Gophers open spring football with momentum, and hope

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 26, 2013 - 12:08 AM

Kill is confident hard work in the offseason will pay off.

hide

After going 3-9 and 6-7 in his first two years as Gophers football coach, Jerry Kill is determined to take another big step forward this year.

Photo: BRUCE BISPING, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

After going 3-9 and 6-7 in his first two years as Gophers coach, Jerry Kill is determined to take another big step forward this year.

When last seen, the Gophers were walking off the field in disappointment at the Meineke Car Care Bowl, having played one of their best games of the season against Texas Tech, only to lose 34-31.

The Gophers open spring practice Tuesday with the first of 15 sessions that will culminate with the annual spring game on April 27 at TCF Bank Stadium.

“We feel like we’ve had an outstanding offseason since playing Texas Tech,” Kill said Monday. “I think we built on the way we played in the bowl game, and that carried over into the offseason. Our kids have worked very hard.”

Here are four questions facing the Gophers this spring:

1. Is Philip Nelson the best answer at quarterback?

Nelson started the team’s final seven games last year as a true freshman and had some up-and-down moments before finishing with a strong performance in the bowl game.

Kill said Nelson will run the first-team offense this spring, “but he’s going to have to prove it on an everyday basis, just like every other player on the team. We’ve got two young guys [Mitch Leidner and Chris Streveler] that I’m sure are hungry and wanting to show what they can do, and we’re excited about that.”

Leidner redshirted last year but was impressive running the scout team. Streveler earned Illinois all-state honors as a dual threat quarterback at Marian Central Catholic. Just as Nelson and Leidner did last year, Streveler enrolled at the university in January, making him eligible for spring practice.

2. Will the offensive theme be run, run, run?

It sure sounds that way. The Gophers were encouraged with how well they ran the ball in the bowl game, gaining 222 yards on 54 attempts. Texas Tech wasn’t built to stop the run, but the Gophers still liked the way the offensive line got healthy in time for that game and controlled the line of scrimmage.

“We need to play physical like we did in our last game,” Kill said. “That’s who we want to be.”

The Gophers like their offensive line depth and believe they can continue to run the ball with Donnell Kirkwood and Rodrick Williams coming back, not to mention speedy incoming recruit Berkley Edwards.

3. Who are some potential new impact players?

Junior college transfer Damien Wilson is a key player to watch this spring, since he could become the starting middle linebacker, replacing outgoing senior Mike Rallis.

“Damien’s had a great offseason and we look forward to seeing him play,” Kill said. “He’ll play [middle] linebacker because he’s 6-2, 250 [pounds]. He doesn’t look it, but he is. He’s a very good athlete.”

Another middle linebacker candidate is redshirt freshman Jack Lynn, who weighs 234 pounds, up from 210 last year.

“We expect a whole lot out of Jack,” Kill said. “He can run and change directions.”

Sophomore cornerback Eric Murray makes this list, too. He played all 13 games last year, primarily on special teams.

“He’s a tremendous athlete, had a great offseason and is one of the faster guys on the team,” Kill said.

4. Can the defensive improvement continue?

The Gophers made big strides defensively last year, allowing 24.7 points per game, down from 31.7 the previous year.

With five defensive starters to replace, the linebackers are the biggest concern, with Aaron Hill the only starter returning to that unit. This spring, the staff will take a long look at Wilson and Lynn, along with James Manuel and Lamonte Edwards.

“We are a little bit thin [at linebacker] this spring, but the people that are in there need to get more repetition,” Kill said. “I think we’ve got some good [recruits coming for this fall], but we’re going to approach the spring like we’ve got nobody coming in.”

  • related content

  • Jerry Kill

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Los Angeles - WP: C. Kershaw 14 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - LP: E. Jackson 5
Boston - A. Webster 6:05 PM
Baltimore - K. Gausman
Milwaukee - Y. Gallardo 6:05 PM
Pittsburgh - J. Locke
Toronto - M. Buehrle 6:05 PM
NY Yankees - H. Kuroda
Washington - D. Fister 6:10 PM
Miami - T. Koehler
Chicago WSox - J. Quintana 6:10 PM
Tampa Bay - J. Hellickson
NY Mets - Z. Wheeler 6:35 PM
Atlanta - J. Teheran
Cleveland - T. Bauer 7:10 PM
Minnesota - P. Hughes
Detroit - J. Verlander 7:10 PM
Kansas City - J. Vargas
Seattle - T. Walker 7:10 PM
Houston - B. Peacock
Arizona - C. Anderson 7:10 PM
Colorado - J. Lyles
Cincinnati - D. Holmberg 7:15 PM
St. Louis - J. Lackey
Philadelphia - D. Buchanan 8:35 PM
Oakland - J. Lester
Texas - L. Bonilla 9:05 PM
LA Angels - H. Santiago
San Francisco - T. Hudson 9:10 PM
San Diego - O. Despaigne
San Diego 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 9/21/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 9/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 9/21/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 9/21/14 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
(5) Auburn 20 FINAL
(20) Kansas State 14
Connecticut 7:00 PM
So Florida
Old Dominion 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Rice
Troy 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Syracuse
Tulane 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Duke
Hawaii 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Marshall 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Carolina 9/20/14 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 9/20/14 2:30 PM
SMU
Rutgers 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Central Mich 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Kansas
Utah 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 9/20/14 2:30 PM
FIU
Fla Atlantic 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Wyoming
Indiana 9/20/14 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Minnesota
Texas State 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Illinois
Massachusetts 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 9/20/14 5:00 PM
Washington
Appalachian St 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Middle Tennessee 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Memphis
Utah State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Idaho 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
(14) So Carolina 9/20/14 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 9/20/14 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 9/20/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 9/20/14 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 9/20/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9/20/14 9:00 PM
Arizona
Louisiana 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(25) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(12) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:00 AM
NC State
Duke 9/27/14 2:00 AM
Miami-Florida
North Carolina 9/27/14 2:00 AM
(22) Clemson
Colorado 9:00 PM
Real Salt Lake
Toronto 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Edmonton 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Montreal 9/26/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 9/26/14 9:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/27/14 5:30 PM
Winnipeg
Brt Columbia 9/27/14 8:30 PM
Calgary

ADVERTISEMENT

Advertisement
Golden Gavel by Star Tribune

Countdown to great deals

Bid Sept. 21-29

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Vikings and Gophers do this weekend?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close