Projected 2014 Gophers Starting Offense
QB: Philip Nelson - (redshirt So.)
RB: Devon Wright (redshirt Sr.) Donnell Kirkwood (redshirt Sr.)
WR: Jamel Harbison (Jr.) Andre McDonald (Jr.) Marcus Jones (Sr.) Devin Crawford Tufts (Sr.)
TE: Maxx Williams (Jr.)
LT: Jonah Pirsig (redshirt So.)
LG: Tommy Olson - (Sr.)
C: Isaac Hayes - (Jr.)
RG: Zac Epping - (redshirt Sr.)
RT: Jimmy Gjere - (redshirt Sr.)
Once you put all our position guys down on paper it becomes clear that we could potentially be looking at one of the best offenses that the Gophers have fielded in years. The obvious key is that Philip Nelson must live up to the hype and truly prove to be a transformative quarterback that can elevate the team around him. A couple key reasons why I think he can do that are:
2) Philip will have one of the most explosive set of wide receiving corps that the Gophers have ever had, at least in my lifetime. The key is that Harbison and McDonald live up to their potential, but if they do Nelson will have a host of weapons at his disposal.
3) Philip will benefit from a veteran offensive line that has the size and athleticism to run and pass block effectively. It is so cliche but games really are won in the trenches and Pirsig, Hayes, Olson and Gjere are all highly touted linemen that can really dominate the line of scrimmage.
In addition, I think Maxx Williams could also be an above average tight end, or at least on par with other Big 10 tight ends. Now, the running back spot still leaves a lot to be desired, unless Devon Wright can turn out to be the playmaker I envisioned him to be. However, we could also infuse the running back spot with a JUCO or highly touted younger running back that we recruit in 2013. The bottom line is that in 2014, I think we could be looking at a Gophers offense that could be above average at quarterback, wide receiver and offensive line, which is certainly more than the Gophers of the past five years can say.
I would like to try and draw some parallels to the best Gophers team of recent memory and the possible 2014 Gophers team. The Glen Mason led 2003 Gophers team went 10-3 with the only losses being to Michigan by 3 points, Michigan State by 4 points and blowout loss at Iowa to end the season. I draw comparisons to the 2003 Gophers because that was a talented offensive team that lacked a defense to match up with elite teams. That 2003 Gopher team scored 503 points and scored 35 or more points in 9 of 13 games. That 2003 team featured 3 First Team All Big 10 selections in running back Marion Barber III, center Greg Eslinger and tight end Ben Utecht. Also, tackle Rian Melander and guard Joe Quinn were Second Team All Big 10. I don't think it is to crazy to envision comparable honors occurring in 2014, except that wide receiver would be more likely than running back to receive honors. Notice that all our All Big 10 selections were on the offensive side of the ball in 2003. Unfortunately, our 3 losses were to the ranked Big 10 teams we faced and we gave up 38, 44 and 40 point respectively in those games. I point this out to highlight how critical it is we significantly upgrade our defense this time around, so that a good season like 2003 could possibly become a special season in 2014.