Gophers vs. UNLV – 6p.m. TCF Bank
The Gophers will begin the 2013 season at home on Thursday night against UNLV. Jerry Kill enters his third year as the bench boss for the Gophers and continues the return to relevance tour.
The Gophers are still young, especially at the quarterbcak position. They boast the second youngest and most inexperienced crop of signal callers in the nation. Redshirt sophomore Dexter Foreman is the senior member of the group and sophomore Philip Nelson is the only quarterback who has played in a game.
With youth being served under center, the ground game will be the story for the upcoming season. Donnell Kirkwood and Rodrick Williams will see the ball a lot. Kirkwood finished the year with 926 yards on 218 carries.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Gophers are solid up front with to be NFL'er Ra'shede Hageman manning the defensive front and a solid defensive backfield in place, the front and back ends of the defense look solid. The linebacking corps are led by a pair of junior college transfers in Damien Wilson and De'Vondre Campbell. Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys has given the starting nod to Wilson but also noted that freshman Jack Lynn will be in the mix as well.
Improvement by the numbers:
Kill finished his first season 3-6 and then went 6-7 last year and in the process returned to a bowl game for the first time since 2009 and lost to Texas Tech in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
On the schedule:
The Gophers open at home for the first time in the history of TCF Bank stadium and have a favorable schedule to start the season. In addition to UNLV, the Gophers face New Mexico State and Western Illinois before closing the non-conference schedule with San Jose State.
Need a signature win:
The next step in the rebuild of Gopher football is to pick up a signature win. Nebraska, Penn State and Wisconsin all visit the bank and a win over Bucky on home turf would be sweet.