Depth at quarterback and running back key to Minnesota offense

by Anthony Maggio

Entering into the 2001 season, the Minnesota football team has a surplus of starters behind the offensive line.

Coach Glen Mason assures all starting jobs are up for grabs, and both the quarterback and running back positions boast two players who are equally up to the task.

Last season, Travis Cole and Asad Abdul-Khaliq shared time calling plays for the Gophers, with Abdul-Khaliq starting the first four games and Cole starting the final seven.

This season, the two expect the battle for playing time to continue.

“If Asad’s playing well, there’s no reason not to play him,” Cole said at media day on Wednesday. “Just like if I’m playing well there’s no reason not to play me. There will be different situations throughout the year where he may be a little bit better than me or I’m a little bit better than him. Overall it’s going to even out pretty well for our offense.”

Cole, a senior, and the sophomore Abdul-Khaliq brought different styles of play to the field last season. Cole had almost a 4-to-1 pass-to-rush ratio, while Abdul-Khaliq had nearly a 2-to-1 ratio.

Because of the different approaches, splitting time between quarterbacks became a common occurrence. Both Cole and Abdul-Khaliq appeared in 10 games, which both admit made it difficult at times to find a rhythm. However, Mason is confident both will be ready when called upon.

“I’m comfortable with it now, and more importantly, they’re comfortable with it,” Mason said. “They just worry about how they compete on the field and don’t worry about what is being perceived as a quarterback controversy. I hope they compete like heck against each other and I think they will.”

Running backs Tellis Redmon and Thomas Tapeh are competing for a starting job, according to Mason and Redmon. Both said the job is still open, and Redmon added he hopes Tapeh will split time with him no matter who starts.

However, running backs coach Vic Adamle believes Redmon has the job. Redmon led the Gophers with 1,368 yards rushing last year. Meanwhile, Tapeh missed five games with foot injuries.

“Tellis is the starting tailback right now because Thomas has been injured since the Indiana game last year,” Adamle said. “Tellis performed well and was the guy in spring practice that went through it all, so he’s the number one tailback right now.”

No matter who starts where, wide receiver Ron Johnson believes the competition within the team will lead to success.

“When you have a guy just as good or better than you fighting for your job, you’re going to work harder and do the extra things,” Johnson said. “That creates a healthy competition and helps us become a better team.”


Anthony Maggio welcomes comments at [email protected]