RB Marion Barber III

2003 Statistics

Coach: Glen Mason
44-40, 7 years
2003 Record: 10-3
at Ohio WON 42-20
at Penn State WON 20-14
at Northwestern WON 42-17
at Illinois WON 36-10
at Iowa LOST 22-40
Oregon WON 31-30

2003 Final Rankings
AP-20, Coaches-17, BCS-25

2004 Outlook

After four bowl games in the past five seasons, this program is starting to be taken seriously. Mason has never landed a so-called top 25 recruiting class, but he's managed to build the Gophers into a consistent winner. He's under contract for another three seasons, and Minnesota was working on a contract extension in February before allegations surfaced that recruits were given alcohol and taken to strip clubs during official visits.

Mason wants an open-air, on-campus stadium, but stirring enough widespread interest in the program to raise the money has been a hurdle, despite the turnaround. A cupcake non-conference schedule hasn't helped. Mason added a little life this fall with the addition of Toledo and an away date at Colorado State.

The Big Ten slate opens with Northwestern and Penn State coming to the Metrodome. If the Gophers aren't at least 4-1 heading into Michigan Oct. 9, they don't deserve to be taken seriously, eh.

The key to everything is that passing game, which, when slightly better than adequate, will be enough to free up an already potent running attack. Special teams are sound and the marginally improved defense will be stingy enough to make up for any lack of scoring, meaning a finish near the top of the (Big Ten) standings and another bowl are in the cards.

So, too, is an extension offer for Mason, who could soon be tempted to flee for the greener pastures of a more traditional power if fan support doesn't increase. With all he's accomplished in the Twin Cities, it's only a matter of time before someone comes calling.

Projected 2004 record: 7-4
QB - 2 DL - 4
RB - 4.5 LB - 3.5
WR - 2.5 DB - 3
OL - 5 ..

Passing: Bryan Cupito, 1-0-0, 0 yds., 0 TD

Rushing: Marion Barber III, 207 att., 1196 yds, 17 TD

Receiving: Jared Ellerson, 44 rec., 909 yds., 5 TD

Scoring: Marion Barber III, 17 TD, 102 pts.

Punting: Rhys Lloyd, 40 punts, 39.2 avg.

Kicking: Rhys Lloyd, 14-18 FG, 59-61 PAT, 54 long

Tackles: Terrance Campbell, 87 tot., 57 solo, 9 TFL

Sacks: Darrell Reid, 5.5 sacks

Interceptions: Justin Fraley, 2 for 0 yds.

Kickoff Returns: Lawrence Maroney, 16 ret., 25.8 avg., 1 TD

Punt Returns: Marion Barber III, 28 ret., 14.5 avg.


OT Rian Melander
OFFENSE: Aaron Hosack-WR, Tony Patterson-WR, Joe Quinn-OG, Asad Abdul-Khaliq-QB, Benji Kamrath-QB, Thomas Tapeh-RB, Terry Jackson-RB (transferred)
DEFENSE: Dan Kwapinski-NT, Paul Nixon-DE, Ben West-SLB, Justin Isom-SS, Eli Ward-FS

During the post-Sun Bowl press conference, then-freshman running back Laurence Maroney articulately summed up the urgency to find a new starting QB: "All we need a quarterback to do is hand off the ball." Well, the next guy they tap is capacitated to do much more than that. The likely successor to four-year starter Asad Abdul-Khaliq is redshirt sophomore Bryan Cupito, the third-stringer last fall. A strong-armed pocket passer, Cupito's experience consists of holding on field goals and extra points. Bryan is ready to adjust his game however needed, for his speed isn't that of his predecessor, but it is there. His chief competition is Juco-transfer Adam Ernst, who is more of an option QB like Abdul-Khaliq. Ernst will take part in spring drills. This year's recruiting class also includes six QBs, meaning we could see several different names handing off the ball.

Running Back
Maroney and Marion Barber III return, giving the Gophers perhaps the best RB one-two in the nation. Blessed with speed and power, Barber returned from a bum hamstring in '02 to run for almost 1,200 yards. He was marginally used in the air game, too, but his hands could be better. Built like Barber, Maroney is faster with a 4.4 40 time, plus he ran for an average of 6.9 per carry. Another spot that gets plenty of action in this system is fullback, where junior Brandon Hagen will take over. An inch shorter and 15 pounds lighter than Tapeh, Hagen has 4.5 speed and is basically a second (or third) tailback in their multitude of sets.

Wide Receiver
There's some talent here, led by Jared Ellerson. A junior speedster whose 20.7 yards per catch was tops among Big Ten receiving leaders, Ellerson was the team's No. 2 receiver in 2003. Paris Hamilton, a Juco-transfer expected to start before suffering a season-ending knee injury in preseason, returns to give the Gophers another burner. He has 4.4 speed and averaged 24.0 yards per catch two years ago at Paris (Texas) CC. Lanky senior Keith Matthews is a possession receiver who will thrive with the new QB's style. This group doesn't frighten anyone, and coach Glen Mason will likely move at least one of those six incoming QBs here.

Tight End
One of the better receivers could come out of the tight end spot in redshirt sophomore Matt Spaeth. At 6-6, 265, his blocking is a vital part of the running game, but he also has nice hands and 4.8 speed. The backup to All-Big Ten Ben Utecht last fall, Spaeth still caught 12 passes. Run-wary defenses could have a hard time keeping track of him on short slants and outs, especially if Mason sticks with the option.

Offensive Line
There is no running game without a decent line, and the Gophers have one of the nation's best. Junior center Greg Eslinger, a Lombardi Award candidate, anchors a unit that returns four starters. Among the returnees, only right tackle Joe Ainslie is over 300 pounds, but these guys make up for that with technique and cohesion, important for the mobility needs of this offensive scheme. Minnesota was third in the nation in rushing offense (five in total offense), and led the Big Ten with just 16 sacks allowed. Good protection will be provided for a young quarterback and a thin receiving corps.

Mason said after his team's Sun Bowl win against Oregon that he'd probably have to do some things differently with what he has coming back. We specifically mean Cupito and scaling back the option. But for the most part, he shouldn't tinker with one of the nation's best rushing attacks. Opposing defenses will certainly stuff the box early in the season in an attempt to force Cupito (or whoever) to throw. While some balance is necessary, this offense might be one of the few out there good enough to keep running anyway. It'll have to be. As one of six units to run and pass for an average of over 200 yards per game in each category, balance is ostensibly what Minnesota relies upon most, so look for this to be what coaches establish early and strive for most often.


C Greg Eslinger


Returning Starters/
Key Players
QB Bryan Cupito-So Adam Ernst-Jr (6-2, 210)
John Carlson-Fr (6-2, 205)
RB Marion Barber III-Jr (5-11, 215) Laurence Maroney-So (5-11, 200)
WR Paris Hamilton-Sr (6-1, 195) Jakari Wallace-Jr (5-8, 165)
WR Logan Payne-So (6-2, 205) Keith Matthews-Sr (6-2, 205)
WR Jared Ellerson-Jr (6-1, 195) Micah Rucker-Fr (6-6, 200)
Mark Jundt-So (5-1, 185)
TE Matt Spaeth-So (6-6, 265) Jarod Posthumus-Jr (6-4, 250)
OT Rian Melander-Sr (6-7, 295) Brian Moss-So (6-6, 280)
OG Mark Setterstrom-Jr (6-3, 300) Brian Goblirsch-So (6-2, 295)
C Greg Eslinger-Jr (6-3, 285) Tyson Swaggert-So (6-4, 285)
OG Brandon Harston-Sr (6-2, 315) Josh Brenny-So (6-5, 305_
OT Joe Ainslie-So (6-7, 305_ Mike Nicholson-Jr (6-5, 290)
K Rhys Lloyd-Sr (6-1, 220) ..



Defensive Line
Three-fourths of this group is back, a good figure for a defense that was fifth in the Big Ten and 26th nationally against the run. Anchoring the middle is junior Anthony Montgomery, an all-conference candidate who draws double-teams and gets a great first step for his size. Interior mate Darrell Reid, last year's sacks leader, is quick and versatile, having played end and linebacker, so he is strong going sideline-to-sideline. Both starting ends return. Mark Losili is a scholar-athlete award winner who plays as big as his potential, evidenced as he earned his way into the starting lineup as a freshman. Losili made almost one-third of his tackles behind the line in '03. With 4.8 speed, Eric Clark is the team's fastest lineman. The tandem will curtail the run, but only combined for six 2003 sacks, which played a big part in the team's susceptibility to the pass.

This unit made big improvements and will continue to be strong. The D will look to junior Terrance Campbell, who started at weak-side LB, to take over the leadership void. Quick and instinctive, Campbell is the fastest member of the group at 4.6 and has shown sideline-to-sideline quickness, too. Kyle McKenzie, brother of former NFL end Keith McKenzie, returns at drop backer, where the Gophers can utilize his athleticism. Senior Brian Smith is vicious hitter who should fit in nicely with a quick group that will be tougher in pass coverage.

Defensive Back
Pass defense is a concern, having faltered in a loss to Michigan and in near-losses to Wisconsin and Oregon, but will be more consistent with plenty of veterans back from the NCAA's 55th-ranked pass-defense. Both safeties need to be replaced, but those spots will be inherited by a couple of experienced backups. Senior Justin Fraley had great stats last time, so he will just do more of the same this way. Their top cover-corner, sizeable Ukee Dozier, and big-play counterpart Trumaine Banks are a nasty pair of cornerbacks. A better showing here would be the difference between a good season and a great season.

The D took big steps forward in coordinator Greg Hudson's first year, finishing 28th in the nation in total defense, and should take another in his second. There's no reason to believe the run-defense will let up. A team that can run as well as stop the run (at will) should have an edge in time of possession, which will be big in helping to improve those passing defense numbers. So, too, will be a better pass rush and more experience at the corners. Look for this defense to control games in some instances, a trend Hudson will continue for some time to come, you watch.


DT Darrell Reid


Returning Starters/
Key Players
DE Eric Clark-So (6-4, 250) Chris Holden-So (5-11, 225)
NT Anthony Montgomery-Jr (6-5, 315) Neel Allen-Fr (6-3, 295)
DT Mark Losli-Jr (6-6, 285) Keith Lipka-Jr (6-3, 265)
DE Darrell Reid-Sr (6-2, 280) Maurice Buchanan-So (6-3, 255)
DLB Mario Reese-So (6-3, 225) Dominique Sims-Sr (6-1, 225)
SLB Kyle McKenzie-Jr (6-1, 230) Brian Smith-Sr (6-1, 235)
WLB Terrance Campbell-Jr (6-2, 200) John Shevlin-Fr (6-1, 220)
CB Ukee Dozier-Sr (6-1, 185) Mike Wojciechowski-Sr (5-8, 190)
CB Trumaine Banks-So (5-10, 185) Jamal Harris-Fr (6-0, 180)
SS Justin Fraley-Sr (6-0, 210) Johnathan Richmond-Sr (5-10, 200)
FS John Pawielski-Jr (5-11, 195) Brandon Owens-So (6-2, 205)
P Rhys Lloyd-Sr (6-1, 220) ..




Minnesota found a diamond in the rough in Rhys Lloyd, who emerged from Rochester Community and Technical College to become the first player in team history to handle both punting and place-kicking duties since 1954. He hit 14-of-18 field goals, including a 54-yarder. He has nice range, but might kick it a little too straight on kickoffs and punts -- his team was 10th in the Big Ten in kickoff coverage and ninth in net punting. Lloyd officially joined the team one day before the season opener, so a year of experience will help those numbers.

Return Game
Barber and Maroney provide a big one-two punch in the return game as well. Barber was seventh in the nation at 14.5 yards per punt return. Maroney got the majority of the kickoffs and was second in the Big Ten and 20th nationally with a 25.8-yard average. The two will again provide nice field position on offense.


It appears as though Bryan Cupito will be the starter at QB, but backup Adam Ernst had a better spring game and will continue to push Cupito into fall. True freshman John Carlson will also get a crack at it, but Carlson needs to work on fundamentals at the collegiate level. Micah Rucker and Mark Jundt both delivered sound spring game performances, solidifying their roles at backup receiver. WR Paris Hamilton came back in a big way this spring, giving Gopher coaches a sweet reminder as to why they brought him here. And, while he may not be listed near the top of the depth chart, FR Ernie Wheelwright has big-play ability and should see the starting lineup before the campaign is done. At any rate, this is a deep, deep group. Glen Mason's heart dropped a bit when star RB Marion Barber III went down with a knee injury this spring. He should be fine by fall, but here's where all that (all-star) depth comes in handy.

Mason admits that his team must improve on run-blitzing situations. In their base defense, they're fine (against the run), but in times of gamble, they certainly must improve. A big key to Minnesota "taking the next step" is conditioning. Mason claims this is the hardest they have worked since he has been here. Many times, they have fallen down the stretch due to being less physically conditioned than their opponent. Improving their "game strength" should improve their (marginal) game fortune. We like what we see in DT Anthony Montgomery - expect a big year from the big fella. New safeties Justin Fraley and John Pawielski played well enough this spring to hold their new starting duties. Fraley is playing his third different position as a Gopher, formerly seeing time at CB and OLB.

WR Ernie Wheelwright (fr)
LB John Shevlin (fr)