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Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Minnesota spring wrap

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Minnesota

2010 overall record: 3-9

2010 conference record: 2-6 (T-9th)

Returning starters

Offense: 6; defense: 8; kicker/punter: 1

Top returners

QB MarQueis Gray, WR Da'Jon McKnight, RB DeLeon Eskridge, RB Duane Bennett, LB Gary Tinsley, LB Mike Rallis, S Kim Royston, DL Anthony Jacobs

Key losses

QB Adam Weber, C D.J. Burris, FB Jon Hoese, S Kyle Theret, S Ryan Collado, DE Jewhan Edwards

2010 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: DeLeon Eskridge* (698 yards)

Passing: Adam Weber (2,679 yards)

Receiving: Da'Jon McKnight* (750 yards)

Tackles: Gary Tinsley* (90)

Sacks: Jewhan Edwards (3)

Interceptions: Mike Rallis* (3)

Spring answers

1. Shades of Gray: MarQueis Gray took the right approach in his return to the quarterback position and acclimated well to the new staff and the new offensive system. Gray's film study during the winter months paid off as he grasped Jerry Kill's offense and helped others catch on as well. Minnesota coaches didn't want to simply hand Gray the starting job. The junior had to earn it, and he answered the bell this spring.

2. Linebackers ready to lead: If the spring is any indication, Minnesota will be a linebacker-driven defense this season. The staff liked what it saw from Mike Rallis and particularly Keanon Cooper this spring. Gary Tinsley was limited by a hamstring injury but boasts experience and production. Minnesota has a nice starting point with those three and some others who will add depth.

3. Troy's time: Troy Stoudermire has had endured ups and downs and a near departure from the program during his career, but he looks to be settling in at the cornerback spot. The senior delivered several big hits during practices and scrimmages, solidifying himself in a secondary that could be solid this fall. Stoudermire seems to be a fan of physical play, and Minnesota's defense needs more of it this season.

Fall questions

1. Defensive line: Minnesota had the nation's weakest pass rush in 2010, generating only nine sacks all season. New coordinator Tracy Claeys plans to change things by employing a more aggressive scheme, especially for the down linemen. Anthony Jacobs and Brandon Kirksey both did some good things this spring, but the Gophers must develop more depth up front. They would really benefit from a guy like Ra'Shede Hageman blossoming during the summer.

2. Starting running back: The spring brought good competition at running back, as veterans Duane Bennett and DeLeon Eskridge worked alongside redshirt freshmen Donnell Kirkwood and Lamonte Edwards. Kill and his staff will use multiple backs a lot this fall, but it will be interesting to see who emerges as the starter. Both Bennett and Eskridge boast a lot of game experience, while Kirkwood showed some flashes in the spring game.

3. Wide receiver depth: Minnesota brings back an All-Big Ten candidate in receiver Da'Jon McKnight and a talented tight end in Eric Lair, but it needs more options in the passing game for Gray. Injuries hit the Gophers hard at receiver this spring, and while freshman Marcus Jones emerged as a potential contributor, the team will be looking for more bodies when fall camp kicks off.