9. Brandon Green | WR | Senior | 6'0” 190 lbs. G REC YDS AVG. TD 12 15 190 12.7 1 Photo courtesy of the University of Minnesota Athletic Department
With Da’Jon McKnight moving on to the NFL, Brandon Green becomes the longest tenured Gopher wide receiver. However, that’s a loaded statement like being named the smartest kid in remedial math class.
Green was the team’s third leading receiver last year by one catch, but again, that’s another loaded statement; if Marcus Jones doesn’t have a knee injury, Jones would have likely passed Green’s receiving total of 15 catches. Although Green is a senior, he has totaled only 56 catches in three years of action.
Caption Obvious alert: The Gophers receiving corps is shallow and unproven. I’m currently writing about the most experienced receiver on the team and he had only 15 catches in his junior year.
Still, Green has potential. A four-star recruit who was part of former coach Tim Brewster’s vaunted 2008 class, Green has had a mostly underwhelming career at Minnesota. As a true freshman in 2008, Green tallied 261 yards in a four game stretch against Purdue, Northwestern, Michigan and Wisconsin. During the same stretch, future Denver Bronco receiver Eric Decker, who was the team’s main source of offense, had 110 yards and missed one game with an injury.
So Green had a great freshman year, right? Well, not exactly.
He ended the season with only 298 yards, only 37 more than that four-game outburst. He had a nondescript sophomore year in 2009 and then suffered a knee injury that caused him to sit out much of the 2010 year. Last year, Green caught one ball in every game, but only added a second when it was a deep pass, like during the Michigan and Northwestern games.
Injuries have robbed some of Green’s explosiveness, offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover told 1500ESPN’s Nate Sandell this spring.
“I feel bad for Brandon,” Limegrover told Sandell. “He was a phenomenal high school player. The injuries have taken some of that away from him. That’s frustrating. It’s frustrating for anybody, any player who has that ability and their body just won’t let them do what they know in their mind and have that mental picture of what they’ve done in the past.”
Quarterback MarQueis Gray’s accuracy is still a large concern, so the receivers need to make the most of their chances. The Gophers simply don’t have the luxury of dropping open passes. Green demonstrated good hands last year in delivering the team’s second highest catch rate with 71.4 percent, but it’s hard to extrapolate that much from a sample size of 21 targets. (In comparison, leading receiver Da’Jon McKnight caught 54.3 percent of his 94 targets. These stats come from the brilliant Bill Connelly of Football Outsiders and Football Study Hall.)
It’s reasonable to expect Green to step up to McKnight’s departed spot, although Marcus Jones’s return from last year’s knee injury makes a murky depth chart more cloudy. Although Jones’s ceiling is much higher at this point, Green has displayed more consistent hands. With the same number of targets, Jones’s catch rate was 42.9 percent. Again, it’s a small sample size.
As I wrote earlier about Jones and Devin Crawford-Tufts, the Gophers need a consistent deep threat or two to emerge. Green isn’t going to suddenly morph into Eric Decker or Ernie Wheelwright, but he has shown glimpses of ability to at least provide sure hands on a deep fade route. If Green doesn’t prove himself in fall practice, he could watch his job slip away to one of the other underclassmen that are now on campus, but the best scenario would be if Green finally delivers on his promise and becomes dependable in 2012.