|Jesse Johnson - USA Today Sports|
Pro-style pistol sets. Mostly inside zone and power O, some QB read plays. Mostly short and intermediate throws to the sideline. When attacking deep, it was off of PA.
Cover 1 base from an over front. Appeared to mix 4-3 personnel and nickel personnel. Switched up to Cover 3 at times, struggled a bit with coverage being a bit softer.
I'm going to start this off with the obvious, Cobb is a hell of a player, to the point that I think he's the most underrated RB in the B1G. He's basically Carlos Hyde Lite. He has decent speed, good vision, squares his shoulder pads and punishes tacklers, and actually has really good feet. Minnesota seemed to favor Williams in some short yardage situations. Maybe he's not back all the way yet, but I wouldn't pull Cobb in those situations either. In a conference that is deep at RB, I think Cobb is as good as any RB not named Gordon or Abdullah.
Berkely Edwards Jr showed some of the quicks and speed he was known for coming out of high school and in his Redshirt season. He clearly has some ability to work in space. Last year, Minnesota was almost strictly between the tackles with their QB and RB runs, instead utilizing the WRs on some screens and most prominently jet sweeps to threaten the edge. I see Edwards continuing to work in that role going forward, as mostly a slot screen guy and a jet sweep guy. But he needs to continue to improve as a receiver if he wants to be used regularly, as against better competition he won't simply be able to outrun the defense.
Any Gopher fan hoping Leidner would make a jump this off season had to be disappointed with his performance. If it wasn't a one game blip, the Minnesota offense will bog down at times as teams stack the box. Not only did Leidner look very shaky throwing down field (the few times he was asked to), but his footwork on short passes was sloppy, leading to inaccuracy on throws that need to let receivers catch and run. This isn't an offense that attacks downfield often, so it needs to be able to stretch the field horizontally from pro sets to stretch the defense a bit, which requires Leidner confidently hit on hitches, outs, and screen throws. And then he needs to be able to give his receivers a chance when they do eventually attack deep.
I thought the DL, for the most part, held up and did their job pretty well. They weren't outstanding in the pass rush, though they eventually got three sacks, but a lot of that was the EIU QB being a pretty good threat to run the ball and Minnesota playing it a bit safe. Overall, they seemed solid in holding up out of their over front and keeping their LBs clean.
However, I was not particularly enthralled by their LB play. Missing on several assignments (an option bust where the LB left the QB) or missed reads (not reading the counter pulls from the OL) left them out of position at several times. They continue to not get great drops in zone and just overall didn't look very disciplined. For a team that will be consistent up front and solid in their Cover 1 on the back, the LBs need to improve for the defense to take a jump from last year. Now, it's hard to say sometimes when you play lesser competition. It was the first game, Minnesota could impose their will a little bit at times. So maybe it was the nerves and excitement that caused some mistakes, but it needs to be better.
Besides that, Minnesota mostly looked solid in the Cover 1, showing much of the fundamentals and adjustments I discussed recently about the coverage. But they still looked too soft in their zone coverages, particularly in the intermediate area, where digs and posts may threaten this team in pass protection. That needs to be cleaned up for when they play teams that have some better athletes and going Cover 1 isn't always the best option.
This was a game that Minnesota knew they could mostly win up front when they needed to. Running the ball, Cobb looked solid and Leidner could have threatened a bit more if needed. This is a solid run game that can mix in some Power O and zone and open some holes a bit for the run game. They aren't spectacular, but they are a good, strong unit. But they need to develop the rest of the game at least enough to keep defenses honest, that wasn't seen against EIU.
On defense, there were some inconsistencies that would have hurt them against a better foe. EIU did enough to shoot themselves in the foot numerous times with unforced errors, and missed some open players. They seemed to work the ball decently, ending with over 400 yards, but Minnesota held up when they needed. They have to clean up some zone coverage and be better at the LB level or B1G teams will find a way to pick on those aspects of the game.