THREE THINGS THE GOPHERS LEARNED
1The quarterback situation is a lot more stable for the present and the future than it was a year ago. MarQueis Gray had a sharp spring, Max Shortell also looks much improved, and freshmen Philip Nelson and Mitch Leidner helped themselves plenty by enrolling early and going through spring workouts. The younger QBs are pushing Gray, but this is clearly his team. Next year? It will be a fun battle, to be sure.
2Coach Jerry Kill likes his secondary, which he noted is more athletic and bigger than it was last year. Kill said he can see the difference "just physically watching," which could help a defense that finished near the bottom of many major statistical defensive categories last season.
3It's a lot easier to get things done in the second year of a regime than in the first. Kill sounded upbeat about what the team accomplished as a whole. "We've had a good spring," he said. "I think our kids have worked very hard, and I think we found out a lot about our kids."
THREE QUESTIONS THAT REMAIN
1Who will step up at wide receiver and running back? A host of players carried the ball for the Gophers in Saturday's spring game, including incoming junior college transfer James Gillum (three carries, 6 yards) and freshman JoJuan Harper (game-high 44 yards on nine carries). Brandon Green had a game-high 59 yards receiving, while Derrick Engel drew praise throughout the spring. But we're still waiting to see which players emerge as consistent playmakers.
2Can Gray be the dynamic leader and playmaker at quarterback that his athletic profile suggests he can be? Yes, Gray gets to be both an answer and a question here. He made some strides at the end of last season and has carried that over into a productive spring. But will he merely be an improvement over last year's version, or will he be a dominant force in the Big Ten?
3It's easier to impress and note improvement within the controlled environment of same-squad practices and scrimmages. Will the Gophers make appreciable strides on the field once actual competition begins?