Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Gophers Position Preview: Barbers and Tapehs

The State of our Running Backs is Strong

Going into last season we were looking at a combo of bowling ball Donnell Kirkwood and the Nugget, Rodrick Williams.  We were left wondering who the big play back would be with many thinking true freshman Berkley Edwards would take on that change of pace role.  As Spiro Agnew once said, "My what a difference a year makes!"

David Cobb became the beautiful man that brought back the days of great Gopher running backs.  He rushed for 1202 yards on 237 carries.  Its especially impressive because in the first 6 games he only reached double digits in carries twice even though 5 of his 7 TDs were in the first 4 games.  In his last 7 games he had 169 carries for 828 yards.  Work effing Horse.

So, for 2014, we fully expect MOAR COBB.  Its not outlandish to think that he could surpass that 1200 yards since he's the man from the get-go.  However, as Thomas Tapeh said in his caption, the state of our RBs is pretty damn strong.  Donnell Kirkwood, who I still kind of like as a little bowling ball of a man is probably the #4 running back.  Nugget will be in the mix as a backup grinder and the long-awaited debut of Berkley Edwards will be this year.  I saw one of the knobs on BTN say that Berkley Edwards is THE key player for the Gophers this year.  That's a little absurd, but he really has some skills that this team sorely needs, namely SP33D.  He'll probably line up in a number of spots sort of like Donovahn Jones did last year and do a bunch of really cool shit.

The cherry on top for the Gophers is that it looks fairly likely that 4-star recruit and Washburn star Jeff Jones will be able to be at Minnesota this year.  WE have already admitted Jones, but the NCAA is still reviewing the case and a ruling is expected prior to September 2nd when classes begin.  Jones would redshirt one has to assume, but just having him here with the team is a massive win.

TRE's Grade

Rubric:  Darrell Thompson A

Darrell Thompson started all four years at Minnesota and amassed some pretty incredible career numbers.  He ranks 8th in career rushing yards in Big Ten history (since 1956) with 4,518 yards.  He's also 14th in career TDs with 43.  In the midst of the Gutekunst era, Thompson unfortunately only played in one bowl game.  He was drafted by the Packers 19th overall in 1990.  He was a beast for those Gopher teams and is still involved in our community and with the Gophers as a broadcaster.  And here he is getting ice thrown in his face:

2014 Running Backs Grade B+

I expect big things from Cobb and I feel great about the depth and the changes of pace we can throw at teams.  I look forward to a boatload of yards from Cobb and some home runs from Edwards.

Frothy's Grade

Rubric: Chris Darkins A-

1994 was an odd year for Gopher football. The team was materially better than the God-awful 1992 and 1993 squads. They had closed the disparity in rushing yards per game from a whopping 60 yards in Jim Wacker's first season to a mere 15. The problem was one that would be a constant throughout Wacker's tenure: we couldn't stop anyone from scoring. Despite comparable passing and rushing yards per game, the Gophers allowed more than one touchdown per game than they scored. The ol' bend-and-break defense.

None of this was Chris Darkins' fault, mind you. He had a spectacular 1994 campaign with 1,443 rushing yards and 11 TDs. He contributed another 300 yards and two TDs receiving. There was a short-lived Heisman campaign for Darkins going into the 1995 season, but injuries limited him to only eight games. He also was drafted by the Packers, where he converted to DB and enjoyed his cup of coffee in the 1997 season before retiring.

2014 Running Backs Grade A-

Eff it, I'm all in with this crew. I think we've got a good finesse back in Cobb who will get the majority of carries, a couple hammers in Nug and Kirkland to mash the soft underbelly of opposing defenses and a diminutive slotback in Berk who will keep defenders honest on the edge. This is as deep a stable as we've had since 2003, with a really diverse set of capabilities. Cobb will remain the bell cow and will push the 1,200 mark he had last season. I suspect Edwards will get as many passes to the flat, in space, as he will carries, which should spread defenses out a little bit. And it will be interesting to see how Nug and Donnell are used. Both are capable, but, barring injury, there are only so many carries to go around.

(Frothy's starting word count: 12,899; Finishing word count: 13,211)

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