Monday, July 18, 2011

Matt Chandik's Minnesota Player to Watch

He’s gone from strictly a kickoff returner to a returner and wide receiver to almost leaving the team to a cornerback, but Troy Stoudermire looks like he’s finally ready for the spotlight. Stoudermire’s name is recognized among Big 10 fans for his skills in the return game, but more than one spring practice observer saw him mature and develop as a cornerback in spring practice. If Minnesota’s going to do anything under new head coach Jerry Kill, then Stoudermire, my pick for Minnesota Breakout Player of the Year, is going to have a say in it.

Some might argue that Stoudermire’s already broken out, but I’m making this pick based on his future on defense. The amount of players across Division I football who can switch from receiver to corner and be decent on defense in a week are pretty scarce, but Stoudermire filled the role admirably last year. He’s got enough speed to not be victimized deep and can break pretty well and several Minnesota fans mentioned how his confidence, maturity and level of play all improved over the course of the offseason.

Stoudermire goes into the season as Minnesota’s No. 1 cornerback, and while he’s raw defensively, him sitting atop the depth chart might not be a bad thing. He’s got good size at 5-10, 195 pounds and has the ball skills to cause havoc if teams decide to throw at him. In six starts last year, Stoudermire snagged an interception, recovered a fumble, broke up four passes and made two tackles for loss as part of a 37-tackle half-season on defense.

It’s tough to suggest an interception number or extrapolate Stoudermire’s six-start numbers over the course of season, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him blossom into one of the Big 10’s top corners. I’ll say he gets around 65 tackles and picks off three or four passes and makes a serious run at All-Big 10 honors. A lot will depend on how his secondary mates develop, but he’ll be a good corner and, assuming he sticks to return duties, at the top of the Big 10’s kickoff return men.

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