The Gophers’ spring practice took on the look of a M*A*S*H unit, with coach P.J. Fleck and his staff forced to cobble together lineups because of offseason surgeries to 22 players.
When the team begins training camp on Tuesday, Fleck will have most of those 22 available. And by Aug. 10, he expects to have them all back for contact drills.
Most notably, linebacker Blake Cashman (surgeries on both shoulders) and cornerback Coney Durr (knee surgery) will be limited early in camp but ready for contact by Aug. 10.
‘’Cashman is ready to go, but he’s not gonna have contact for a few days,’’ Fleck said. “… I don’t think anybody beyond Aug. 10 will have the reins on them.’’
Said Cashman: “My shoulders feel great right now. We’re going to slowly work into it just because I haven’t done any contact since the bowl game.’’
The Gophers’ running back duo of Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks take differing approaches to how they run. Smith said he’s learned to stay healthy by knowing when to not take a big hit.
Brooks chuckled a bit when asked if he took a similar approach. “Honestly, I like contact.’’
Whichever style works, both will be key for the Gophers offense.
“They’re two of the best backs in the Big Ten,’’ center Jared Weyler said. “As an offensive line, we know we just need to get them in a one-on-one situation. If we get that to happen, we know we’re gonna win a lot of those matchups.’’
Fleck led Western Michigan to a 13-1 season and a Cotton Bowl berth last year. But he’s not about to put a win total on what he expects in his first year as Gophers coach.
“We could 12-0, we could go 0-12,’’ he said. “ I’m not worried about the ‘W’ or ‘L.’ I’m worried about this team doing everything they can to become their best and reach their maximum potential, whatever that is.’’
• Fleck announced that six training camp practices will be open to the public, beginning with Friday night’s session. The open practices, all at the Gibson-Nagurski Football Complex, are: Friday, 6 p.m.; Saturday, 3:30 p.m.; Aug. 8, 3:30 p.m.; Aug. 11, 3:30 p.m.; Aug. 15, 3:30 p.m.; and Aug. 17, 3:30 p.m. Fleck will make his Gophers debut in the season opener against Buffalo on Aug. 31 at TCF Bank Stadium.
• Trevor Oppedal, a 6-8, 275-pound offensive tackle from Blue Earth (Minn.) High School, announced via Twitter that he has received an offer from the Gophers.