After one of the worst seasons in school history, the Minnesota Gophers are a team in search of an identity. Things will be much different from last season, as the Gophers will have a new head coach and coaching staff, a new quarterback, and hopefully a renewed spirit.
As bad as Minnesota was in the 2010 campaign, they finished the season with a victory against the Iowa Hawkeyes one of the more gutsy wins in the Big Ten last season. The Hawkeyes had everything to play for, and the Gophers had nothing but pride. Former quarterback Adam Weber led his team into the winner's circle one last time before the team would undergo wholesale changed this past offseason. So what can we expect from the Gophers in 2011?
New head coach Jerry Kill comes to Minneapolis from Northern Illinois where he turned around a, let's say "less than par" program into a perennial powerhouse. Can he be that for the Gophers?
The biggest key for the Gophers' offense is going to be Marqueis Gray, the quarterback/wide receiver slash. As of right now, we don't know whether or not Gray will be playing QB or staying at receiver. The biggest factor to the outsider would be--who is the guy that, when the ball is in his hands, gives the Gophers the best chance to win. Right now, it appears as though that player is Gray, a 6'4" 230 pound kid who has great athleticism and is undoubtedly the Gophers' most exciting player.
There was not much on the defensive side of the ball last year for the Gophers to inspire any confidence, but what they do have is nine returning starters. The returning leader is linebacker Gary Tinsley, a senior who should be a lock to lead the team in tackles. The loss of Kyle Theret will hurt the Gophers' secondary, but they have a solid young crop of players, and perhaps a new coaching staff will revitalize them.
I definitely don't expect the Gophers to play as poorly as they did in 2010, when they lost to lowly South Dakota on their home field. 2010 may have been an all-time low for the university in terms of football. However, a new coaching staff, a new quarterback, and a defense returning nine starters could be just what the doctor ordered for this Minnesota program to get back on track.
Toughest non-conference game: @USC
Projected finish: 4-8 (1-7 Big Ten)