Aug 31, 2012

2012 Big Ten Previews: Minnesota with The Daily Gopher

Our 2012 preseason previews with SBNation.com are winding down. Today we’re talking Minnesota with The Daily Gopher.

A year after opening at USC, Minnesota’s non-conference schedule lightens up a bit for year two of Jerry Kill’s tenure as head coach. However, after a manageable first half of the season, the Gophers will meet Wisconsin, Michigan, Nebraska and Michigan State over the final six weeks.

2011 Record: 3-9

2011 Bowl: N/A

2012 Bowl Projections:

History in Orlando: N/A (note: Minnesota played in the last edition of the Russell Athletic Bowl – then called the MicronPC.com Bowl – before it was moved to Orlando in 2001)

Q&A with The Daily Gopher

Describe the 2011 season in two words.

Step One.

All the attention in Jerry Kill’s first year shifted to his health. With the focus on the field this year, how can you describe the identity of Minnesota football under his guidance?

That is tough to determine I think. Since last season was kind of a mess, it was hard to see even the humble beginnings of an identity. Kill’s “program” (if I can answer this question slightly differently) is going to be one of building things the right way. Out working other teams and getting his teams to be fundamentally sound and on the same page so they can play fast is what I am going to expect year in and year out.

On paper, what looks like the toughest game this season?

Nebraska. Really there are a handful that will be equally difficult for the Gophers (Michigan, Wisconsin, Michigan St) but I think Nebraska, in Lincoln, will be the most challenging. They are a power team and they dismantled us last year. Then they spend the second half like it was a scrimmage trying out different plays and personnel combinations. I think this year their starters will have to play the 4th quarter but the game will not exactly be in question.

Despite setting the school’s single-season QB rushing record last season, MarQueis Gray was inconsistent as a passer in 2011. Is that the kind of quarterback he’s meant to be, or will we see some development in year two?

We saw a lot of improvement and development just in the second half of the season. Comparing his first six games to his final five games he improved his accuracy, passing yards per game, touchdowns thrown and of course wins. It took him some time to adjust to being a full-time quarterback and it took time to adjust to yet another new offense for Gray. Now as a senior, this is the first time he will have the same offensive coordinator and playbook two seasons in a row. That alone should make him more comfortable and allow he (and the offense) to play faster, thinking less.

Best case/worst case scenario for the postseason.

Worst case scenario is not being a part of the postseason and duplicating last year’s win total of three. Best case is getting to seven wins and making a bowl game, which bowl makes no difference to me but getting to one will be a nice step in year two of Jerry Kill’s tenure.

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