OSI Big Ten football previews: Minnesota edition

Posted at 2:09 PM, Aug 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-23 15:09:59-04

The Minnesota Golden Gophers enter this football season following a 6-7 (2-6 Big Ten) season in 2015. This year will be Tracy Clayes first full year as head coach after taking over for Jerry Kill in October. 

The Gophers return veteran starting quarterback Mitch Leidner following a successful 2015 campaign. Leidner threw for 2,701 yards, 14 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions, while completing 59.5% of his passes.

This season, Minnesota will turn to sophomore running backs Shannon Brooks and Rodney Smith to take the carries out of the backfield. How successful the Gophers are on the ground will determine how much room Leidner and his experienced wide receiver corps have to work with.

Defensively, the Gophers lost its top two pass rushers in De'Vondre Campbell and Theiren Cockran. The secondary gets a boost with the return of Damarius Travis who played in just one game last season due to injury. Travis was one of the conference's best defensive backs two seasons ago. 

Key Returners

QB: Mitch Leidner

S: Damarius Travis

LB: Jack Lynn

Key Losses

LB: De'Vondre Campbell

DE: Therien Cockran

P: Peter Mortell

The Gophers start out with a more-than-favorable schedule. The first month of the season, Minnesota faces off against Oregon State, Indiana State, and Colorado State. The team begins conference play with Penn State and Iowa, but then catches a break with Rutgers, Illinois, Maryland and Purdue before heading to Lincoln.