Gophers coach Jerry Kill didn’t mind the pushing and shoving he saw at Thursday’s spring practice — until quarterback Mitch Leidner got involved.
Before taking a 12-day pause for spring break, the Gophers held an intense session at the Gibson-Nagurski Football Complex. At one point, center Tommy Olson got tangled with linebacker Chris Wipson, and Leidner got right in Wipson’s face.
“He’s sticking up for his teammates, but you don’t ever want a quarterback getting hit in the hand or something like that,” Kill said. “But again our kids — that’s why they follow [Leidner]. He’s a tough sucker. But he knows he’s not going to do that again.”
Kill insists he doesn’t like when practices get chippy, but he’d rather have to rein in his team’s intensity than try to ignite it himself.
“You see them at the end of practice, hugging each other; everyone knows it’s one heartbeat,” Kill said. “But when you’re playing, you want to have a little bit of an edge.”
Spring break time
The Gophers opened spring practice three weeks early, knowing part of the challenge would be stopping in the middle for spring break. They will have 10 practice sessions after the break, including the April 12 spring game.Z
“I think it’s gone real well [so far], and they’ve got spring break, and it’s going to be a challenge for them mentally,” Kill said. “That’s kind of why we’re doing it. Are they going to be able to come back off spring break and get focused again?”
• Tight end Maxx Williams, who injured his left knee in the bowl game, looked fine for the first four spring practices but sat out Thursday as a precaution.
• Wide receiver Donovahn Jones also sat out after suffering what appeared to be a left arm injury on a hit by Eric Murray on Tuesday.
• Cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun has been in a green noncontact jersey but already is running well, coming back from reconstructive knee surgery.
• Cornerback Derrick Wells is sitting out the spring, as he recovers from shoulder surgery, but the team expects him at full strength by the start of summer camp on Aug. 1.
• Caleb Bak started 20 consecutive games at right guard before suffering a concussion and missing the final four games last season. He took part in the first three spring practices but sat out the last two, as the team continues to be cautious.
• Brian Bobek, a transfer from Ohio State who missed last season because of a heart infection, was cleared for contact this week and is already pushing for playing time at center behind Olson.
• Kill continues to marvel at the progress Jon Christenson has made from the broken leg he suffered Nov. 2 against Indiana. Christenson, who started the first eight games at center last year, is hoping to be ready Aug. 1.