Gophers football 2014 outlook

  • Updated: August 24, 2014 - 12:17 AM

As young quarterback Mitch Leidner goes, so might go the Gophers offense. The defense appears to be in good hands.

Photo: MARLIN LEVISON • Star Tribune file photo,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

The Gophers, coming off back-to-back bowl seasons, open another hopeful season on Thursday night against Eastern Illinois at TCF Bank Stadium. Here is a quick primer on the team as that first kickoff approaches:

The vitals

Coach: Jerry Kill, 144-94 in 20 years; fourth season with the Gophers (17-21).

Returning starters: Eight on offense, seven on defense.

Schedule analysis: The Gophers have what should be a tougher schedule than in recent seasons. Their opening opponent, Eastern Illinois, has upset potential after going to the FCS quarterfinals last season. Their third game is a rare nonconference test: a trip down to Fort Worth, Texas, to face TCU. And those final four games? Yikes. Iowa, Ohio State, at Nebraska, at Wisconsin. Could the Gophers have a better team but worse record? Absolutely.


Last year: 8-5 (4-4 Big Ten), lost to Syracuse 21-17 in the Texas Bowl.

Key departures: QB Philip Nelson, DT Ra’Shede Hageman, DB Brock Vereen, LB Aaron Hill, K Chris Hawthorne.

Key returnees: QB Mitch Leidner, RB David Cobb, TE Maxx Williams, DE Theiren Cockran, LB Damien Wilson.

Key newcomers: RB Berkley Edwards, DT Steven Richardson, DE Andrew Stelter, K Ryan Santoso, CB Craig James.

Greater than eight?

Jerry Kill has improved the Gophers by at least two victories in each season since his first at Minnesota: from 3-9 to 6-7 to 8-5. Can he get the Gophers to nine or more this season? Here are three things that must happen if they hope to improve once again:


1 Mitch Leidner is the biggest key. The redshirt sophomore shared time with Philip Nelson last year, playing in 10 games and starting four. He completed 55.1 percent of his passes, compared to 50.5 for Nelson, and those numbers must improve.

Leidner threw just one interception last year in 78 attempts, but he took seven sacks in the final two games. The 6-4, 237-pound Lakeville native is a strong threat to run, evidenced by his 24-carry, 155-yard, four-touchdown performance against San Jose State

But the Gophers must be careful. They don’t have another quarterback who’s taken a college snap, and backup Chris Streveler might not have the arm strength to be an effective Big Ten quarterback.


2 The Gophers should have a strong running game again, with David Cobb coming off a 1,202-yard season, and Berkley Edwards adding a big-play threat. The passing attack must improve, and this goes beyond Leidner.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Atlanta - WP: E. Stults 4 FINAL
Detroit - LP: J. Chamberlain 2
Washington - LP: X. Cedeno 2 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: M. Wacha 6
Philadelphia 4 FINAL
Pittsburgh 18
Baltimore 6 FINAL
Tampa Bay 6
Miami - LP: D. Haren 1 FINAL
NY Mets - WP: R. Montero 7
San Diego 6 FINAL
Cincinnati 3
San Francisco 5 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 8
Colorado 2 FINAL
Oakland 11
LA Angels - LP: N. Tropeano 3 FINAL
Seattle - WP: T. Walker 5
Cleveland 4 FINAL
Chicago WSox 1
Kansas City 11 FINAL
Texas 7
Los Angeles 4 FINAL
Arizona 2
Toronto 7 FINAL
Houston 4
Minnesota - LP: C. Johnson 2 FINAL
Boston - WP: J. Masterson 14
Boston 116 FINAL
Charlotte 104
LA Lakers 113 FINAL
Philadelphia 111
Houston 96 FINAL
Toronto 99
Milwaukee 88 FINAL
Atlanta 101
Sacramento 83 FINAL
Memphis 97
Utah 104 FINAL
Minnesota 84
Phoenix 78 4th Qtr 5:35
Portland 103
Tampa Bay 5 FINAL
Montreal 3
Vancouver 4 FINAL
St. Louis 1
Calgary 5 FINAL
Dallas 3
Los Angeles 1 FINAL
Chicago 4
Edmonton 4 FINAL
Colorado 1
Buffalo 0 3rd Prd
Arizona 1
Loyola-Chicago 65
Dayton 70 FINAL
(1) Connecticut 91
(6) Tennessee 48 FINAL
(4) Maryland 58
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Who are you rooting for in the NCAA Final Four?

Weekly Question