The Minnesota Golden Gophers had one of their best seasons in some time in 2013. That jump was led by a few emerging stars and a few graduating seniors.
Head coach Jerry Kill has preached building the Gopher program with bricks and not sand. That means the young players are going to have to show improvement. Here are the top five redshirt freshmen that will have an impact on the Gophers in 2014.
RB Berkley Edwards
Edwards is a slashing home run threat. The Gophers have not had a big threat back like Edwards since Laurence Maroney completed his final season at Minnesota in 2005. Edwards can fly. If he can get into space, he is gone. The 5-foot-9-inch, 190-pound Novi, Mich. native is not an every down back and cannot run between the tackles. Offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover is going to have to be creative to get him on the edge.
K Andrew Harte/Ryan Santoso
Harte and Santoso will battle for the kicking job. Both performed well in the spring game. Harte, a 6-foot, 180-pound Downers Grove, Ill. native, was perfect, including a kick of over 50 yards. Santoso, a 6-foot-5-inch, 260-pound Pace, Fla. native, made everything inside 50 and missed one over 50. Santoso is on scholarship while Harte is a walk-on, which may give Santoso the first shot.
LB De’Niro Laster
Laster is a big athlete. He played some wide receiver in high school, but could be a star at outside linebacker. The 6-foot-4-inch, 230-pound Cleveland Heights, Ohio native is a potential star at weak side linebacker. He will push and by the end of the season could supplant redshirt junior De’Vondre Campbell as the starter. Campbell is going enter the season as the favorite to be the starter after splitting time with now-graduated James Manuel. Campbell had moments of brilliance, but Laster is a more complete player.
QB Chris Streveler
Streveler redshirted last season more because of his thumb injury than his on-field ability. He got his first taste of college life last spring and impressed the coaching staff. He moved up a spot on the depth chart without stepping on the field when Philip Nelson transferred. Incumbent starter Mitch Leidner was inconsistent as he dealt with an injury throughout last season. Streveler is going to get on the field at some point. The 6-foot-2-inch, 209-pound Crystal Lake, Ill. native is athletic, but must prove capable of igniting the passing game.
LB Chris Wipson
Wipson had a very good spring game. He was all over the field making tackles, most of which occurred close to the line of scrimmage. The 6-foot-2-inch, 210-pound Plymouth, Minn. native is a solid tackler that has a chance to replace graduated strong side starter Aaron Hill. He missed a portion of his senior season and was not ready to contribute with the Gophers as a true freshman last season because of an injury.