December 19, 2012

Five Gophers to watch

With the Mieneke Car Care Bowl of Texas a little more than a week away, Red Raider fans are undoubtedly anxious to see how Tech matches up against the Golden Gophers. Who should Red Raider fans keep an eye out for on the Minnesota side of the ball? We'll break it down right here with our Five Gophers To Watch.

Defensive end Ra'Shede Hagemen

Hagemen is the star on the defensive line for the Gophers, and he's also an NFL prospect. The junior finished the regular season with 29 tackles, 17 of them solo, 6.5 tackles for a loss, 5 sacks, one PBU, and a forced fumble. A defensive lineman's true impact doesn't always show up on the stat sheet, and you can probably echo that sentiment for Hagemen. He's a 6-6, 300-pound monster that could possibly leave school early for the draft, and he will look as big, if not bigger, than most offensive tackles. LaAdrian Waddle will likely have his hands full with the junior, and it will be interesting to see how much impact this matchup will have on the game.

Outside linebacker Keanon Cooper

Red Raider fans who have been following recruiting for a few years now will likely be very well acquainted with the former Dallas Skyline 4-star prospect. Cooper was committed to Tech until very late in the process and decided to switch over to Minnesota. The senior changed positions from safety to outside linebacker, and the switch seemed to have worked out well. Cooper was 5th on the team in total tackles this year with 42 solo and 65 total. He also had 4.5 tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles, and one PBU. Many of the players on Tech's offense are likely well acquainted with the former Tech commit, so it will be interesting to see how guys such as Alex Torres, Austin Zouzalik, and Eric Stephens compete with the Texas native.

Cornerback Troy Stoudermire

Minnesota has a pair of talented cornerbacks that are the backbone of Jerry Kill's defense, and it all starts with 5-10, 195-pound senior Troy Stoudermire. Stoudermire led the team in tackles this fall, totaling out at 78 with 56 of them being solo. The senior also had 3.5 tackles for a loss and 3 PBUs. The matchup here will obviously have Stoudermire lined up against either Eric Ward or Darrin Moore. Either way, it will be fun to watch Tech's physical receivers line up against two corners that would likely compete with the upper echelon of the Big 12. The Tech outside receivers against the Minnesota secondary will likely be the most competitive matchup in Reliant Stadium.

Cornerback Michael Carter

The cornerback on the opposite side of the field of Stoudermire is 5-11, 189-pound senior and Florida native Michael Carter. The name Carter coupled with Minnesota might sound familiar to some, as the senior's cousin is Tyrone Carter, former Minnesota two time all-American safety and Thorpe Award winner. Carter played 11 seasons in the NFL as well. Michael obviously has the bloodlines, and an NFL career may be in his future. Carter finished the 2012 regular season with 30 solo tackles and 42 total, 14 PBUs, two interceptions, and one pick six for 43 yards. As with Stoudermire, it will be interesting to see Carter line up against physical outside receivers such as Darrin Moore and Eric Ward. The technical battle of wits outside the hashes will be a blast to watch next Friday.

Running back Donnell Kirkwood

The man that makes everything click on offense for the Golden Gophers is 5-10, 219-pound sophomore tailback Donnell Kirkwood. Kirkwood is the shining star of the Minnesota offense, and it shows up on the stat sheet. In every Gopher victory this fall, Kirkwood rushed for 99 or more yards. In every loss, however, he was limited to under 74 on the ground. He also failed to score a touchdown in each of the team's six losses. Kirkwood truly is the oil that makes the Minnesota offense go, and Jerry Kill's squad has little chance of winning if he doesn't have a good game. Tech's rushing defense has been suspect over the second half of the season, so we'll see if the Red Raiders can hold Kirkwood in check in Houston.

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