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College football is just around the corner -- we’re less than 12 weeks away from the Gophers’ season opener against New Mexico State on Aug. 30. So, with that in mind, I’ll be examining some story lines, players and trends to watch over the next few weeks. Here’s today’s installment:

Five players to watch on the Gophers’ nonconference schedule

Marcus McMaryion, quarterback, Fresno State

vs. Gophers on Sept. 8 at TCF Bank Stadium

The skinny: If McMaryion’s name rings a bell, here’s why: He started the final six games of the 2016 season for Oregon State and had the inside track to be the Beavers’ starter in 2017 before junior college transfer Jake Luton beat him out for the job during training camp – and started against the Gophers. McMaryion, who already had graduated from Oregon State, transferred to Fresno State and was immediately eligible for the Bulldogs. That worked out well, because he won the starting job by the fourth week of the season and went 9-2 as the Bulldogs completed a turnaround from 1-11 in 2016 to 10-4 with a Hawaii Bowl win over Houston last year. McMaryion completed 218 of 351 passes (62.1 percent) for 2,726 yards and 14 touchdowns with five interceptions, and he can build on that in his senior season.

KeeSean Johnson, wide receiver, Fresno State

vs. Gophers on Sept. 8 at TCF Bank Stadium

The skinny: Johnson – no relation to former USC star wideout Keyshawn Johnson – was McMaryion’s favorite target last year and should be again this fall. He caught 77 passes for 1,013 yards and eight touchdowns, following up stats of 66-773-6 as sophomore. The 6-2, 202-pounder’s highlight in 2017 came in the regular-season victory over Boise State, in which he caught six passes for 19 yards and two TDs.

James Gardner, wide receiver, Miami (Ohio)

vs. Gophers on Sept. 15 at TCF Bank Stadium

The skinny: The senior will be a weapon for which the Gophers must account. Gardner caught 47 passes for 927 yards – a 19.7-yard average – and 11 touchdowns in 2017. He had five 100-yard receiving games last year, including a five-catch, 115-yard, two TD-performance against Notre Dame. At 6-4 and 216 pounds, the first-team All-MAC honoree will have the attention of NFL teams.

Gus Ragland, quarterback, Miami (Ohio)

vs. Gophers on Sept. 15 at TCF Bank Stadium

The skinny: Ragland, a 6-1, 215-pound senior who’ll be starting for the third season, passed for 2,032 yards and 19 TDs with seven interceptions last season as the RedHawks went 5-7. A leg injury forced him to miss three games, so a return to health could help him rediscover the form that saw him lead Miami to a six-game winning streak in 2016.

Cedric Wilcots II, defensive end, New Mexico State

vs. Gophers on Aug. 30 at TCF Bank Stadium

The skinny: In 2017, the Aggies ended a 57-yard bowl drought, beating Utah State 26-20 in the Arizona Bowl. An improved defense played a big part in New Mexico State’s 7-6 season, and Wilcots played a key role. The 6-4, 260-pounder All-Sun Belt first-team selection made only 29 tackles, but 12 were for loss, including a team-best 8½ sacks. The Aggies used a solid pass rush – they had 43 sacks, which tied for fifth nationally – to hold their final three opponents to 20 or fewer points.