We didn't have enough Andys around here, so today we have one more. Today we have Andy York stopping by. He writes about the Golden Gophers for our sister site The Daily Gopher. He faced my hard questions concerning the 2015 Gophers and their matchup with Purdue.
T-Mill: Last year Purdue had one of its best games of the year against thegophers in Minneapolis. Going on the road does that give you pause for an upset?
Andy: Chris wanted me to make sure that my answer to this one begins, "I thought the first rule of Purdue Harbor is that we don't talk about Purdue Harbor?" So there you go. Yes going on the road for us is a concern. We dropped a "should have won" game at Illinois that would have made an 8-4 regular season an even more impressive 9-3 season. So yes, going to Purdue is concerning. The general consensus of the non full homer Gopher prognasticators seems to be that we will probably find some way to accidentally drop a game on the road to one of Iowa, Purdue, or Northwestern that we probably shouldn't. The one thing going for the Gophers is that Purdue is early in the Big Ten schedule where I think it is less likely that Jerry Kill will not have his team ready for a road game that could make or break the potential to go to Indy at the end of the season. So yes, going into Harbor is concerning, but I think the Gophers should be able to escape alive. (ED Note: Purdue Harbor can only occur with Ohio State, so you might be safe.)
T-Mill: Last year Minnesota was rather one-dimensional favoring the run, but they were very good at that. Is there reason to expect more balance or more manball?
Andy: I think you can expect more manball. The Gopher lose David Cobb, but have a stable of running backs who should be able to take his place in Rodney Williams, Jeff Jones, Rodney Smith, and frankly maybe even someone else who makes a name for himself in fall camp or the non-con portion of the schedule. The Gophers passing game will be interesting to watch develop as the fall begins. Mitch Leidner is back for another season and looked pretty good in the bowl game against Missouri. While Maxx Williams is gone which will hurt, the Gophers have three redshirt freshman receivers who will hopefully show that they can make an early impact, and have several other tight ends who while they will definitely not match Maxx's production can hopefully not let us lose too much of a beat. But yes, manball will definitely be the name of the game for the Gophers this season once again.
T-Mill: The Gophers are definitely heading in the right direction under coach Kill. Is a division title too high of a goal this season?
Andy: No, it's definitely not. Is it fully expected? Maybe. The expectations are slowly creeping higher and higher for this team, and frankly a trip to Indy is definitely something that Gopher fans can look to as a goal. It definitely won't be easy. You still need to win at bare minimum two of three from Iowa, Nebraska and Wisconsin. With a probably loss to Ohio State already on the B1G schedule, there will not be much of a margin for error. Especially when WI gets Maryland and Rutgers from the east while the Gophers get Michigan and Ohio State. To be perfectly honest, the schedule looks a lot more likely for a trip to Indy in the next few years rather than this season, but its definitely possible if they play up to their potential. I won't laugh at any Gopher fan who thinks they will go to Indy this fall, but I'm not going to book my hotel anytime soon either.
T-Mill: What are some of the defensive strengths for a unit that was up and down at times last season?
Andy: Secondary, secondary, and more secondary. Brien Boddy-Calhoun and Eric Murray are probably the best tandem of corners in the Big Ten. Both should be fairly high NFL draft picks next spring. When you add the Gophers safeties they will have most likely a top two or three secondary in the entire conference. The Gophers also have a great crop of young secondary members who are learning behind the seniors who are currently starting, and with the great coaching of Jay Sawvel, should be good for years to come. The Gophers have a good young core at Defensive Tackle as well led by Stephen Richardson. This kid is a bit undersized but was a beats as a freshman last year, and I have no doubt he will be better this season. The Gophers will need a better effort on the pass rush, and will need to find someone to fill the hole at middle linebacker that Damien Wilson left when he graduated, but have several good options. Hopefully one will run away with the job in August and will help complete a good, but not outstanding linebacker corps.
While not completely defensive related either, the Gophers special teams should be great again as well. All-B1G punter Peter Mortell is back, along with our linebacker sized kicker Ryan Santos who booted the game winner against the Boilers last season. Santoso also has a great leg on kickoffs and can help the Gophers with his touch backs.
T-Mill: Are there any newcomers we should be concerned with?
Andy: We will see what newcomers will make an impact as there are several that could, but until the season starts all bets are off. The one most likely to have a significant impact will be Jeff Jones. The 4-star from Minneapolis didn't quite qualify academically last season, but is good to go this fall. He was a star running back in high school, but was used a ton out of the slot in spring practice. Basically it's obvious that Jerry Kill wants to find any way he can to get the ball in his hands. He could definitely be a major threat. Rodney Smith is another potential redshirt freshman who could make an impact at the running back spot. He was supposedly one of the best backs the Gophers had in spring practice, and could see himself taking a majority of the carries by the time the Purdue game comes around.
The Gophers have several young receivers, and we hope that at least one of Melvin Holland Jr, Desmond Gant or Isiah Gentry breaks out in a major way to become one of the top two receivers and a go to target for Mitch. Add in athletic freak Duke Anyanwu at tight end replacing Maxx, and Leidner should have lots of receiving options....he just needs to get them the ball.
T-Mill: Finally, a prediction?
Andy: For the season or the game? How about both. I see the Gophers defeating Purdue in another close battle lets say...34-27 as the Boilers will continue to build off of last season, but so do the Gophers. I think Minnesota ends the season 9-3 with a non-con loss to TCU in their opener, a Big Ten loss at Ohio State, and one other loss coming to a group of Wisconsin, Nebraska, at Iowa, or at Northwestern. They finish 2nd in the west again and are still one year off from a trip to Indy.