Gophers quarterback Mitch Leidner hit Logan Hutton in stride on a post pattern and followed that with another perfect touchdown pass to Drew Wolitarsky on a corner route Sunday in 7-on-7 drills.
Through three practices, Leidner has shown notable poise and precision, especially in the drills, which reflects the work he and his receivers did doing those exact same drills over the offseason.
It’s always different when it’s 11-on-11, especially early in camp, when the defense is typically ahead of the offense. Leidner has had good moments in those situations, like when he stepped up in the pocket to find KJ Maye for a 40-yard gain Sunday.
But Leidner has missed some throws, too. An example came Friday, when he threw a screen pass right to 313-pound defensive tackle Harold Legania.
“He’s going to have his ups and downs,” offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover said. “The crazy thing is you hear so much about Mitch, you think he’s a fifth-year senior, but he’s just a redshirt sophomore. Every day he’s still learning. But the guys have really taken to him.”
Asked where Leidner needs to improve, Limegrover said, “I think sometimes he’s still trying too hard. … He wants to prove that [naming him the starter] was the right decision each and every play.”
Limegrover said the staff is trying to convince Leidner that it’s OK throwing the ball out of bounds and punting the football.
“Trying to do too much and putting our defense in a bind because you get a pick at midfield or something, that’s what we can’t do,” Limegrover said.
After Leidner missed a fourth-down pass during a two-minute drill Sunday, it looked like coach Jerry Kill was about to lay into his quarterback. But after a few quick words, Kill pulled back.
“Coach Kill’s really changed,” Limegrover said. “He’s usually real hard on quarterbacks, and he understands that’s what Mitch’s mindset is. So he’ll get on him whenever he’s pressing too much, but letting him make a few mistakes and learning as he goes there.”
The Gophers offered behind-the-scenes access to training camp — from practices to meals to team meetings — and 18 people shelled out $2,000 apiece for it. The three-day Boys of Fall Elite Camp wrapped up Sunday.
Don Loeslie, 78, from Warren, Minn., came away impressed. He cited one film session where quarterbacks coach Jim Zebrowski showed a quarterback that the first two steps of his drop back were perfect, but that the third step needed some work.
“Detail and more detail,” Loeslie said. “Everything is crisp, everything is well-done, and everyone has respect for one another — the players for the coaches and the coaches for the players.”
Rich Jantz — a 65-year-old friend of Kill’s from Lawrence, Kan. — had been to similar fantasy camps at Tennessee, and suggested the idea to the Gophers.
“I’ve been coming up here ever since [Kill’s] first year, and the thing you notice is it’s so much better organized in Year 4,” Jantz said. “The players know what they need to do, and they’re getting better players. You can see it.”
• Tight end Duke Anyanwu was on crutches at practice with his right knee wrapped after suffering what appeared to be a serious injury Saturday. The team plans to update the media on its severity Monday. Wide receiver Devon Wright replaced Anyanwu on the 105-man preseason camp roster.
• At one point in the two-minute drill when the offense sputtered, Kill had kicker Andrew Harte attempt a 54-yard field goal. It fell short. So Kill inserted Ryan Santoso to try the same kick, and the redshirt freshman nailed it with room to spare.
• Practices Monday through Wednesday are at 5:15 p.m. and open to the public.