Previously: Arrelious Benn.
What can you say, the kid loves him some Metrodome. Penn State has missed Minnesota the last two years and so they didn't get a lot of my attention. I didn't watch them at the beginning of the year while they were becoming mediocre, and then when they started to tank I wrote them off again. I really only pay attention when I know they have a chance to be That Team against Penn State, because those stupid opening onside kicks still sting quite a bit.
But Minnesota did do a good job of rebounding from their 2007 mudslide, and this was almost entirely because of Eric Decker. He led the league in receiving yards, trailed only Robiskie in TDs (tied Bulter), and beat the second place finisher in receptions by 15(!).
And Rittenberg thinks it's more of the same in 2009:
Eric Decker will lead the Big Ten in receiving yards for the second straight year -- The Gophers senior will have more help around him this fall as junior college transfer Hayo Carpenter joins a mix that includes Brandon Green, Ben Kuznia, Da'Jon McKnight and Troy Stoudermire. Opposing defenses will have a hard time doubling Decker, and quarterback Adam Weber will consistently find his good friend for 8- to 12-yard completions. Decker will contend for the Biletnikoff Award and leave Minnesota as the most accomplished receiver in team history.
He also could have taken money from the Twins to do nothing at all.
You may remember me from such self help tapes as. Non-descript highlights.
Personality Check. Via semi-blog reporting:
"We had a young team and inexperienced team last year and I think from this point on we've gotta learn how to show up every week. I think with the depth we have now, we have the pieces we just have to figure out the puzzle."
That's every answer to any question that has ever been asked at any press conference, but also Decker's response to "taking the next step." He's either a master of the trade or got a lot to learn, depending on his future image strategy.
The Penn State Extrapolation. Decker is a tall, hard nose wide receiver and that by definition makes him a liability for Penn State.
As was detailed all over the blogosphere: Minnesota benefited from a very handy +12 turnover margin last year, but you still need to get points off those turnovers to win. And they did this, mostly, until sputtering out last year down the stretch.
And I'm growing increasingly paranoid about the Penn State secondary. There is talent there, but 2009 success will depend on (1) a player I hope proves us all wrong but has largely been unable to pull it all together, and (2) a bunch of very average sized players with very little experience. Decker stands 6'2", 215 lb, which is pretty big by Penn State secondary standards.
But I'm not convinced, as Rittenberg suggested above, that he couldn't be doubled. The #2 option last year caught half the number of passes and is gone anyway. Ben Kuznia returns but is more of a dink-n-dunk guy, just a 22 yard long on 31 passes and no TDs.
The counterpoint might be Brandon Green: he has speed and might one day be one of the best players in the country (buyer beware), but that is clearly premature speculation at this point.
Fear This? I guess? I mean the kid can play, and most return from an offense that ranks 4th in passing yards per game and 1st in comp %. But, yards per attempt was a meah 6.9, 6th in a league that sported very average passing, and unless you can run the ball (dead last in '08 yards per game and yards per attempt in B10) or are USC in the Rose Bowl, some semblance of balance is required.
Look out for him, yes; he's a consistent threat. But unless Brandon Green skyrockets or a running game emerges out of the Arabian Desert that was their ground attack last year, it's too one dimensional to be unstoppable.