COLUMN: Darius Taylor has arrived, Greg Harbaugh Jr. playcalling thru 2 weeks, defensive domminance and more thoughts from Week 2

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Week two has come and gone and the Minnesota Gophers remain atop the Big Ten West standings. We learned a lot about our young Gophers against EMU, but there are still plenty of questions. After a 25-6 victory, true freshman RB Darius Taylor shined with 200+ yards from scrimmage, Sean Tyler played well, but his fumbling issues raise plenty of questions. There are still many questions behind OC Greg Harbaugh Jr.’s run/pass balance, while the defensive side of the ball continues to look as dominant as ever. Ahead of their highly touted matchup with North Carolina in Week three, there is still plenty to learn about the Maroon & Gold.

Darius Taylor has arrived:

True freshman RB Darius Taylor came to Dinkytown with plenty of hype. As the Gophers’ highest-ranked commitment of the 2023 class, expectations were high, as Minnesota looked for its replacement for longtime starting RB Mohamed Ibrahim. Taylor had plenty of high-level offers, most notably from home state Michigan and Michigan State. In his first serious college playing time on Saturday, Taylor had 36 total touches, 209 total yards, and his first career TD. He was also the Gophers’ highest-graded offensive player according to PFF at 80.5.

His 196 rushing yards were the most by a Gophers RB not named Mohamed Ibrahim since Rodney Smith went for 211 yards against Illinois in 2019, nearly 1,435 days ago. All of the running game questions that Minnesota had in Week 1 were answered against Eastern Michigan. Taylor is a special player and he has a direct path to three seasons of serious production. In today’s era, there is always the question of whether a player will stay and decide not to enter the portal, but Taylor has the talent and opportunity to be the next in line of all-time great RBs at Minnesota.

Greg Harbaugh Jr.’s run/pass balance:

While the Gophers’ running attack shined Saturday against EMU, there are still plenty of questions surrounding the offense. In week one, Minnesota had 48 designed pass plays compared to only 21 designed run plays. In week two they had 21 designed pass plays compared to 53 designed run plays. While Eastern Michigan is obviously a much different team than Nebraska, there are still many questioning new OC Greg Harbaugh Jr.’s play-calling and whether the Gophers’ offense would be able to support a truly balanced attack.

I don’t think that this is a very big issue. Answering the question of whether or not Minnesota can lean on their running game and dominate within the trenches was a much bigger concern ahead of conference play. Athan Kaliakmanis is still a young QB with a lot of new weapons, so his rhythm in the passing game was never going to happen overnight. Week 2 gave Harbaugh Jr. more opportunities to run and the Gophers took advantage.

I think we could very easily see a different game plan weekly for this offense and I don’t necessarily think that is a bad thing. Great football teams can win in different ways and this Gophers team has already shown they can be a passing team or a running team I think that will be incredibly valuable as we enter the heart of conference play in a few weeks.

Continued defensive dominance:

The Gophers have allowed one touchdown through eight quarters of football. With Trill Carter, Flip Dixon, Moriano Sori-Marin, Terell Smith and Jordan Howden all gone, this unit has not missed a beat. Elon transfer CB Tre Jones was a tremendous pickup while Devon Williams and Maverick Baranowski have played very well filling in for Cody Lindenberg and the defensive line has been tremendous. Any questions that this unit had preseason have already been answered, while Lindenberg will still be able to return from injury. This unit is good enough for the Gophers to lean on and win games with. Next week against North Carolina and QB Drake Maye will be another great test.

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