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Minnesota spring wrap

2009 overall record: 6-7

2009 conference record: 3-5 (8th)

Returning starters

Offense: 9, defense: 2, kicker/punter: 1

Top returners

QB Adam Weber, RB Duane Bennett, RB DeLeon Eskridge, C D.J. Burris, S Kyle Theret, S Kim Royston, P Eric Ellestad

Key losses

WR Eric Decker, TE Nick Tow-Arnett, LB Lee Campbell, LB Nate Triplett, LB Simoni Lawrence, CB Traye Simmons, DT Garrett Brown, DT Eric Small

2010 Schedule

Sept. 2 at Middle Tennessee

Sept. 11 South Dakota

Sept. 18 USC

Sept. 25 Northern Illinois

Oct. 2 Northwestern

Oct. 9 at Wisconsin

Oct. 16 at Purdue

Oct. 23 Penn State

Oct. 30 Ohio State

Nov. 6 at Michigan State

Nov. 13 at Illinois

Nov. 20 Open

Nov. 27 Iowa2009 statistical leaders (*-returners)

Rushing: Duane Bennett* (376 yards)

Passing: Adam Weber* (2,582 yards)

Receiving: Eric Decker (758 yards)

Tackles: Lee Campbell (119)

Sacks: Eric Small (3)

Interceptions: Kyle Theret (3)

Spring answers

1. Weber still man to beat: Adam Weber knew his job was on the line this spring, and he stepped up like a senior should. After backsliding last season, Weber embraced a pared-down playbook and created some early separation with MarQueis Gray and Moses Alipate. He must continue to make progress this summer, but he had the type of response the coaches wanted to see this spring.

2. Defensive line reloads: Minnesota loses all four starters up front but could have a more talented and explosive defensive line this fall. The coaches really like they size they have at defensive tackle with Jewhan Edwards and Brandon Kirksey. No defensive end recorded more than two sacks last year, a total that must improve this fall. Head coach Tim Brewster raves about Ra'Shede Hageman, and Matt Garin also should contribute a lot there.

3. Simple is better on offense: The arrival of new offensive coordinator Jeff Horton and a simplified scheme definitely paid off for the Gophers this spring. Players really welcomed Horton's system after going through information overload under Jedd Fisch last fall. Minnesota's offense could struggle in 2010, but players will have a lot more confidence in what they're being asked to do.

Fall questions

1. Secondary shaky: Minnesota's first priority is the cornerback spot, where it loses both starters. Is Michael Carter ready to break out? Carter and Ryan Collado look like the top two options, but depth certainly could be an issue against opponents who like to pass the ball. Safety looked like the Gophers' biggest strength after last season, but Kim Royston's broken leg and Kyle Theret's suspension thinned things out this spring. Royston will be a big loss if he can't return.

2. Linebackers in limbo: The Gophers lose three productive linebackers from last year and not only need starters to emerge, but some depth along with it. Mike Rallis, a converted safety, had a very nice spring and should be a key contributor along with Sam Maresh. But Minnesota needs others to emerge in the defensive midsection. The Gophers could use Gary Tinsley, but whether he'll be available remains to be seen.

3. Offensive line: The Gophers have lost their offensive identity a bit the last few years, and they need to build more toughness along the line. All five starters return, but young players like Ed Olson and Brooks Michel are pushing the returnees and increasing the competition. It's far from a finished product yet, but Minnesota's linemen are embracing a simplified scheme and taking pride in run-blocking. They've got to keep it going through the summer.