Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Stuck Between Stations - Minnesota Preview Part 1
This is part 1 of the forementioned Minnesta preview. Part 2 should be up tonight. Hopefully.
Do you recognize this man, Golden Gopher fans? This is a picture of The Hold Steady lead singer, Craig Finn, proud Minnesotan in his own right. What does this have in common with last season, you ask? He sings a lot about drugged up, boozed out characters in his songs, and if you root for Minnesota, you were probably drinking hand sanitizer from August til November. Without further ado, here's the preview:
2007 In Review - Lord, I'm Discouraged
In a word? Ouch. "Lord, I'm Discouraged" is a song off of The Hold Steady's new album, Stay Positive, which depicts a girl who meets new friends (Brewster), starts taking popular drugs (the spread offense), and in the end, the narrator of the song states, "I mostly just pray she won't die." How did you suffer such a fall from grace? Let's review (If you're a Minnesota fan, please stick with this preview. I promise, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.).
Glen Mason was canned in '06, and Tim Brewster, whose previous greatest accomplishment was getting Vince Young to Texas, stepped in. Minnesota went from a power running attack that was guaranteed to produce a great running and an above average one, to a spread offense. I'll talk about how the offense and defense functioned later, but for now, let's give this one sentence overview: If you're a pessimist, Minnesota was an OT away from going 0-12; if you're an optimist, you see that Minnesota lost six of those games by seven or less points (granted, one of those was to 1-AA [PLAYOFF SUBDIVISION TEAM! GET IT RIGHT OR PAY THE PRICE! - Ed.] Ahem. Playoff Subdivision North Dakota State.)
OFFENSE - Stay Positive!
"Stay Positive", off of The Hold Steady album of the same name, has a chorus that goes, "We gotta stay positive." The Minnesota offense surely didn't play like a 1-11 team last year; they were 7th in Big 10 games in yards gained, third in passing yards, and third in sacks allowed (mainly due to Adam Weber's mobility). However, the flipside to that coin is that they were eighth in Big Ten games in turnovers. The two points most damning: tenth in points scored, and rock bottom in yards per rush.
One would assume Adam Weber would be the starter. In praise of him, he was essentially as good as Juice Williams last year. Weber had a slightly better passer rating (120.8 to 119.2), and had much better production in total offense (292.7 yards to Juice's 192.2). Weber's flashing red weak spot in his forehead? Turnovers. He threw 24 TDs to 19 INTs, but those are still a lot of interceptions (just ask C.J. Bacher). Weber was 9th in the Big Ten in passing efficiency, and two new QBs in the program, highly touted junior college recruit David Pittman and four-star high school recruit MarQueis Gray should push him during training camp, but for a ludicrous prediction in June, Weber will still hold the spot.
Running Back wise? Meh. Duane Bennett is projected to be the starter, but he's no Laurence Maroney, let alone Amir Pinnix. This problem only gets compounded by the fact that the offensive line couldn't produce much on the ground last year, and with the hog mollies still kind of green (no seniors slated to start, but three starters return), there should be enough improvement to get them out of the cellar YPC-wise, if the play calls support it.
As for Wide Receiver, out of the two main threats last year, Ernie Wheelwright left, but Eric Decker (67 receptions, 9 TDs, 13.6 YPC) returns. The rest of the wideouts had between 10-23 catches last year, which means a second option will have to step up, but as many teams can attest, as long as one deep threat exists, the passing attack should be healthy. The tight end should be set as well, Jack Simmons was decent until he got injured last year.
Defense, Special teams and 2008 predictions to come in part 2...