Joe Christensen covered Major League Baseball for 15 years, including three seasons at the Baltimore Sun and eight at the Star Tribune, before switching to the college football beat. He’s a Faribault, Minn., native who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1996. He covered Jim Wacker’s Gophers for the Minnesota Daily and also wrote about USC, UCLA and the Rose Bowl for the Riverside Press-Enterprise before getting this chance to cover football again.

Email Joe to talk about the Gophers.

Countdown to Syracuse

Posted by: under Football Updated: September 1, 2009 - 7:02 PM

 

Greetings.
 
Strange that the Gophers, in a season much ballyhooed for the move back outside on campus, will be opening up in Syracuse's Carrier Dome. Brewster noted it was ironic that a dome named after an enormous air conditioner manufacturer isn't air conditioned.
 Anyway
 
So, where have I been? Good question. I’ve been trying to get all the stuff done I needed to do on our special stadium section.
 
Is that a good excuse? You’ll have to tell me when it comes out Sunday.
Today was Coach Tim Brewster’s first media gathering of the season. He sat down and talked at length about Syracuse, the two-deeps were distributed and questions were answered.
There weren’t many surprises on the two-deeps, which will be in the paper tomorrow. As I wrote last week, the starting offensive line, from right tackle to left, is Matt Stommes, Chris Bunders, Jeff Tow-Arnett, Matt Carufel and Jeff Wills.
At running back, the trio of Duane Bennett, DeLeon Eskridge and Kevin Whaley (who is practicing full-go). Brewster reiterated his plan to use all three, utilizing each in formations and plays that fit their skills. Then the plan is to go with the hot hand late in the game.
Three starting wideouts are listed – Eric Decker, Troy Stoudermire and Brandon Green. I still think Stoudermire is going to be one of the big stories of the Gophers season. He will return kicks (but not punts, that will be Marcus Sherels), he’ll be in the wildcat offense at times and he’s going to make a mark as a receiver. He may end up getting the second-most touches of anyone at the position after Decker. Brewster praised the improvement in Stoudermire’s route-running during this camp. ‘’He has really improved as a route-runner, as a receiver in general,’’ Brewster said.  ‘’Everybody knows how dynamic he is with the ball in his hands.’’
Da’Jon McKnight, Bryant Allen and Hayo Carpenter are listed as the backups. This is a very deep position, and offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said he could go seven deep in the rotation.
The defensive starters have been constant throughout camp, with the only adjustment being Barrett Moen playing one defensive end position.
 
You can see the improved depth of the Gophers team by the relative lack of freshmen on the two-deeps. On offense it’s Allen and QB MarQueis Gray. On defense it’s linebacker Keanon Cooper and cornerback Michael Carter (who could wind up as the nickel back).
So that begs the question: Which of the true freshmen on the team have the best chance of playing this season. In my opinion : MarQueis Gray; Dan Orseske, who has won the punting job; Allen, who could be quite the play-maker; Carter, who has shown good coverage skills; Ra’Shede Hageman, who could end up playing a bit on both sides of the ball. I think it’s possible Matt Garin’s pass-rushing skills could get him on the field, but that depends on injuries and how the other defensive ends play. Brewster has talked up young defensive backs Kenny Watkins and Kerry Lewis, but the Gophers would appear to have a lot of depth in the secondary. We’ll have to wait and see.
 
That’s about it. Have a good night.

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