sophomore CB Jamal Harris. Trumaine Banks is a decent corner to hold down the number one spot, but he's not last year's star Ukee Dozier and needs help. Harris needs to shine right away for there Gophers to improve on the nation's 109th best pass defense.
The season will be a success if ... Minnesota finishes with nine wins and beats Michigan. A bowl game is a near-lock, but there has to be a step taken to the next level and start beating the top teams. A win over fly-in-the-ointment Michigan and/or a win over a top five Ohio State team would do wonders for Mason and the program.
Key game: October 8th at Michigan. Over the last three seasons, Minnesota is 18-2 before playing Michigan (and 11-0 over the last two years) and 7-7 following the losses to the Maize and Blue. Mason and the rest of the Gophers would love to go an off-season without being reminded daily about how they blew the Michigan game.

2004 Fun Stats:

- Third quarter scoring: Minnesota 109 - Opponents 46
- Average yards per carry: Minnesota 5.4 - Opponents 3.7- Sacks: Minnesota 24 for 169 yards - Opponents 9 for 60 yardsOffense Breakdown and Analysis | Defense Breakdown and Analysis
- Depth Chart

<HR>2005 Recruiting Class
Star of the Class
Alex Daniels LB 6-2 220 (Brookhaven High School) Columbus OH.
Ranked as a four-star performer and the 11th-best athlete in the nation by Rivals...named the 16th-best linebacker in the nation and the 108th-best overall player by College Football News...selected to the SuperPrep Midwest Team, ranked as the 26th-best player and listed as the 36th-best defensive back in the nation...ranked as the 10th-best safety in the nation by Scout.com...selected as a PrepStar All-Midwest Region performer...named to Ohio News Network All-Ohio Team...two-time all-city selection and was a 2004 all-conference, all-area and all-state choice...made 100 tackles with five sacks, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in leading his team to 2004 state title...also intercepted three passes, returning two for touchdowns

Instant Impact Players
Steve Davis LB 6-3 195 Florissant (McCluer North) Mo.
Ranked as the 47th-best outside linebacker in the country and the second-best overall linebacker in Missouri by Rivals...selected to the SuperPrep Midlands Team, ranked as the 37th-best player and fifth-best defensive end...named to the PrepStar All-Midlands Region Team...named first-team all-state by the St. Louis Post Dispatch his junior and senior seasons and was also a two-time all-city and all-conference selection...earned Defensive Player of the Year honors at McCluer North in 2004...registered 123 tackles, 12 sacks, eight tackles-for-loss and three forced fumbles in 2004

Jay Thomas RB 6-0 180 Oakdale (Tartan) Minn.
Tabbed as the 18th-best all-purpose back in the country by Rivals...selected as a PrepStar All-Midwest Region performer...named the 2004 Pioneer Press Football Player of the Year and a first-team all-state choice by the Associated Press...named to the KARE-11 and Star Tribune All-Metro teams his senior season...three-time all-conference and all-state selection...led the metro area in rushing in 2004 with a school record 1,549 yards on 154 attempts...also set school records for career rushing yards (3,083), career rushing touchdowns (27), career kickoff returns for touchdowns (6), and rushing touchdowns in a season (14) and a game (6)...also lettered in basketball and track...finished third in the 100-meter (10.77) and 200-meter dash (21.49) at the state meet

Rest of the Class

<TABLE id=table19 width=445 align=left border=0><TBODY><TR><TD width=140 bgColor=#ffffff>Michael Chambers</TD><TD width=30 bgColor=#ffffff>WR</TD><TD width=30 bgColor=#ffffff>6-1</TD><TD width=30 bgColor=#ffffff>180</TD><TD width=215 bgColor=#ffffff>Cuyahoga Falls (Wash Jesuit)</TD><TD width=40 bgColor=#ffffff>Ohio</TD></TR><TR><TD width=140 bgColor=#ffffff>Boyd Coleman</TD><TD width=30 bgColor=#ffffff>DB</TD><TD width=30 bgColor=#ffffff>5-11</TD><TD width=30 bgColor=#ffffff>170</TD><TD width=215 bgColor=#ffffff>Marietta (Wheeler)</TD><TD width=40 bgColor=#ffffff>Ga.</TD></TR><TR><TD width=140 bgColor=#ffffff>Eric Decker</TD><TD width=30 bgColor=#ffffff>WR</TD><TD width=30 bgColor=#ffffff>6-3</TD><TD width=30 bgColor=#ffffff>185</TD><TD width=215 bgColor=#ffffff>Cold Spring (Rocori)</TD><TD width=40 bgColor=#ffffff>Minn.</TD></TR><TR><TD width=140 bgColor=#ffffff>Otis Hudson</TD><TD width=30 bgColor=#ffffff>OL</TD><TD width=30 bgColor=#ffffff>6-5</TD><TD width=30 bgColor=#ffffff>290</TD><TD width=215 bgColor=#ffffff>Barrington (Barrington)</TD><TD width=40 bgColor=#ffffff>Ill.</TD></TR><TR><TD width=140 bgColor=#ffffff>Marcel Jones</TD><TD width=30 bgColor=#ffffff>QB</TD><TD width=30 bgColor=#ffffff>6-4</TD><TD width=30 bgColor=#ffffff>205</TD><TD width=215 bgColor=#ffffff>Inver Grove Heights (Simley)</TD><TD width=40 bgColor=#ffffff>Minn.</TD></TR><TR><TD width=140 bgColor=#ffffff>Dominic Jones</TD><TD width=30 bgColor=#ffffff>DB</TD><TD width=30 bgColor=#ffffff>5-10</TD><TD width=30 bgColor=#ffffff>180</TD><TD width=215 bgColor=#ffffff>Columbus (Brookhaven)</TD><TD width=40 bgColor=#ffffff>Ohio</TD></TR><TR><TD width=140 bgColor=#ffffff>Keith Massey</TD><TD width=30 bgColor=#ffffff>DB</TD><TD width=30 bgColor=#ffffff>6-1</TD><TD width=30 bgColor=#ffffff>185</TD><TD width=215 bgColor=#ffffff>Columbus (Brookhaven)</TD><TD width=40 bgColor=#ffffff>Ohio</TD></TR><TR><TD width=140 bgColor=#ffffff>Michael McKelton</TD><TD width=30 bgColor=#ffffff>DB</TD><TD width=30 bgColor=#ffffff>5-11</TD><TD width=30 bgColor=#ffffff>175</TD><TD width=215 bgColor=#ffffff>West Palm Beach (Royal Palm Beach)</TD><TD width=40 bgColor=#ffffff>Fla.</TD></TR><TR><TD width=140 bgColor=#ffffff>Chris Mensen</TD><TD width=30 bgColor=#ffffff>TE/DL</TD><TD width=30 bgColor=#ffffff>6-6</TD><TD width=30 bgColor=#ffffff>260</TD><TD width=215 bgColor=#ffffff>Solon (Solon)</TD><TD width=40 bgColor=#ffffff>Iowa</TD></TR><TR><TD width=140 bgColor=#ffffff>Troy Reilly</TD><TD width=30 bgColor=#ffffff>TE</TD><TD width=30 bgColor=#ffffff>6-7</TD><TD width=30 bgColor=#ffffff>235</TD><TD width=215 bgColor=#ffffff>Stevens Point (Stevens Point)</TD><TD width=40 bgColor=#ffffff>Wis.</TD></TR><TR><TD width=140 bgColor=#ffffff>Ryan Ruckdashel</TD><TD width=30 bgColor=#ffffff>OL</TD><TD width=30 bgColor=#ffffff>6-6</TD><TD width=30 bgColor=#ffffff>265</TD><TD width=215 bgColor=#ffffff>Apple Valley (Eastview)</TD><TD width=40 bgColor=#ffffff>Minn.</TD></TR><TR><TD width=140 bgColor=#ffffff>Jason Sekinger</TD><TD width=30 bgColor=#ffffff>OL</TD><TD width=30 bgColor=#ffffff>6-9</TD><TD width=30 bgColor=#ffffff>310</TD><TD width=215 bgColor=#ffffff>Columbus (Galloway-Westland)</TD><TD width=40 bgColor=#ffffff>Ohio</TD></TR><TR><TD width=140 bgColor=#ffffff>Ned Tavale</TD><TD width=30 bgColor=#ffffff>OL</TD><TD width=30 bgColor=#ffffff>6-2</TD><TD width=30 bgColor=#ffffff>305</TD><TD width=215 bgColor=#ffffff>St. Paul (Cretin-Derham) </TD><TD width=40 bgColor=#ffffff>Minn.</TD></TR><TR><TD width=140 bgColor=#ffffff>Nate Triplett</TD><TD width=30 bgColor=#ffffff>LB</TD><TD width=30 bgColor=#ffffff>6-3</TD><TD width=30 bgColor=#ffffff>220</TD><TD width=215 bgColor=#ffffff>Delano (Delano)</TD><TD width=40 bgColor=#ffffff>Minn.</TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>

<TABLE cellSpacing=0 width=650 border=0><TBODY><TR><TD width=470 bgColor=#ffffff height=1><TABLE width=652 border=0><TBODY><TR><TD width=133 bgColor=#ffffff>

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Preview 2005
Minnesota offense

</TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE></TD></TR><TR><TD width=650 bgColor=#ffffff><HR>2005 Minnesota Preview | Defense Breakdown and Analysis | Depth Chart | Further Analysis

Basically ... If all the parts stay healthy and QB Bryan Cupito improves on his consistency and accuracy, the offense will be one of the top ten in America. The left side of the line, along with center Greg Eslinger, will dominate. The receiving corps looks like an NBA backcourt with size, speed and athleticism. Of course, the star of the show will be junior Laurence Maroney who should by a lock for at least 1,500 yards.

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[font=Arial, Helvetica]Returning Leaders
[font=Arial, Helvetica]Passing: Bryan Cupito
123-261, 2,097 yds, 14 TD, 7 INT
Rushing: Laurence Maroney
217 carries for 1,348 yds and 12 TDs
Receiving: Jared Ellerson
37 catches for 521 yds and 3 TDs
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[font=Arial, Helvetica].[/font]
Star of the offense: Junior RB Laurence Maroney
Player that has to step up and become a star: Freshmen QBs Tony Mortensen, Mike Maciejowski and Andrew Sloan El
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Micah Rucker
Best pro prospect: Maroney
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Maroney, 2) C Greg Eslinger, 3) G Mark Setterstrom
Strength of the offense: Running back, receiver
Weakness of the offense: Backup quarterback

Bryan Cupito isn't big, isn't all that mobile and completed fewer than 50% of his passes, but he'll throw for plenty of yards and be the unquestioned starting quarterback, but that's by default. It's up to three freshmen to battle for the number two job, which will be important considering Cupito will get banged around a bit.Player to keep an eye on: Tony Mortensen, Fr. ... Quarterback Rating: 7Projected Starter
- Bryan Cupito, Jr. - The unsung cog of the attack, Cupito did more than hand it off throwing for 2,097 yards and 14 touchdowns. However, accuracy is a major issue only completing 47% of his passes with seven interceptions. He's best at making defenses that concentrate too much on the running game by bombing deep with a good enough arm to get it to his speedy receivers. If he can hover around the 60% completion mark, the offense will be far, far better.

Top Backups
- Tony Mortensen, Fr. - The big freshman threw for 2,700 yards and 30 touchdowns at Hutchinson High School, but his real strength is his mobility with track star speed in a 6-3, 200-pound frame.
- Mike Maciejowski, Fr. - A smart bomber, the Columbus, Ohio native isn't nearly the athlete Tony Mortensen is, but he has the arm to grow into the number two role.
- Andre Sloan El, Fr. - A good, smart, all-around passer who has the potential to become a solid reserve right away. He'll most likely redshirt as the fourth quarterback in the mix.

Running Backs
The early departure of Marion Barber III to the NFL takes away 1,269 yards and 11 touchdowns, but there shouldn't be much of a hiccup in the team's rushing production with Heisman candidate Laurence Maroney getting more carries and Amir Pinnix looking ready to step up and be a major factor. The combination of Pinnix and Gary Russell will be able to give Maroney plenty of breaks. The fullback situation is good with Justin Valentine able to do a little bit of everything and Jason Lamers a rising blocker.
Player to keep an eye on: Amir Pinnix, Soph. ... Running back rating: 9.5

Projected Starters
- Laurence Maroney, Jr. - One of the nation's best running backs, the 5-11, 205-pound junior has rushed for 2,469 yards and 22 touchdowns in his first two years mainly as a backup behind Marion Barber III averaging 6.5 yards per carry. Even so, he led the team in rushing and is a better home run hitter than the departed Barber. With speed, quickness and workhorse ability, he should be in for a huge season as the team's featured player.
- Fullback Justin Valentine, Soph. - A good power runner in a limited role, the 215-pound sophomore ran for 57 yards and four touchdowns and caught four passes for 64 yards, but he'll mostly be used as a blocker for Laurence Maroney.

Top Backups
- Amir Pinnix, Soph. - While he's not Marion Barber, Pinnix will be a good second option behind Laurence Maroney with a tremendous speed burst through the hole and excellent moves once he gets into the clear. He has good size and the potential to rip off several big runs if he gets a little bit of daylight. He was the MVP of the spring game with 74 yards and a touchdown.
- Gary Russell, Soph. - He's not as fast as Amir Pinnix and doesn't have the special skills of Laurence Maroney, but he'll be a good, steady, between-the-tackles runner who should be a consistent five-yard-per-carry back. He was third on the team with 144 yards averaging six yards per carry last year.
- Fullback Jason Lamers, Jr. - The 240-pound junior offers more size and a more physical blocker than the 215-pound Justin Valentine. He's a hard-nosed special teamer who'll be a big, but unnoticed, factor in the offense.

If it wasn't for the running game, the Gopher receivers would be the featured stars. There's a ridiculous mix of size and speed with Ernie Wheelwright, Jared Ellerson and Micah Rucker combining to average around 6-4 and 205 pounds. Jakari Wallace is the fastest player on the team adding yet another home run hitter. The tight ends are fantastic with Matt Spaeth sure to grow into a first day NFL prospect with his size and hands.
Player to keep an eye on: Micah Rucker, Soph. ... Receiver rating: 9.5

Projected Starters
- Jared Ellerson, Sr. - Ellerson has been a top target for the last two years and has 90 catches for 1,543 yards and ten touchdowns in his career. More than just a deep threat, the 6-1, 200-pound senior averages 17.1 yards per catch and is a steady, consistent receiver when needed.
- Ernest Wheelwright, Soph. - The 6-5, 210-pound sophomore was one of the Big Ten's breakout players catching 30 passes for 654 yards and seven touchdowns averaging 21.8 yards per catch. He caught an 80-yard touchdown pass against Illinois State and caught three passes for 104 yards and two touchdowns in the blowout loss to Michigan State. His size poses major matchup problems, while his speed allows him to get by most defensive backs.
- Tight end Matt Spaeth, Jr. - A huge blocker and a good receiver, the 6-6, 270-pound junior earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors finishing third on the team with 24 catches for 298 yards and four touchdowns. Even at his size, he can get deep averaging 12.4 yards per catch.

Top Backups - Micah Rucker, Soph. - At 6-6 and 210 pounds, Rucker is a big target who can jump out of the stadium. He didn't do anything as a freshman, but he has the deep speed to go along with his size to become a devastating weapon. He was a stars of the spring game catching three passes for 103 yards. He'll start out behind the 6-5 Ernie Wheelwright.
- Jakari Wallace, Sr. - As the smallest receiver in the mix, the 5-8, 170-pound senior makes plays with his blazing speed. Despite suffering a torn ACL a few years ago, he's the team's fastest player running a 4.34 40. He caught 20 passes for 341 yards averaging 17 yards per catch last season.
- Tight End Jarod Posthumus, Sr. - A top recruit as a quarterback, the 6-4, 255-pound senior was switched to tight end early on and now appears ready to handle more work. He's a better blocker than a receiver, but he'll get a few catches with four for 78 yards so far.

Offensive Line
There could stand to be more developed depth and the right side is welcoming new starters, but this is going to be a fantastic line. It might not be as good as last year's group that only allowed nine sacks and paved the way for 3,082 rushing yards, but it won't be too far off. Tackle Jon Ainslie, guard Mark Setterstrom and center Greg Eslinger could be the Big Ten's best trio of linemen. Mike Nicholson and Tony Brinkhaus will be excellent on the right side after a little bit of time.
Player to keep an eye on: T Tony Brinkhaus, Soph. ... Offensive line rating: 8.5

Projected Starters
- Tackle Joe Ainslie, Jr. - The massive 6-7, 300-pound junior is on the verge of being an All-Big Ten performer with his great pass blocking ability and tremendous run blocking skills. He can start on either the right or left side and will getting the nod at left tackle this year.
- Guard Mark Setterstrom, Sr. - One of the Big Ten's best run blockers, Setterstrom has been a steady performer for the last three years and earned first team All-Big Ten honors last year. The 6-3, 295-pound senior has been dominant at times and will be the team's go-to blocker when the tough yards are needed.
- Center Greg Eslinger, Sr. - In a league loaded with great centers, the 6-3, 285-pound senior is the best of the bunch. He's the leading candidate for the Rimington Award as a technically sound all-around blocker who can bury mediocre tackles who aren't going full tilt every play.
- Guard Mike Nicholson, Sr. - A good reserve and a spot starter over the last few years, the 6-5, 285-pound senior will get the start at right guard. He has been around long enough to be reliable right away.
- Tackle Tony Brinkhaus, Soph. - Even though he's only a sophomore, he's one of the team's strongest players and is growing into an intense run blocker. He has the potential to be a star with more reps and a bit more work.

Top Backups
- G John Jakel, Soph. - One of the team's best young blockers, the 6-5, 280-pound sophomore has the athleticism and talent to grow into a good one on the right side. He'll push Mike Nicholson for time.
- C Tyson Swaggert,Jr. - He won't have any chance to beat out Greg Eslinger for the starting job, but the 6-4, 285-pound junior is a good backup who'll be a strong replacement next season.

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Preview 2005
Minnesota defense

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Basically ... Head coach Glen Mason will work with the defense most of the time this off-season to try to improve things after a few lousy seasons. The promotion of secondary coach David Lockwood to defensive coordinator is just the biggest of the coaching shakeup to make the defense better. The pass defense was horrible and won't get much help right away from the pass rush. The linebacking corps will be fine in time, but the secondary will need plenty of work. The strength is in the middle of the line with All-Big Ten tackle candidates Anthony Montgomery and Mark Losli.

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[font=Arial, Helvetica]Returning Leaders
[font=Arial, Helvetica]Tackles: Kyle McKenzie, 79
Sacks: Mark Losli, Anthony Montgomery, 3
Interceptions: Trumaine Banks, 3
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Star of the defense: Senior DT Anthony Montgomery
Player that has to step up and become a star: Sophomore CB Jamal Harris
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LB John Shelvin
Best pro prospect: Montgomery
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Montgomery, 2) DT Mark Losli, 3) LB Kyle McKenzie
Strength of the defense: Tackle
Weakness of the defense:
Pass defense, pass rush
Defensive Line
The line takes a huge hit losing top pass rusher Darrell Reid and doesn't have anyone who immediately looks ready to take his place. The tackles will be more than fine after allowing 131 rushing yards per game and 13 touchdowns. Eric Clark, Keith Lipka, Maurice Buchanan and freshman William VanDeSteeg have to get in the backfield on a consistent basis to give the mediocre secondary a break.
Player to keep an eye on: DE Eric Clark, Jr. ... Defensive Line rating: 7

Projected Starters
- DE Eric Clark, Jr. - 15 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 tackles for loss ... A spot starter last year, the 265-pound junior showed decent athleticism and promise on the right side. Now he has to prove he can be a consistent factor in the backfield and has to use his size to hold up against the run.
- DT Anthony Montgomery, Sr. - 48 tackles, 3 sacks, 9 tackles for loss, 1 interception ... The anchor of the line, Montgomery is the team's only 300-pound body for the inside with surprising quickness on the nose and at right tackle. With his experience and skills, he should become an All-Big Ten caliber defender.
- DT Mark Losli, Sr. - 30 tackles, 3 sacks, 4.5 tackles for loss ... A starter from early on in his career, Losli has 100 career tackles and should be a force on the inside. At 6-6 and 290 pounds, he has the size along with the skill to be a rock against the run.
- DE Keith Lipka, Sr. - 7 tackles, 1 sack ... Lipka has seen time as a reserve at tackle and end and will get the starting now on the left side. The 6-3, 260-pound senior has the skill and technique to be solid, but he has to prove he can be a steady pass rusher.

Top Backups
- DT Neel Allen, Soph. - 2 tackles ... A reserve at both tackle spots last year, the 285-pound sophomore is a pure nose tackle who'll play on the left side behind Mark Losli. His strength will be sorely needed inside, so he has to be a factor right away.
- DE Maurice Buchanan, Jr. - He has all the skills to be a good pass rusher and a steady reserve, but he has to actually do it. The 255-pound junior didn't do much over his first two seasons, but he'll now be a major backup on the left side behind Keith Lipka.

This will take time to jell returning only one starter. Kyle McKenzie was the team's leading tackler and needs to be even better this year until sophomores John Shevlin, Mike Sherels and Mark Mullaney get their feet wet. It's not a big corps needing to use athleticism and technique to be strong against the run. True freshman Leland Jones will be one to watch right away for his speed and sure tackling ability.
Player to keep an eye on: John Shevlin, Soph. ... Linebacker rating: 6.5

Projected Starters
- John Shevlin, Soph. - 14 tackles ... A reserve all season, Shevlin ended up starting in the Music City Bowl and had a big game making seven tackles. He has good range and tremendous speed as a Minnesota state champion sprinter. He'll get the start on the weakside.
- Mike Sherels, Soph. -10 tackles, 2 forced fumbles ... The 230-pound sophomore had a good first season as a big hitting reserve. He has good instincts and will be a sure tackler on the strongside.
- Kyle McKenzie, Sr. - 79 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 3 broken up passes, 7 tackles for loss ... The only returning starter to the linebacking corps, the 235-pound McKenzie led the team in tackles and has shown good range in pass coverage. He's not spectacular, but he's more than good enough to get the job done and be a steady leader.

Top Backups
- Mark Mullaney, Soph. - 4 tackles ... Even though he's only 6-0 and 210 pounds, Mullaney is more than strong enough and athletic enough to hold his own on the weakside behind John Shevlin.
- Leland Jones, Fr. - One of the team's top recruits, the 6-2, 215-pound freshman will be expected to shine right away as a reserve on the strongside behind Mike Sherels. He made 440 tackles in three seasons as a star prep player at Frederick Douglas HS in Atlanta.
- Mario Reese, Jr. - 26 tackles, 2 sacks, 3.5 tackles for loss ... Reese started over the second half of last year as an undersized defensive end. At 230 pounds, he's more suited for linebacker where he'll play on the outside behind Kyle McKenzie. He'll also be used as a situational pass rusher.

Defensive Backs
The secondary was torched all season long finishing last in the conference and 109th in the nation in pass defense allowing 266 yards per game, but only 12 touchdowns. Top corner Ukee Dozier needs to be replaced and the safeties have to be more physical. Most of all, the secondary has to be more consistent and not give up so many big plays. If spring ball was any indication, either the Gopher receiving corps is really, really good, or the secondary needs work.
Player to keep an eye on: CB Jamal Harris, Soph. ... Secondary rating: 6

Projected Starters
- CB Trumaine Banks, Jr. - 45 tackles, 2 interceptions, 9 broken up passes ... Banks started most of last year missing a little time banged up, and now he'll return for his third season as the team's best tackling corner and number one cover man. He's great in the open field and is physical enough to handle the bigger receivers.
- FS John Pawielski, Sr. - 70 tackles, 1 interception, 2 broken up passes ... Undersized but hard hitting, the 5-11, 200-pound senior is better against the run than the pass. He has to be quicker to the ball when it's in the air and has to be more of an intimidator for receivers coming across the middle. He also has to get over a broken leg suffered against Iowa.
- SS Brandon Owens, Jr. - 28 tackles, 1 interception, 3 broken up passes ... Owens moved from linebacker to cornerback before the Music City Bowl and will now use his size and speed to take over the starting strong safety spot. He should quickly grow into one of the team's top tacklers.
- CB Jamal Harris, Soph. - 20 tackles, 1 broken up pass ... A spot starter and good reserve as a redshirt freshman, he's a good tackler and has the potential to be a big-play corner. He'll get tested early with team's staying away from Trumaine Banks.

Top Backups
- SS Terrance Campbell, Sr. - 77 tackles, 1 sack, 1 interception, 4 broken up passes, 7.5 tackles for loss ... Still getting used to being a defensive back, Campbell finished second on the team in tackles and was great at getting into the backfield. He's too physical and too experienced, with 231 career tackles, not to find his way on the field.- FS Quentin White, Sr. - 27 tackles, 1 interception, 3 broken up passes ... He has the experience and talent to be a good reserve and an important fifth defensive back in the mix. He's fast enough to be used as a return man and can be a physical tackler.

Special Teams
The kicking game will start from scratch with two true freshmen. It will be up to running backs Gary Russell and Laurence Maroney to handle the kick returns and Logan Payne to return punts replacing Marion Barber III. There has to be more overall production; the coverage units were good last year and should be fine again.
Special Teams rating: 6.5
- Placekicker
Jason Giannini, Fr. - It'll be the true freshman's job to replace Rhys Lloyd who hit 12 of 18 field goals and was automatic within 40 yards. Giannini has decent range and appears ready to handle the pressure of the job.
- Punter
Justin Kucek, Fr. - Kucek will replace Rhys Lloyd, who was average even though the Gophers finished 36th in the nation in net punting. Kucek averaged 42.3 yards per kick as a high schools senior.
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Preview 2005
Minnesota Depth Chart
</TD></TR><TR><TD bgColor=#ffffff><TABLE width=650 border=0><TBODY><TR><TD width=650 bgColor=#ffffff><HR>2005 Minnesota Preview | Offense Breakdown | Defense Breakdown | Further Analysis

<TABLE id=table4 width=644 border=0><TBODY><TR><TD vAlign=top align=left width=321>OFFENSE Returning Starters: 8
3 Bryan Cupito 6-1, 195, Jr.
17 Tony Mortensen 6-3, 200, Fr.
19 Mike Maciejowski 6-3, 210, Fr.
8 Andre Sloan El 6-2, 185, Fr.

TB 22 Laurence Maroney 5-11, 205, Jr.
29 Amir Pinnix 6-0, 195, So.
24 Gary Russell 5-11, 195, So.
30 Ben Hanson 5-10, 190, Fr.

18 Justin Valentine 6-2, 215, So.
42 Jason Lamers 6-0, 240, Jr.
34 Jeremy Faue 5-11, 215, So.

82 Ernie Wheelwright 6-5, 210, So.
88 Micah Rucker 6-6, 210, So.
WR 83 Jared Ellerson 6-1, 200, Sr.
7 Jakari Wallace 5-8, 170, Sr.
84 Logan Payne 6-2, 200, Jr.
39 Mark Jundt 5-11, 190, Jr.
37 Michael Kasten 6-2, 200, Fr.

89 Matt Spaeth 6-6, 270, Jr.
81 Jarod Posthumus 6-4, 255, Sr.
87 Kevin Salmen 6-5, 245, Sr.
80 Jack Simmons 6-4, 215, Fr.
47 Sam Scroggins 6-5, 245, Fr.

78 Joe Ainslie 6-7, 300, Jr.
64 Steve Shidell 6-5, 285, So.

68 Mark Setterstrom 6-3, 295, Sr.
50 Tommy Jacobs 6-3, 285, So.

61 Greg Eslinger 6-3, 285, Sr.
56 Tyson Swaggert 6-4, 285, Jr.
53 Brad Bultman 6-2, 260, So.

60 Mike Nicholson 6-5, 285, Sr.
69 John Jakel 6-5, 280, So.
67 Joe Swanson 6-3, 285, Sr.

77 Tony Brinkhaus 6-4, 295,So.
79 Matt DeGeest 6-5, 250, Fr.
62 Camron Smith 6-5, 290, Fr.

</TD><TD vAlign=top align=left width=321>DEFENSE Returning Starters: 7
90 Eric Clark 6-4, 265, Jr.
91 William VanDeSteeg 6-4, 235, Fr.
86 Tommy Leavitt 6-3, 215, Fr.
40 Pat McCarthy 6-0, 240, Jr.
65 William Brody 6-5, 230, Fr.

RDT 95 Anthony Montgomery 6-5, 305, Sr.
70 Todd Meisel 6-4, 255, So.
96 Everett Pedescleaux 6-5, 240, Fr.
49 Stephon Hopkins 6-0, 245, Jr.

97 Mark Losli 6-6, 290, Sr.
98 Neel Allen 6-3, 285, So.
93 Nhemie Theodore 6-3, 275, Fr.

99 Keith Lipka 6-3, 260, Sr.
94 Maurice Buchanan 6-3, 255, Jr.
55 John Scroggins 6-5, 230, So.
73 Brian Moss 6-6, 285, Jr.

46 John Shevlin 6-1, 220, So.
53 Mark Mullaney 6-0, 210, So.
44 Deon Hightower 6-3, 195, Fr.
37 Chris Holden 5-11, 225, Jr.

58 Mike Sherels 6-0, 230, So.
50 Leland Jones 6-2, 215, Fr.
45 Junior Eugene 6-1, 230, Sr.
38 Josh Wiltsie 6-1, 205, Jr.

52 Kyle McKenzie 6-1, 235, Sr.
48 Mario Reese 6-3, 230, Jr.
57 Patrick Cheney 6-1, 220, So.
59 Steve Moore 6-2, 230, Fr.
27 Donald Beattie 6-2, 210, Fr.
33 Johnny Sampy 6-2, 215, Fr.

4 Trumaine Banks 5-10, 185, Jr.
14 Brody Grandas 5-11, 185, Fr.

20 Brandon Owens 6-2, 210, Jr.
32 Terrance Campbell 6-2, 205, Sr.
23 Dominique Barber 6-0, 180, So.
16 Kevin Mannion 6-2, 200, Fr.

34 John Pawielski 5-11, 200, Sr.
6 Quentin White 6-0, 200, Sr.
26 Hussain Shakir 6-0, 190, Fr.
17 John Morgan 6-2, 200, Fr.

15 Jamal Harris 6-0, 180, So.
11 Desi Steib 6-1, 185, So.
31 Seth Thompson 6-0, 190, So.

31 Jason Giannini 5-10, 180, Fr.
15 Joel Monroe 6-0, 180, Fr.
P 41 Justin Kucek 6-0, 180, Fr.
PR 84 Logan Payne 6-2, 200, Jr.
KR 24 Gary Russell 5-11, 195, So.
22 Laurence Maroney 5-11, 205, Jr.

With a fresh set of downs…

1<SUP>st</SUP> and Ten – It’s Elementary My Dear Watson – Sitting down to analyze the Gopher 2005 season, there are so many positives about the upcoming campaign. However, when stepping back to analyze the one absolute and ultimate key to the Minnesota season, look no further than #3, Gopher quarterback Bryan Cupito. There’ll be those that argue that as a sophomore Cupito was decent last season and that he didn’t hold this club back. And, in a way, that’s not that far off. Cupito threw for 14 TDs and only 7 interceptions and just over 2,000 yards, but why he’s the key to this season is his accuracy. What? He completes more passes, and that’s going to be what determines where and whether the Gophers will play during bowl season? Sure. Look at it this way. It’s no secret that the Gophers want to run the football – it’s what you would call their ‘core competency’. But, when Cupito can’t complete throws, teams roll that eighth man up into the box and send more people to shoot the zone blocking gaps up front and shut the Gopher backs down. Incompletions are drive killers, especially in an offense that won’t throw the ball all that much any way. Let’s just say that Cupito, who completed 47% of his throws last year, completed, say 60% of his throws, that percentage would have amounted to an additional 30 to 35 more balls being completed on the year. Stretch that over 12 games and you’re talking 2 to 3 additional completions per game to keep drives going. That amounts to having to face more of the Gopher running game. The chains move, the defense gets fatigued, the Gopher D gets rest and the U picks up chunks of yardage and piles up minutes of possession. All the ingredients are there for him to be one of the best play action QBs in the nation, what with the strong running game, an underrated TE (Matt Spaeth) and good downfield receivers. As a defensive coordinator, it’s not a risky roll of the dice when Cupito isn’t completing passes and is completely out of synch (which occurred on occasion in key games last year) to bring that strong safety into the box. Consequently, it’s a little easier to talk about completing 60% of a QB’s passes than to actually get it done, but if Cupito can do it, this is going to be a dangerous offensive unit.

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2<SUP>nd</SUP> and Seven – Playing Over the Nose – Gopher DT Anthony Montgomery has the athleticism and talent to be a run stopping behemoth in the Big Ten. At 6’5” and 305, Montgomery has prototype size and has the quickness to be a penetrating pest for opposing running games. As Montgomery goes, though, this defense will go. The senior has to be more consistent, drawing double teams on almost every running play. If he can do that, then his linebackers are due to have a great season and Montgomery can bid for All-Big Ten honors.

3<SUP>rd</SUP> and Three – Best Line in the Big Ten? – For the past three years, the Gophers have had good offensive lines, but this year with center Greg Eslinger, guard Mark Setterstrom and tackle Joe Ainslie all returning, they might be the best in the conference. Now, that’s a mouthful, considering the powerful unit to the east in Ann Arbor, but go ahead and find a center-guard combo anywhere in the nation like Eslinger and Setterstrom. Look for Setterstrom to be out on the perimeter a bit more this year on outside zone runs, as the Gophers’ RB (more on him later) is more of a downhill perimeter runner, as opposed to Marion Barber, who was more prone to cut runs back to the inside. Either way, head coach Glen Mason can feel very good about his OL output this year.

4<SUP>th</SUP> and One – The Man – There is a Peterson in Norman. A Bush in Watts. A Hart in Ann Arbor. But, the best of the lot may ultimately be Double Deuce in Minneapolis – Laurence Maroney. Sure, use the Ronnie Brown-well-if-he-was-that-good-he-would-have-started argument, but that close minded approach will force you to overlook the Man. Maroney ran a blazing 4.4 for the NFL scouts at the campus pro day this spring, and if he can stay healthy, he has first round pick written all over him, obviously, if he declares for the draft. Someone asked last year who would you want – Maroney or Barber? Barber was dependable and productive, but Maroney makes you jump out of your seat with his quickness and explosion. Talent like this doesn’t hit the Twin Cities all that often, and if it does, it usually is wearing the Vikings’ purple and gold. In addition to his marvelous athletic gifts, Maroney has the offensive line to make this a monster year, and if it is for him, he might, just might, get your attention.
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2005's really, really big breakout star
Minnesota RB Laurence Maroney

[font=verdana, arial, sans serif][size=-1]
[/size][/font][size=-1]Interview by[size=-1] Pete Fiutak
[/size] [/size]
This is a tough year to be a running back with hopes of winning big awards with players like Reggie Bush, DeAngelo Williams and Adrian Peterson to compete with. Even so, Minnesota junior Laurence Maroney is poised to make a huge splash after rushing[/size]
for 2,469 yards and 22 touchdowns averaging 6.5 yards per carry in his first two seasons while [size=-1]splitting carries with Marion Barber III. Now that Barber left early for the NFL, Maroney will get more work and should put up huge numbers.

I was able to talk with Maroney for a few minutes after the Minnesota spring game. Standing on what is normally second base in the Metrodome while talking to him, I thought the interview was over before it started when I brought up the idea of winning the Heisman. He ran off, but he was joking around and came back. Also included are thoughts on Maroney from head coach Glen Mason and star center Greg Eslinger.
[font=verdana, arial, sans serif][size=-1]
[/size][/font][size=-1]CFN: With Marion Barber gone, does that mean you're going to get all the carries?[/size]

[size=-1]LM[/size][size=-1]: The coaches will use me a little bit more, but it's not going to be equal carries like me and Marion had. I might get more carries, but I'm not going to take on all his workload. They want to make sure I'm fresh too. The other guys are going to have to step up and show that they can take Marion's spot. It's not all the pressure on me like everyone thinks it'll be. I'm going to do what I do, and everyone else will do what they do. We'll still be explosive running the ball. [/size]

[font=verdana, arial, sans serif][size=-1] [size=-1]CFN: You're still only a junior, but are you looked at as the leader now? [/size]

[/size][/font] [font=verdana, arial, sans serif][size=-1] [size=-1]LM[/size][/size][/font][size=-1][font=verdana, arial, sans serif][size=-1]:[/size][font=verdana, arial, sans serif][size=-1] [/size][/font] [/size][/font][size=-1] [font=verdana, arial, sans serif][size=-1] Y[/size][size=-1]eah, it's crazy, but I'm having fun with it. I'm trying to get used to it after looking up to Marion, but it's what I've got to do. It's crazy having to be the one with responsibility and the one others are looking at, but it's my job now. I like to set the tone anyway and be that sort of a player, but it's something I'm going to have to deal with and get used to.[/size][/size][/font]

[size=-1]CFN: When did you know Marion was going to leave school early and how did he tell you? [/size]

[size=-1]LM[/size][size=-1]: Aw man ... we talk about everything, and then he slipped this one past me. It's cool, but the one time he doesn't talk to me and that was it. [/size]

[size=-1]CFN: Any part of you try to talk him out of it?[/size]

[size=-1]LM[/size][size=-1]: No, being the friend that I am, I'm not going to try to convince anyone to go against their wishes, but it's my job to be supportive. I'm going to miss him and things aren't going to be the same without him, but I'm happy for him. I asked him if he was ready to go off to the grown folks, and he said he was ready.[/size]

[size=-1]CFN: Now that you're going to get the ball more, are you doing anything differently to make sure you can handle the work?[/size]

[size=-1]LM[/size][size=-1]: Not really. There's nothing I have to do differently other than keep working like I've been working. I have to keep hitting the weights and keep making sure I can be in the best shape I can possibly be in. Whatever the coaches want me to do, I'll do. If they want to run me fifty times a game, I'll be able to handle it. If they want me to split carries with the other guys, I can handle it. I'm ready. [/size]

[size=-1]CFN: (note: Laurence sat out the spring game to rest a slight muscle pull, but he did come in for a trick play where he took a handoff and threw it to the mascot, Goldy Gopher.)
Are you feeling O.K.? There's nothing serious that's going to spring up this summer, is there?[/size]

[size=-1]LM[/size][size=-1]: No, no, no. Not at all. I'm fine, I'm just taking it easy today and not taking any chances. The coaches didn't want me to play just as a precaution, but I'm ready to go. Ready. Put me out there.[/size]

[size=-1]CFN: I guarantee that if you use that Goldy Gopher play against Michigan, it'll work. But you have to use the actual mascot out there.[/size]

[size=-1]LM[/size][size=-1]: It might. It might. He was wide open. I can certainly throw it if they need me to. I'll do anything that works.

Minnesota head coach Glen Mason and Maroney

CFN: Compare Laurence to other great Minnesota backs.

Glen Mason: We’ve had the luxury of having some great backs at Minnesota over the last several years. Laurence is bigger, faster, and stronger than all of them with the exception, as far as strength, as Darrell Thompson and Marion Barber the second, not the third. The one big difference is his speed. Great breakaway speed.

CFN: Are you going to use him more as a workhorse back now that Marion Barber III is gone, or is he going to split carries?

GM: A large part of that will be his durability. The question a year ago was how I was going to keep both backs happy, and as it turned out, they needed each other and complimented each other very well. Because of the ability of Maroney, we want to give him 75% of the workload, and then take Amir Pinnix, Gary Russell, or whomever, and give them the rest of the work.

CFN: What does Laurence need to work on?

GM: Not much. He has done a pretty good job so far. He has worked hard to get stronger, and it’s noticeable. He’s a big human being. He came to use as a guy who was on the slim side, but he was pretty well put together. He’s not slim anymore.

Minnesota C Greg Eslinger on Maroney
He’s a unique back with a unique style. If you give Laurence a crack of daylight, he’s gone. You know in the back of your mind that if you just give him a little bit of room, you’ve got a chance for a huge play. Not many backs can do that.

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6. Minnesota 7-4 (4-4)
(predicted finish)

Two Cent Overview
Minnesota can run the ball on anybody, and with what they've got returning, expect that trend to continue. The defense is another story. There is no real leader, or a consistent standout for the Gophers here. The special teams are on even shoddier standing. They will be splitting kicking duties this year with anybody that brings a coupon and a helmet.

Sept. 1 Tulsa (W)
Sept. 10 Colorado State (W)
Sept. 17 Florida Atlantic (W)
Sept. 24 Purdue (W)
Oct. 1 at Penn State (W)
Oct. 8 at Michigan (L)
Oct. 15 Wisconsin (W)
Oct. 29 Ohio State (L)
Nov. 5 at Indiana (L)
Nov. 12 Michigan State (W)
Nov. 19 at Iowa (L)

Something To Look For
Another running back. I'm not talking about Laurence Maroney either. Glen Mason believes in the "Pair and a Spare" philosophy when it comes to running backs. Tellis Redmond left early to make room for Terry Jackson. Terry Jackson transferred to Southern Illinois to make room for Marion Barber and Laurence Maroney. Marion Barber III left early also to make room for Laurence Maroney. Look for Gary Russell or Amir Pinnix to get 400-600 yards rushing this season.

Returning Starters
Ten on offense, seven on defense.

Best Player
Running Back Laurence Maroney. He is one of the top two offensive players in the conference. There really isn't anything he can't do with the ball. Twenty-five carries per game should get him near 1,800 yards. Look for him to return kicks as well.

Most Important Game
Ohio State. It just seems that this will always be the most important game on Glen Mason's schedule no matter what school he is at.

Best Game To Pack Up The Family Truckster And Travel To
at Michigan. I think everybody should travel to Ann Arbor once. It's kind of like how you have to let a baby touch something hot or taste something bad so that they can get that desire out of them at an early age.

Game They Shouldn't Lose But Could
at Indiana. The Gophers get a week off before the Ohio State game. After that heartbreaking loss, they travel to Bloomington the next week. Much like Ron Zook, I'm convinced Terry Hoeppner will "get somebody" this year.

Something They Do Well
Run the ball. I could rename this category "The Only Thing They Do Well, But Sometimes That's All That They Need To Do Because, Frankly Ronnie, They Just Do It Better Than Anybody Else." Mason, for good reason, loves his offensive line, and in particular the quarterback of that line, "I feel that we will have an outstanding offensive line. I feel that Greg Eslinger is the best center in college football." Having running backs like Maroney on your roster don't hurt much either.

Something They Don't Do So Well
Complete a pass. Quarterback Bryan Cupito completed 47% of his passes (44% in conference play), of course many of his passes were low percentage passes (duh) deep downfield trying to connect with Ernie Wheelwright and Jared Ellerson. Player Most Likely To Own A Restaurant
Willie Van De Steeg. He could open a Der Dutchman-type place in order to bring the broasted chicken prices down, as they have gotten out of control since the shortage in '99.
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17-4 since 2001
With scUM struggling, and the Purdue game at home...I think there is an outside chance this team is undefeated when we play them. Definitely a good chance they are ranked. We play an awfully tough road schedule this year.
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Head Coach
I am very excited for this game. The number one rush offense in the country vs. the number on rush defense in the country. If we hold Minny to a low total rushing say under 70 yds. I think we take this victory running away.

I also think we are going to see Warp speed this weekend on the turf. I think the players will be used to it, b/c they practice in the WHC all the time. Teddy Ginn is going to look like lightning out there.
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17-4 since 2001
The kickoff is noon, and that sucks ass. I work til 5pm on friday, and so it's going to be tough to get there with the 11 hour drive. If I left right after work I wouldn't get there til around 5am at the earliest. I can't believe this noon game crap. If I can't get off of work early, I may have to sell tickets.
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17-4 since 2001
JonathanXC said:
With scUM struggling, and the Purdue game at home...I think there is an outside chance this team is undefeated when we play them. Definitely a good chance they are ranked. We play an awfully tough road schedule this year.
Funny how I mention Purdue and scUM...and I was right, they beat them...I forgot about Wisky and PSU...they weren't supposed to be so good this year, lol.
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flying low
In short, I don't see the chances of us winning being very large.

Playing at Indiana didn't really account for much of an away game challenge, seeing as as the 4th quarter started, there was more Scarlet in the stands than Crimson. This will be the toughest road test yet. Our weakness on the road is well known and the folks at Minnesota will know they have a good shot at taking us down. Granted, their defense is suspect, but our O has done tons of things to let our opponents back into the game. Coming out of the Metrodome with a W will speak volumes about our defense. In my opinion there's more than an outside shot that turnovers somewhere along the line will cost us the game. Please prove me wrong though, Bucks. I would love to see our defense shut down their running game and our offense exploding, but I just don't see one of those two happening (guess which...).
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Tim the Enchanter... WOLVERINE SLAYER!!
I think this game will be decided on 3 factors:

OSU Defense vs Minnie's Offense
This is the most intriguing of the bunch - pitting the best rush offense against the best rush defense. Maroney's a definate stud and their O line is near the top of the conference.

Generally speaking, defense wins championships so I think this matchup favors the silver bullets. Also, the D in much of the Big10 is suspect and their blow out wins came against Tulsa, Colorado State and Florida Atlantic.

<table class="cnnContent cnnSmall" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0"> <tbody><tr class="cnnData1"><td class="cnnLeft">Thu. Sep. 1</td> <td class="cnnLeft">10:15 p.m. ET</td> <td class="cnnLeft cnnBold">at Tulsa</td> <td>41-10</td> <td>W</td> <td class="cnnEndCell">
</td> </tr> <tr class="cnnData2"> <td class="cnnLeft">Sat. Sep. 10</td> <td class="cnnLeft">2:00 p.m. ET</td> <td class="cnnLeft cnnBold">Colorado State</td> <td>56-24</td> <td>W</td> <td class="cnnEndCell">
</td> </tr> <tr class="cnnData1"> <td class="cnnLeft">Sat. Sep. 17</td> <td class="cnnLeft">8:30 p.m. ET</td> <td class="cnnLeft cnnBold">Florida Atlantic</td> <td>46-7</td> <td>W</td> <td class="cnnEndCell">
</td> </tr> <tr class="cnnData2"> <td class="cnnLeft">Sat. Sep. 24</td> <td class="cnnLeft">12:00 p.m. ET</td> <td class="cnnLeft cnnBold">Purdue</td> <td>42-35</td> <td>W</td> <td class="cnnEndCell">
</td> </tr> <tr class="cnnData1"> <td class="cnnLeft">Sat. Oct. 1</td> <td class="cnnLeft">3:30 p.m. ET</td> <td class="cnnLeft cnnBold">at Penn State</td> <td>14-44</td> <td>L</td> <td class="cnnEndCell">
</td> </tr> <tr class="cnnData2"> <td class="cnnLeft">Sat. Oct. 8</td> <td class="cnnLeft">1:00 p.m. ET</td> <td class="cnnLeft cnnBold">at Michigan</td> <td>23-20</td> <td>W</td> <td class="cnnEndCell">
</td> </tr> <tr class="cnnData1"> <td class="cnnLeft">Sat. Oct. 15</td> <td class="cnnLeft">12:00 p.m. ET</td> <td class="cnnLeft cnnBold">Wisconsin</td> <td>34-38</td> <td>L</td> <td class="cnnEndCell"><!-- REAP --><!-- PURGE:/football/ncaa/recaps/2005/10/15/32901_recap.html --><!-- KEEP -->
</td></tr></tbody> </table>
They only put 14 up on Penn State's tough defense and 23 on Michigan's suspect one. Track meets against Purdue? and Wisconsin resulted in one win and one loss and both games were played at home. (And yes I know they should have beaten Wisky -- the same way we should have beaten Texas)

OSU's Offense vs Minnie's Defense
This will probably tell the story. If we can get 24+ points, we should be in good shape - but we all know how the offense got rattled against Penn State on the road. Our O just pulled off a legitimate win on the semi-road so the morale should be a little higher than most away games. My gut tells me that if Colorado State, Purdue, Penn State, and Wisky can all score 24+ then so can we.

OSU vs the Road
If the offense gets rattled by the crowd, then we'll be in big trouble. If not, we should be fine. I've never been to the Metrodome, but I can't imagine that is could be anywhere near the intimidation level of Beaver Stadium this year; I guess seeing our marching band get assaulted with beer bottles would probably rattle anyone... Maybe that experience will make ignoring the home crowd easier - who knows?

I'm just a big Tressel believer. He'll take us through the home stretch.
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