The Gophers gave Jeff Jones several reps at slot receiver with the first-team offense Thursday, and he continued to look at home there.
After coming to campus as a highly touted running back recruit, Jones appears to have found a new niche. He made several eye-opening catches during practice, including one on which he soared high against senior safety Damarius Travis to grab a pass from Mitch Leidner.
With Rodrick Williams, Rodney Smith and Berkley Edwards handling the tailback duties, Jones didn’t line up at running back once.
Coach Jerry Kill told KFAN (100.3-FM) this week that an argument could be made that Jones is the best receiver in camp. Thursday Kill said he knew Jones could be a good receiver, based largely on watching him play basketball at Minneapolis Washburn.
“I spend a lot of time when we’re recruiting people watching them play basketball games because you can tell if they’re athletic and those kinds of things,” Kill said.
Leidner seemed to be looking for Jones in several drills, including the scrimmage sessions against the first-team defense.
“He’s looking real good, and I think all the [defensive] backs agree,” Leidner said. “He runs some of the best routes on the team, and he’s relatively raw. He catches the ball real well.”
Added Leidner: “He’s got a different gear. The kid’s just motivated. He loves football. He comes every day with a great attitude. And the best part about him is you can line him up against Briean Boddy-[Calhoun, an All-Big Ten cornerback] or whoever, and he’s not going to look at them any differently.
“When he’s blocking, he’ll blow you up.”
Campbell leans up
When 6-5 linebacker De’Vondre Campbell first transferred from Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College, he weighed 210 pounds. By last fall, the former track standout had bulked up to 250.
“I just felt real slow and sluggish, and it was hard to move,” Campbell said. “So I kind of dropped it off, and I want to stay around the 240 range because it helps me move a lot better.”
Campbell ranked third on the team with 75 tackles last season, but the Gophers expect even more from him as a senior.
“He’s a lot more confident than he was because he’s a lot better player than he was last year,” Kill said. “He was a good player in the fall; he’s a lot better football player right now. His focus is better, he’s older.”
Third-string quarterback Jacques Perra (sprained right thumb) will miss Saturday’s spring game. He suffered the injury Tuesday and was unable to grip a ball Thursday. The coaches feel bad for him because he would have taken a lot of snaps in the spring game.
Kill was encouraged to see wide receiver Desmond Gant back in action after missing several practices because of a concussion. Gant and Isaiah Gentry, who has recovered from a hamstring injury, are two budding deep threats for the offense as redshirt freshmen.
Defensive tackle Gary Moore (broken right hand) also will miss the spring game. Guard Tyler Moore (hand) and linebacker De’Niro Laster (finger) practiced Thursday and might play.
Key recruit visit
Sam Schlueter, an offensive tackle from Mayer Lutheran, watched Thursday’s practice and is expected to attend the spring game. His list of colleges is down to Minnesota, Michigan State and Wisconsin.