Keep Your Friends Close, Enemies Closer: Minnesota

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Keep Your Friends Close, Enemies Closer: Minnesota
The Daily Gopher answered a few questions for us this week to help us preview Minnesota. To get more Gopher insider information head over to The Daily Gopher.

1) So far, so good. Where does this year’s Minnesota team rank in the last five years?

This is as good, if not better, than any team since maybe the 2004 team who ran all over Alabama in the Music City Bowl. And the 2003 10-win team was certainly better but this team is pretty good.

2) Position of strength/weakness?

As a strength I’m going to say special teams. Our offense and defense are both OK but their special teams have been very good thus far. Our biggest weakness is our lack of experience. We have youth all over the field.

3) At this point, who is Minnesota’s best player?

Eric Decker is the best wide receiver most Big Ten fans have never heard of.

4) Predict their conference finish.

6th, not great but ahead of Iowa, Northwestern and Indiana.

5) The Gophers gave up more yards than any team in Division I (6,224 in 2007, 518.7/game), but they have seven returning starters. Has that been a good thing? How much improvement have you seen this season?

There has been a ton of improvement. Along the defensive line getting Willie VanDeSteeg healthy has been significant. Among the linebackers Lee Campbell moved from DE to MLB which has been a great move. And the secondary has three new starters, one of which is a move from WR to CB and has been another outstanding move. Getting some more help from the defensive line and great athleticism from the secondary has made this a very different defense.

6) Speaking of big numbers, Brewster signed 30 recruits in February 2008 in a class that ranked #17 by Rivals. How many true freshmen are playing this season? Give us some names for Saturday.

Defensively the only true freshman who is really contributing is DT-Jewhan Edwards. On offense two true freshmen running backs are having an immediate impact. DeLeon Eskridge and Shady Salamon have been thrust into the role of carrying the load after the season ending injury to Duane Bennett. There are a couple freshmen WRs who have seen action but none have been significant contributors, yet.

7) Adding to the excitement, Minnesota is building a brand new stadium on campus. Tell us a little about the stadium. How many snowy games can we expect per year?

I’ve live in MN all of my life and I don’t think you’ll see weather that differs from Wisconsin or most of the other Big Ten schools. But the stadium is going to be incredible. The team locker room will be one of the largest in the country and the end of the stadium will have the skyline in the background of one of the biggest score boards in the country. It will be a great atmosphere and a lot of fun for Gopher fans.

8) Adam Weber has been virtually flawless and is the focus of the offense. Have we seen the end of the great Minnesota running backs?

I don’t think so. Offensive Coordinator, Mike Dunbar has produced 1,200 yard running backs every year until last year at Minnesota. You won’t see a rush offense like we saw in the Glen Mason years, but this is a balanced offense and a couple of four-star RB recruits have high hopes of continuing a RB pipeline to the NFL.

9) On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you believe in Tim Brewster?

8. His recruiting has been as good, if not better than advertised. 1-11 last year keeps you from getting too excited but he has shown improvement this year so I’m drinking the kool aid.

10) Score prediction?

A Gopher win would not surprise me, but Ohio State wins 31-24.
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