The Minnesota Golden Gophers were bad offensively last season. The rushing offense was good, but the passing game was awful.
The Gophers offense was led by several young and inexperienced players, including its two quarterbacks, leading rusher and three of their top four receivers. The Gophers relied on the developing youth as well as a more experienced offensive line.
The skill players are set to make a bigger impact in 2014. Here are the five best offensive players on the Gophers roster. Please note that all spring game statistics are unofficial.
No. 1 - TE Maxx Williams
Williams, a quarterback at Waconia (Minn.) High School, has a rare blend of size and athleticism. He is a matchup problem for almost all linebackers, cornerbacks and safeties in college football.
The 6-foot-4-inch, 254-pound redshirt sophomore finished last season with a team-high 417 receiving yards and tied for the team-high with 25 receptions and five receiving touchdowns. He also had one carry for seven yards and two kick returns for 29 yards.
He suffered a knee injury during the Texas Bowl in December and did not play in the spring game.
No. 2 - RB David Cobb
Cobb was a late addition to Jerry Kill’s recruiting class of 2011. Coming out of Ellison High School in Killeen, Texas, he looked like a back that could be a home run threat. He hit holes in high school with speed and power.
However, it took him until his third year to fulfill that potential. The 5-foot-11-inch, 225-pound senior led the Gophers offense with 1,376 all-purpose yards and 1,202 rushing yards. He also was tied for the team lead in total touchdowns with seven (all rushing). He is the leading returning player in total offense.
He has the best combination of speed and power among all the returning running backs on the Gophers roster. Cobb finished the team’s spring game with 33 yards on eight carries and 15 yards on one catch.
No. 3 - WR Donovahn Jones
Jones was recruited as a quarterback out of Dutchtown High School in Stockbridge, Ga. and was given that opportunity - even though almost all recruiting experts and recruiters considered him as a wide receiver. The Gophers got him to switch his commitment to the Gophers from Missouri partly because of the fact he would get the chance at quarterback. He eventually moved to wide receiver midway through fall practices.
It was a slow transition. He finished sixth on the team with 10 receptions and fourth in receiving yards with 157. He also had 16 carries for 73 yards. He is still searching for his first collegiate touchdown.
The 6-foot-3-inch, 190-pound sophomore came on strong late in the season, including a career-high three catches for 47 yards in the Big Ten finale at Michigan State.
He is the most explosive playmaker on the Gophers roster. He caught one pass for 11 yards in the spring game.
No. 4 - QB Mitch Leidner
Leidner, from Lakeville (Minn.) South High School, was not the most sought after quarterback prospect in the 2012 class from the state of Minnesota. He challenged the more heralded Philip Nelson for playing time last season and neither took full control of starting job. Both were going to compete for the starting job this season, but Nelson transferred and the job is Leidner’s to lose.
The 6-foot-4-inch, 233-pound redshirt sophomore is the only experienced quarterback on the roster. The team is excited about the future of redshirt freshmen Chris Streveler (who is returning from a thumb injury) and Conor Rhoda as well as true freshman Dimonic Roden-McKinzy, but Leidner is the present starter.
He was considered a pocket passer coming out of high school, but proved capable of running the ball. He now needs to prove he can throw the ball at the collegiate level. He finished the spring game with 34 on 4-of-11 passing and one interception. He ran the ball five times for 11 yards, including one sack.
No. 5 - WR Drew Wolitarsky
Wolitarsky came to Minnesota out of Canyon County High School in Santa Clarita, Calif. as the state’s all-time leader in catches and receiving yards. He does not have blazing speed, but knows how to get open and has very good hands.
The 6-foot-3-inch, 223-pound sophomore got off to a slow start, but came on strong at the end of the season. He finished the season with 15 catches for 259 yards and one touchdown. He added one rush attempt for seven yards. However, he had seven catches for 150 yards and a touchdown in the last two games of the season (at Michigan State and against Syracuse in the Bowl Game).
He has downfield skills, but will work best in the short to intermediate routes to complement Jones and the incoming freshmen receivers. He finished the spring game with one catch for 14 yards.