Jonah Pirsig had just finished a one-on-one blocking drill Tuesday, when Gophers offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover gave a shout that echoed inside the football complex.
“What has happened to you?” Limegrover said. “Whatever it is, keep growing the hair!”
At 6-9, Pirsig was an imposing figure from the moment he stepped on campus in 2012 as a highly touted recruit from Blue Earth, Minn. But after overcoming a knee injury and recent wrist surgery, Pirsig has filled out that frame and now has long, shaggy hair extending beneath his helmet. Watching Pirsig in that drill, Limegrover loved what he saw.
Pirsig came off the bench to play in seven games last year. He lined up at right tackle with the second team offensive line on the first day of spring practice. The Gophers have redshirt-junior Josh Campion back with the first team at right tackle and redshirt sophomore Ben Lauer at left tackle.
But depth is always critical on the line, and Pirsig looks like he’s ready to make a serious push.
“Jonah’s got the cast [on his wrist],” Coach Jerry Kill said. “He’ll have to get that off, but he’s huge. He’s a huge man. Even with the cast on, he’s made some big jumps [with his strength].”
Other quick first-day observations
* Mike Sherels, the soon-to-be-named linebackers coach, could be heard praising newcomer Cody Poock after the junior college transfer shed a block to get to running back Donnell Kirkwood in one drill. Poock lined up with the second-team defense behind Nick Rallis at strong-side linebacker.
* David Cobb looked completely refreshed, and the other running backs – Kirkwood, Rodrick Williams and Berkley Edwards – all had good burst after recovering from leg injuries.
Edwards showed off his quick moves and explosive speed on several eye-opening plays. He was used exclusively at tailback, but I think the Gophers will line him up in the slot, too, to get him on the field with Cobb.
“Berkley Edwards -- all I can tell you is he’ll move around, he’ll be playing,” Kill said. “He’ll be doing a lot of things. He’s lightning in a bottle. So we’ve got some flexibility, and I don’t want to give away what we’re going to do. But our job is to get the right people the football. We’ve got to do a better job of that.”
The Gophers next practice is Thursday at 4 p.m.