Gophers' Wells finds new spot

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 9, 2013 - 1:04 AM

Derrick Wells has made a position switch work. He has moved from safety to cornerback for his junior year at U.

hide

Cornerback Derrick Well, left, lined up against wide receiver Logan Hutton in practice.

Photo: BRUCE BISPING , Star Tribune file

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

The Gophers have several question marks on defense after two weeks of spring practice, but Derrick Wells isn’t one of them, even after switching positions.

As a sophomore safety last season, Wells dealt with a severe knee laceration and still made 74 tackles, tied for third most on the team.

This spring, he’s making a seamless transition to cornerback, a position where the Gophers are trying to replace two outgoing seniors in Michael Carter and Troy Stoudermire.

The Gophers opened the spring by saying Wells would play both cornerback and safety, but through six practices, it’s been all cornerback.

“He’s not going back; he’s going to play corner,” Gophers defensive backs coach Jay Sawvel said Saturday.

For one thing, the Gophers think Wells is pretty good at cornerback with his 6-0, 206-pound frame and strong coverage skills.

“He’s got size, he’s got intelligence, he makes us better at that position,” Sawvel said. “He keeps doing what he’s doing, he’ll make money at it.”

The move also helps the rest of the secondary. The Gophers still like their depth at safety with Brock Vereen, Cedric Thompson, Damarius Travis and Antonio Johnson.

The coaching staff approached Wells about the move after the bowl game loss to Texas Tech. He had played cornerback at Lehigh (Fla.) High School. And Wells saw the benefits health-wise, for his knee.

After suffering the laceration last season, he had to have the knee re-stitched multiple times. He played in all 13 games but didn’t start two. He still wears a long black sleeve on his right leg to protect his skin.

“I want to do what’s best for the team,” Wells said. “But moving to corner, it’ll take some pressure off my knee without all the contact in the middle, so I think that’ll help me out a lot too.”

With Wells at one corner, the other will come down to a battle between sophomore Eric Murray and three players who transferred from junior college last year — Martez Shabazz, Briean Boddy and Jeremy Baltazar.

Murray was getting reps with the first-team defense this week.

“Martez has maybe had a flashier play here and there, but Eric’s been the most consistent, so we’re just going to keep going with that,” Sawvel said.

Knowing Wells can play both positions gives the Gophers options against various offenses.

“This is a guy you can put as a nickel [fifth defensive back],” Sawvel said. “You can blitz him from different angles. You can play him as a high safety, you can spin your secondary a certain way because of what he’s doing.”

A defensive turnaround helped key the Gophers’ improvement to 6-7 last year from 3-9 in their first year under coach Jerry Kill. Now the team has to replace five starters on defense, including sack leader D.L. Wilhite, two linebackers and the two cornerbacks.

“I know we lost two secondary guys that were big for us, but I think the people that were behind them were ready to play last year,” Wells said. “So I think coming into the season, we’re going to be pretty good.”

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Philadelphia - WP: R. Hernandez 2 FINAL
Washington - LP: D. Fister 1
Seattle - LP: R. Elias 1 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: W. Chen 2
Texas - LP: J. Williams 2 FINAL
Cleveland - WP: D. Salazar 12
Colorado - LP: F. Morales 2 FINAL
Detroit - WP: J. Verlander 4
Cincinnati - WP: M. Latos 5 FINAL
Miami - LP: J. Cosart 2
San Francisco - WP: R. Vogelsong 5 FINAL
NY Mets - LP: J. Niese 1
LA Angels - WP: M. Shoemaker 5 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: J. Hellickson 3
NY Yankees - LP: C. Capuano 3 FINAL
Boston - WP: A. Ranaudo 4
Minnesota - LP: C. Fien 8 FINAL
Chicago WSox - WP: J. Guerra 10
Toronto - LP: A. Loup 1 FINAL
Houston - WP: J. Veras 3
Milwaukee - WP: W. Peralta 7 FINAL
St. Louis - LP: A. Wainwright 4
Kansas City - WP: J. Guthrie 1 FINAL
Oakland - LP: S. Gray 0
Pittsburgh - WP: T. Watson 9 FINAL
Arizona - LP: B. Schultz 4
Atlanta - LP: M. Minor 1 FINAL
San Diego - WP: E. Stults 10
Chicago Cubs - WP: K. Hendricks 8 FINAL
Los Angeles - LP: D. Haren 2
NY Giants 8/3/14 7:00 PM
Buffalo
Indianapolis 8/7/14 6:00 PM
NY Jets
San Francisco 8/7/14 6:30 PM
Baltimore
New England 8/7/14 6:30 PM
Washington
Cincinnati 8/7/14 7:00 PM
Kansas City
Seattle 8/7/14 8:00 PM
Denver
Dallas 8/7/14 9:00 PM
San Diego
Philadelphia 1 FINAL
Sporting Kansas City 1
Winnipeg 27 FINAL
Hamilton 26
Toronto 31 FINAL
Montreal 5
Brt Columbia 25 FINAL
Calgary 24
Saskatchewan 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 8/7/14 7:30 PM
Winnipeg
Edmonton 8/8/14 6:00 PM
Montreal
Hamilton 8/8/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Ottawa 8/9/14 6:30 PM
Calgary
Winnipeg 8/12/14 6:30 PM
Toronto
Connecticut 89 FINAL
San Antonio 79

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the Twins replace Ron Gardenhire?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

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

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close