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Thursday, July 30, 2009
Preseason predictions: Minnesota


Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

1. Eric Decker will lead the Big Ten in receiving yards for the second straight year -- The Gophers senior will have more help around him this fall as junior college transfer Hayo Carpenter joins a mix that includes Brandon Green, Ben Kuznia, Da'Jon McKnight and Troy Stoudermire. Opposing defenses will have a hard time doubling Decker, and quarterback Adam Weber will consistently find his good friend for 8- to 12-yard completions. Decker will contend for the Biletnikoff Award and leave Minnesota as the most accomplished receiver in team history.

2. Minnesota will be a better team with about the same record -- The Gophers boast loads of experience on both offense and defense, but their schedule looks significantly tougher than it was a year ago. None of the first three nonconference games (Syracuse, Air Force, Cal) are guaranteed wins, and Minnesota's Big Ten road schedule is brutal (Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Iowa). Add in a new system on offense and a new coordinator on defense, and the Gophers will be a better team with the same record as last year, or worse.

3. MarQueis Gray will challenge Weber for playing time -- I'm a huge fan of Weber's and so is head coach Tim Brewster, but it will be tempting to get Gray more touches this fall. If the freshman continues to build on a strong spring, he'll see the field early at either quarterback or wide receiver. Minnesota will employ a special package of plays for Gray, but if the offense struggles for long stretches, the talented 6-foot-4 quarterback will get the opportunity to play more.