2015 Minnesota Golden Gophers Football Preview

Mitch Leidner enters his junior season hoping to improve the 119th ranked pass offense.
Mitch Leidner enters his junior season hoping to improve the 119th ranked pass offense.

Minnesota Golden Gophers
Head coach: D. Jerry Kill
2014 Record: 8-5 overall; 5-3 Big Ten
2014 Bowl: 17-33 loss to Missouri at Citrus Bowl
2015 Returning Starters: 4 offense, 7 defense

Odds to win 2016 CFB Championship: +70000
Odds to win 2015 Big Ten Title: +3500
Regular Season Wins: Over 6 (-120); Under 6 (-110)
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The Minnesota Gophers have improved each of the last four years under Jerry Kill, but the pass offense still needs major work and Mitch Leidner will be the QB working to improve its 119th national ranking last year.


Leidner will have a challenge ahead of himself without the best two playmakers from last season, RB David Cobb and Maxx Williams, both of who were drafted into the NFL. The Golden Gophers are going to look to do a lot of short pass routes this year, though, and Leidner will have to make quick decisions to make it work.

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Kill said, “We’re going to run the football, but I think we win two or three more games last year if we throw it a little better…that’s our fault, not the kids’ fault.” Kill is going to put the initiative in the offense to benefit from the talent at hand, and senior Roderick Williams will have to be the primary back with Cobb out of the picture. The WRs are hoping to get a boost from four redshirt freshman (Jeff Jones, Isaiah Gentry, Desmond Gant and Melvin Holland Jr.).

Defense has been the strong suit of the Gophers in recent seasons. This group could be better still. Four seniors return to start in the secondary, including All Big Ten CBs Briean Boddy-Calhoun and Eric Murray. Boddy-Calhoun had five INTs last season and Murray is so good teams try not to even throw to his side.


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The Golden Gophers could cause mass turnovers if teams try to air it out against them this year. The team ranked 9th last year in the Big Ten in sacks (2.08 per game), but the pass rush should be better this year. Hank Ekpe impressed in spring after missing a lot of time last year with a sinus infection, and Theiren Cockran should be good on the other end for some sacks (7.5 in 2013).

The special teams have a chance to be superb. Senior Peter Mortell was Big Ten punter of the year last season and led the conference with a 45.2 yard average. Sophomore kicker Ryan Santoso hit a 56-yard field goal in the spring game. Craig James was the Big Ten’s No. 5 leading punt returner last year, while Jalen Myrick was No. 2 in kickoff returns. Minnesota could make up some major field advantage with these units, which is an important facet in winning Big Ten football games.

Kill is ready to build on the success that made him Big Ten Coach of the Year last season. The schedule features TCU and OSU, but Kill is confident his team can overcome the talent turnover and remain a program on the rise. Leidner looked great in all five Minnesota Big Ten wins last season and the offense should be good enough to get the points up. The defense won’t be a problem.

The Gophers were picked to finish No. 5 last season in the Big Ten West, but end up pushing Wisconsin for the West division title. The team’s appearance in the Citrus Bowl generated a lot of excitement, and Kill knows that this is the step the program needed to make its turn towards being a premier team in the Big Ten. The ‘over’ on 6 wins seems like a good proposition, even if this team has a lot of talent to replace.

Prediction: 7 wins

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