Summer is nearing its halfway point and that means one thing: Football season is just around the corner.
Every program is faced with a ton of questions before practice officially begins. Position battles will be won and lost and the schedule will be analyzed as "experts" try to foresee how the season is going to play itself out.
The University of Minnesota football program hasn't exactly had an uneventful offseason. Players have gotten themselves into trouble with the law.
The Gophers figure to return only two starters from a defense that has made huge strides since Coach Brewster took over, and one of the two players, Kim Royston, is desperately trying to rehab a broken leg that he suffered in spring ball.
The Gopher offense struggled mightily down the stretch last season and will now be lead by its third offensive coordinator in three seasons.
All these factors lead to a myriad of questions that are going to surround the Gophers in 2010. Here are five tough questions that will be answered over the course of the season.
Tim Brewster took over the Gophers in 2007 and vowed to get the team back to the Rose Bowl. While he was heavily criticized for his lofty goals, many fans were willing to let things play out.
After three seasons, the program is pretty much where it was when Glen Mason was fired. Lower-tier bowl games and six or seven win seasons do not a Rose Bowl team make.
Brewster probably deserves two more seasons, but a horrendous schedule paired with an inconsistent offense might be enough to push Brewster out the door.
The Gophers running game was downright pitiful at the end of 2009. Gaining four yards on a carry could have been considered a "good" play for the struggling offense.
We've all heard time and time again that it all starts upfront. Most of the troubles can be blamed on the offensive line, who frequently faltered in pass protection and didn't fare much better when it came to run blocking.
New offensive coordinator Jeff Horton has promised a return to the power running game, hoping that will open things up for play action passing. In order for that to work, one the the running backs will have to emerge as a legitimate Big Ten back.
Deleon Eskridge and Duane Bennett each have plenty of experience, but haven't shown they can handle a full season of punishment as yet. It may be up to one of a trio of incoming freshmen who all figure to get their chance to carry the load.
At times during his career, Eric Decker looked like a man amongst boys. Fighting off double teams, going over the middle, or tip-toeing down the sideline, Decker often made the extraordinary catch look routine. Quarterback Adam Weber made no bones about Decker being his favorite receiver and looked for No. 7 early and often.
Now that Decker's moved on to the NFL and the Denver Broncos, a huge void exists in the passing game.
Junior WR Da'Jon McKnight elevated his game at the end of 2009 when Decker was injured and seems to be the most likely candidate to become Weber's first option.
If McKnight and Weber can build a repoire that is anywhere close to what Decker and Weber were able to accomplish, the Gophers offense could right itself quickly.
Juniors Troy Stoudemire and Brandon Green figure to see their looks in the offense elevated as well.
Whether it's at Minnesota, Alabama, or Washington State, when you come into a season needing to replace nine starters on a defense that had shown tons of improvement over two season, there's plenty of cause for concern.
Such is the case in Minnesota. The entire front seven will need to be replaced, but as experience walks out the door, youth and athleticism walk in.
Three of the expected starters on the line have significant game experience and the other, massive redshirt freshman Rashede Hageman, is a converted tight end and former basketball player with exceptional footwork and athleticism for a man who stands 6'6" and tips the scales at nearly 300 lbs.
The Gophers defenders with the most "star power" are sophomores Keanon Cooper and Michael Carter. Carter was outplaying the other corners at the end of 2009 and Cooper finished 7th on the team in tackles, despite limited playing time.
If this unit can gel quickly, Gopher fans won't notice a huge drop off.
In a perfect world, every game would matter just as much as the last. That doesn't hold true in college football.
The collegiate game has built itself on tradition and rivalries.
This is one area where Tim Brewster has struggled mightily. Whether it be for Paul Bunyan's Axe, Floyd of Rosedale, the Little Brown Jug, or even the highly-sought after Governor's Victory Bell, the Gophers have yet to win one trophy game in three seasons under Coach Brewster.
Boosters are sure not to ignore that fact. A sub-.500 season, and Brewster's probably shown the door.
A sub .500 season with wins over Wisconsin and/or Iowa may get Coach Brew a stay of execution.