Duke Anyanwu looked poised for a breakout season at tight end for the Gophers after a position change and injury setbacks his first two years on campus.
A redshirt sophomore, Anyanwu led the Gophers with three receptions during the spring game, and coach Jerry Kill called him one of the team’s most improved players.
That’s why a hush came over the team Saturday, when Anyanwu suffered an apparent right knee injury in the team’s second practice. Anyanwu went over the middle, trying to catch a pass from quarterback Chris Streveler and fell to the ground, writhing in pain.
Trainers helped Anyanwu from the field, and Kill’s wife, Rebecca, was among those who went to comfort him. Jerry Kill declined to comment on the injury but said of Anyanwu: “Great kid. Ain’t none better than Duke. Great kid.”
Anyanwu played quarterback at Blaine High School before converting to tight end with the Gophers. He torn an anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during captains’ practice in 2012.
He also broke a forearm during spring practice in 2013 and was limited to one game last season, on special teams. But the 6-4, 250-pound Anyanwu came on this spring, getting extra playing time when Maxx Williams was injured.
Last week at Big Ten media days, quarterback Mitch Leidner was rattling off his receiving options, saying how nice it was having Williams back to full speed.
“Another guy nobody’s talking about is Duke,” Leidner said. “He’s been one of our top 10 fastest guys on our team.”
Leidner and other players looked visibly shaken, watching Anyanwu being taken off the field. Later, freshman tight end Gaelin Elmore tweeted, “Keep @DAnyanwu_81 in your prayers! He’s a man of strong faith and everything will [definitely] work out.”
• Damien Wilson played middle linebacker at 255 pounds as a junior last year, but trimmed down to 240 for this Gophers camp. “I’m moving a lot better,” he said. “I’m faster but still just as strong.”
• Damarius Travis has been getting first-team reps at safety over Antonio Johnson. Derrick Wells, who looks fully recovered from last season’s shoulder injury, has been a first-team cornerback, opposite Eric Murray, and made a nice interception Saturday.
• Josh Campion has lined up mostly at first-team right tackle for two practices, with Foster Bush at right guard. But on Saturday’s final series, Jonah Pirsig played first-team right tackle, with Campion moving to right guard.
• Jon Christenson, who broke a leg last November, got some reps Saturday as the second-team right guard.
• Kill complimented the progress of Streveler and another backup quarterback: “The guy that’s kind of been [impressive] in camp is Jacques Perra,” Kill said. “He’s done some good things. He’s a talented kid.” Perra is a 6-3, 210 freshman walk-on from Roseville.