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Minnesota Golden Gophers’ Key Players and Newcomers for 2013

Phillip Nelson Minnesota Golden Gophers Football

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

2012 was another lackluster season for the Minnesota Golden Gophers, as they finished only 6-7 overall and 2-6 in Big Ten conference play.

The Minnesota program has been in a constant struggle for almost a decade now, not surpassing a seven win season since 2003.

Jerry Kill returns for his fourth season and some view him as being on the hot seat, as he has only led the Gophers to four Big Ten conference wins. In order for the Gophers to be competitive in the conference, some key players need to step up for the team to win games.

On offense, it starts with quarterback Phillip Nelson and the receiving corps of the Gophers. The Gophers were dead last in the conference in passing yards per game, only averaging 146 yards through the air on the season.

With a potential star running back in Donnell Kirkwood leading the rushing attack, the passing game must improve or else the tough defenses of the Big Ten will load the box making it will be a nightmare for the Gophers to manage yards.

Ra’Shede Hageman will be a key player for the defense as well as the rest of the defensive line. While the Gophers were above average in pass defense, they only finished ninth in rushing defense in the conference. They need to tighten down upfront and not allow teams to run so easily on them.

A key newcomer to watch for the Gophers would be a player like Berkley Edwards. Edwards is a speedy running back from Chelsea, Michigan and is also the brother of former Michigan Wolverines wide receiver Braylon Edwards. Many think Edwards was underrated in high school, so it will be interesting to see if he can compete for carries as a freshman.

Erik Sargent is a college football writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Erik_Sargent, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google