Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
No matter what happened this spring, Minnesota knew it would enter the fall with a proven quarterback in Adam Weber and a dynamic wide receiver in Eric Decker. But with Decker playing baseball this spring and Weber limited following shoulder surgery, there were opportunities for those behind them to step up.
That's exactly what backup quarterback MarQueis Gray, wideout Brodrick Smith and do-it-all sophomore Troy Stoudermire did in Saturday's spring game at the University of St. Thomas. Minnesota began its migration to outdoor football with the spring game, in which the offense racked up 34 points.
Any questions that Gray will see the field this fall were put to rest after the freshman completed 8 of 10 passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns. Smith caught both scoring strikes from Gray and had a game-high four receptions for 98 yards.
"I think this will help MarQueis really become a great player," head coach Tim Brewster told reporters. "We will have packages every game where he is involved."
The Gophers also will find more ways to get Stoudermire the ball. Listed as a cornerback, Stoudermire saw time in several spots during the spring game. He caught three passes for 31 yards, had two rushes for 63 yards and a touchdown and gained 180 yards on kickoff and punt returns.
It all added up to 274 all-purpose yards for Stoudermire, who was used mainly on returns last year. Despite a ton of changes on offense during the offseason, Minnesota could be more explosive in 2009. Weber also looked solid in the spring game, completing 9 of 12 passes for 77 yards.
Other items from Minnesota's spring game:
The game didn't provide a comprehensive look at the Gophers' rushing attack, as both Duane Bennett (knee) and Shady Salamon (concussion) sat out. Redshirt freshman Kevin Whaley ran very well, racking up 63 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries, and Stoudermire broke off two big runs, but the offensive line allowed six sacks. It will take some time for the line to totally click with the new offensive scheme, and the group will remain in the spotlight this summer.
Minnesota might have identified its primary pass rusher in senior defensive end Cedric McKinley, who recorded three sacks and four tackles for loss in the game. The Gophers tied for the Big Ten lead in sacks last fall (34) but lose All-Big Ten end Willie VanDeSteeg.
For the second straight year, Minnesota's defense should benefit from some new arrivals. Safety Kim Royston, a transfer from Wisconsin, recorded four tackles in the spring game. Sophomore safety Tim Dandridge had four tackles and two pass breakups.
Minnesota loses both starting specialists from last year's squad, but kicker Eric Ellestad connected on field goals of 48 and 21 yards, while punter Blake Haudan averaged 40.6 yards per punt.