Preview 2018: Minnesota Golden Gophers. The Payoff Is Coming

Preview 2018: Minnesota Golden Gophers. The Payoff Is Coming

2018 Preview

Preview 2018: Minnesota Golden Gophers. The Payoff Is Coming

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What You Need To Know About The Minnesota Offense

– The Gopher offense needs a passing game. Minnesota finished 121st in the nation averaging just 126 yards per game, there weren’t enough key plays made on third downs, and there was next to nothing happening down the field for long stretches.

Offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca knows how to get a passing attack going – he did just fine as P.J. Fleck’s guy at Western Michigan – but he needs the parts. First, he needs to find his quarterback.

– It’s going to be a fight for the starting quarterback gig right up until the opener. With Demry Croft leaving the program, and no veteran options in the hunt, the hope was for JUCO transfer Vic Viramontes to rise up and be ready to be the main man.

But he struggled too much this offseason, allowing freshman Zack Annexstad to rise up and occasionally look the part. Viramontes has transferred, but redshirt freshman Tanner Morgan was supposed to be the steadiest passer, and would’ve been the safest choice.

And then Annexstad took the starting job. Get ready for a true freshman to lead the Gophers into a new era.

Tyler Johnson turned into one of the Big Ten’s better receivers, but he was it. He caught 35 passes for 677 yards and seven scores before getting hurt, but the No. 2 wideout only made 11 grabs.

– The running game will carry the offense – again. Rodney Smith has been an underappreciated steady force for an offense that hasn’t had a whole lot else over the last few years. And now he might have his best line yet to run behind.

Donnell Greene is a rock at left tackle, and there’s enough versatility to play around with the interior. If JUCO transfer Jason Dickson can look the part at right tackle when he hits campus and Sam Schlueter can be tried out at other spots, all of a sudden, the Gopher line that returns three starters should be a force.

Biggest Key To The Minnesota Offense

Complete a forward pass. Again, Demry Croft is gone, Conor Rhoda has graduated, and Seth Green is moving to tight end. Those three new quarterback options are still battling it out for the job, with the main task to simply be to start hitting a few passes.

The Gopher offense will still rely on the running game, but there has to be something happening on a consistent basis through the air from Annexstad. Minnesota was dead last in the Big Ten and 124th in the nation in completion percentage, connecting on just 47% of its passes with nine touchdowns and 11 picks. That can’t – and won’t – happen again.

NEXT: Defense Breakdown, Top Players, Final Prediction & What Will Happen

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