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

New Orleans 28 FINAL
Carolina 10
Tampa Bay 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Arizona 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Philadelphia 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Houston
NY Jets 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Jacksonville 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
San Diego 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Washington 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
St. Louis 11/2/14 3:05 PM
San Francisco
Denver 11/2/14 3:25 PM
New England
Oakland 11/2/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Baltimore 11/2/14 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Indianapolis 11/3/14 7:30 PM
NY Giants
Washington 105 FINAL
Orlando 98
Detroit 91 FINAL
Minnesota 97
New York 95 FINAL
Cleveland 90
Utah 102 FINAL
Dallas 120
Oklahoma City 90 FINAL
LA Clippers 93
Boston 3 FINAL(OT)
Buffalo 2
Winnipeg 1 FINAL(SO)
New Jersey 2
Los Angeles 0 FINAL
Pittsburgh 3
Chicago 5 FINAL(SO)
Ottawa 4
Philadelphia 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay 4
Arizona 1 FINAL
Florida 2
San Jose 3 FINAL(SO)
Minnesota 4
Anaheim 0 FINAL
St. Louis 2
NY Islanders 0 FINAL
Colorado 5
Montreal 2 FINAL(OT)
Vancouver 3
(2) Florida State 42 FINAL
Louisville 31
Troy 10 FINAL
Ga Southern 42
Cincinnati 7:00 PM
Tulane
Tulsa 7:02 PM
Memphis
Air Force 11/1/14 10:30 AM
Army
ULM 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Texas A&M
(19) Oklahoma 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Northwestern 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Iowa
(24) Duke 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Maryland 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Wisconsin 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
Rice 11/1/14 11:00 AM
FIU
(21) East Carolina 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Temple
UCF 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Connecticut
Boston College 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
North Carolina 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Miami-Florida
Washington 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Colorado
Central Mich 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Western Mich 11/1/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Western Ky 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
NC State 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Syracuse
Virginia 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech
Purdue 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(17) Nebraska
BYU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Middle Tennessee
(10) TCU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(20) West Virginia
Indiana 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(9) Georgia
Georgia State 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Appalachian St
Kentucky 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Kansas 11/1/14 3:00 PM
(12) Baylor
Texas State 11/1/14 3:00 PM
New Mexico St
Houston 11/1/14 3:00 PM
So Florida
USC 11/1/14 3:30 PM
Washington St
Arkansas State 11/1/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
South Alabama 11/1/14 4:00 PM
Louisiana
New Mexico 11/1/14 4:30 PM
UNLV
UAB 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
(4) Auburn 11/1/14 6:00 PM
(7) Ole Miss
Old Dominion 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Colorado State 11/1/14 6:00 PM
San Jose St
Arkansas 11/1/14 6:15 PM
(1) Miss State
Stanford 11/1/14 6:30 PM
(5) Oregon
Tennessee 11/1/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina
Texas 11/1/14 6:30 PM
Texas Tech
Southern Miss 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
(6) Notre Dame 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Navy
Oklahoma State 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(11) Kansas State
Illinois 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(13) Ohio State
(14) Arizona 11/1/14 9:30 PM
(25) UCLA
California 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
San Diego St 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Wyoming 11/1/14 9:45 PM
Fresno State
(18) Utah 11/1/14 10:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Utah State 11/1/14 10:00 PM
Hawaii
Bowling Green 11/4/14 7:00 PM
Akron
Toledo 11/4/14 7:00 PM
Kent State
Buffalo 11/5/14 7:00 PM
Ohio U
Northern Ill 11/5/14 7:00 PM
Ball State
(22) Clemson 11/6/14 6:30 PM
Wake Forest
Sporting Kansas City 1 FINAL
Red Bull New York 2
Hamilton 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Toronto 11/2/14 11:00 AM
Montreal
Ottawa 11/7/14 6:00 PM
Toronto
Calgary 11/7/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Montreal 11/8/14 3:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 11/8/14 6:00 PM
Saskatchewan

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How many games will the Timberwolves win this season?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

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

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close