Minnesota Gophers Football: Fantasy Recap And Outlook
2011 began a new era of Gopher football, but ended with a relatively similar result. While things are sure to improve in the future, this season was a transition year as new head coach Jerry Kill looks to put his stamp on the Minnesota program. One piece Kill did inherit was starting quarterback MarQueis Gray who had to battle through injuries throughout the season. When Gray was on the field, though, he was the dual-threat weapon many envisioned him to be, leading the team in both passing and rushing. Minnesota needed that running threat at QB because of the limited options at the running back position. Duane Bennett and Donnell Kirkwood saw the majority of carries but neither was able to do much. On the outside, Da’Jon McKnight was a big-play weapon, but the passing game didn’t develop into much. For the most part, it was a tough season for all involved.
Biggest Surprise- MarQueis Gray, Junior Quarterback
I don’t think anyone expected Gray to put up fantastic passing statistics in his first full season as the starter considering he was making the transition from wide receiver. Gray was average at best throwing the football with only two multi-touchdown games and six games in which he did not have a touchdown pass. Gray did most of his damage on the ground, rushing for more than 100 yards in four games and nearly topping the 1,000-yard mark on the season.
Biggest Disappointment- Duane Bennett, Senior Running Back
Bennett has never been a super-productive back, but Jerry Kill-coached offenses typically are one of the better rushing teams in the nation so it was thought before the year that the senior back should have a nice year. Well, since the Gophers were never able to pass the ball with much consistency defense were able to key in on the run game. Add in the fact that most of the offensive line was relatively new and that does not make for a recipe for success in the rushing department. Bennett only ran for 639 yards.
Gray will have another year in the offense so expect passing numbers to improve slightly, but he will continue a dangerous weapon when scrambling out of the pocket. The Gophers will be without their top target in McKnight due to graduation, but have some young up-and-coming weapons in Malcolm Moulton, Marcus Jones and Devin Crawford-Tufts. Running back will be the position with the most question marks. Donnell Kirkwood and David Cobb gained some good experience as freshmen and should be bigger factors going forward.
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