MINNESOTA GOLDEN GOPHERS Head coach: Tim Brewster Last season: 1-11 overall, 0-8 in the Big Ten. Spring practice: March 27-April 25.
Spring is a time for a new beginning, and no team looks forward to starting over more than Minnesota. Coach Tim Brewster's first season produced just one victory as a lineup filled with underclassmen and a sieve-like defense proved too much for a decent offense to overcome. Those underclassmen at least gained valuable experience. Here's a look at the Golden Gophers as they prepare for spring practice.
Quarterback Adam Weber returns after a successful freshman season.
Offense wasn't the Gophers' problem in 2007. Although Weber was a freshman starter at quarterback, he still threw for nearly 3,000 yards and 24 touchdowns. But he does need to make better decisions. Both starting guards return from a unit that allowed just 13 sacks in 12 games.
HELP IS NEEDED
The Gophers ranked 116th in the nation in pass defense and gave up 28 touchdown passes last season. The secondary wasn't alone in struggling, but it's clear that area must be upgraded. No defensive lineman posted more than two sacks in 2007, and the Gophers allowed 229.3 rushing yards per game. Tailback had not been a problem in recent seasons, but Weber was the top rusher last season.
KEEP AN EYE ON
TB Duane Bennett: As a freshman last season, Bennett rushed for 442 yards, including 106 against Michigan.
CB Justin Chatman: Though small (5 feet 9), Chatman – a redshirt freshman – could inject some speed into a defense in need of some.
LB Andre Tate': A redshirt freshman, he has the size and speed to make an impact. But he's a converted running back, so he's still learning the position.
HIS TIME IS NOW
DE Raymond Henderson was a four-star prospect who originally signed with Tennessee, but transferred to Minnesota before the 2006 season. Last season, he managed just three tackles while struggling with injuries. He needs to emerge as the pass-rushing threat he was projected to be.
Last season Minnesota scored more than 30 points in six games – and still lost five of them. So while strides on offense would be appreciated, the Gophers need to make giant leaps on defense, especially on the line and in the secondary. Showing some improvement in those areas this spring would be extremely encouraging, especially with an influx of talent from a top-20 recruiting class arriving in the summer.
Olin Buchanan is the senior football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.