The Gophers have the first of 15 spring practice sessions Tuesday — including the April 12 spring game — which are open to the public.
The wide receivers
After Derrick Engel’s knee injury, Donovahn Jones and Drew Wolitarsky were the team’s top two wide receivers late last year as true freshmen. Jones entered fall camp as a quarterback, so he should quickly keep improving with more reps at his new position. Wolitarsky caught four passes for 94 yards and a touchdown in the bowl game. Eric Carter, who redshirted last year, is another one to watch.
With Philip Nelson gone, this is Mitch Leidner’s team. But who will emerge as the backup? Redshirt freshman Chris Streveler is coming off hand surgery. True freshman Dimonic Roden-McKinzy is a dynamic athlete.
The Gophers need to replace two starters, Aaron Hill and James Manuel. De’Vondre Campbell likely will start on the weak side, next to middle linebacker Damien Wilson. Junior college transfer Cody Poock is a candidate to start at strongside linebacker, along with De’Niro Laster and Ray Dixon.
The defensive line
Ra’Shede Hageman is a likely first-round draft pick, and the Gophers have to replace Roland Johnson, too. Cameron Botticelli and Scott Ekpe are back, and Yoshoub Timms will be counted on once his hamstring injury heals.
Cornerback Briean-Boddy Calhoun will be in a non-contact green jersey, coming back from knee surgery. Cornerback Derrick Wells will miss spring practice as he recovers from shoulder surgery. And center Jon Christenson won’t practice as he recovers from a broken leg. Still, all three have made progress toward returning to full strength by Aug. 1.