Hartman: Kill thinks freshmen will contribute for U

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 16, 2012 - 7:03 AM

Several new players have stood out in fall practice, with good competition at tailback and the defensive line.

Several Big Ten Network announcers, a group that included a couple of former college coaches, recently made their annual visit to watch the Gophers football team. They already had been to some other Big Ten camps, so coach Jerry Kill had to feel good when some members of the crew told him: "Coach, you have a heck of a freshman class."

Said Kill: "They travel around the whole Big Ten, so we're excited about the freshman class and [the fact that some of our recruits] have got a chance to maybe play as true freshmen as we go."

Kill and his assistants are really happy with this freshman class. Although none of the freshmen have played in a regular-season game, the coaches are convinced they didn't make a mistake in recruiting even one member of the class.

This is one reason I don't agree with media members who have picked the Gophers to finish last in the Big Ten. And the schedule is in their favor. They have a nonconference schedule in which could win all four games and, except for road games at Wisconsin and Nebraska, they have a Big Ten schedule in which they could steal a couple of victories.

This good freshman squad will join the seven junior college transfers who should give the team depth it didn't have during the Tim Brewster era and last year with Kill.

Speaking about the freshman class after watching it perform in fall practice, Kill said: "Secondary-wise we have two true freshmen, Antonio Johnson and Damarius Travis, at safety that really stood out in practice, and also a young corner named Eric Murray.

"Then at tailback, I thought [the freshmen] have all played pretty well. They've had some good, consistent play. ... K.J. Maye, who can play receiver or tailback, that gives him some flexibility, he's a special freshman. We have six or seven real special freshmen that could help us this year."

Kill also is high on some returning players from last year.

"A guy that has come a long way in a fast way is [redshirt freshman offensive lineman] Joe Bjorklund. I think he has really done a good job in camp," Kill said. "From a defensive perspective, [redshirt junior defensive lineman] Ra'Shede Hageman has really played well. He's a totally different player than he was a year ago."

Looking back to Friday's scrimmage, Kill sang the praises of several defensive linemen, including Roland Johnson, Cameron Botticelli, Michael Amaefula, Ben Perry and Alex Keith, saying they all played well.

At linebacker, Kill had good things to say about Lamonte Edwards and Brendan Beal, who missed all of last season because of a knee injury.

"I thought those two had very good scrimmages and stood out," Kill said.

Yes, this Gophers team will be a lot better than some analysts are predicting.

Status of Peterson

People are dreaming if they think the Vikings are going to take a chance and play running back Adrian Peterson in any of their three remaining exhibition games or even in the season opener.

Asked about when the great running back might make his game debut, coach Leslie Frazier pointed out that at 7 1/2 months since reconstructive knee surgery, nobody expected Peterson would be able to do the things he is doing now.

"You really don't want to put parameters on his rehabilitation," Frazier said. "You just want to let it go and see where it takes us. We have some ideas. Our medical staff talked all along about what this process would look like and what was necessary. We're in that process right now, so we still have to take it day by day."

Honoring Lester

Many Metrodome personnel were standing on Mall of America Field on Wednesday night. Those people -- from members of the facilities commission, grounds crew, or coaches and athletic directors that had teams play there -- were on hand to honor all members of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission over the past 30 years, especially Bill Lester, who was the director of the MSFC for about 25 years.

Yes, the dome had a great history, being the only arena in the country to host the Super Bowl, the NCAA Final Four and the World Series.

Lester was grateful for a message from Mark Wilf, one of the Vikings owners, for his cooperation with the team. And Lester Bagley of the Vikings presented Lester with a Vikings jersey to show their appreciation.

Jottings

• Friday's Vikings exhibition game with Buffalo is sold out only because several thousand tickets were given away to local charities, according to Steve LaCroix, vice president of sales and marketing. There are tickets available for all regular-season home games, including the normally hard-to-get Packers and Bears games.

• From Aug. 4-10, 1,257 fans attended Gophers football practice. Each person had to register to get in by listing their name and address. Believe it or not, Kill wrote everyone a note thanking them for being a Gophers fan.

David Crum, who for the past five years has been a Gophers associate athletic director in charge of fundraising, is leaving his position. Gophers executive associate athletic director David Benedict will now be in charge of fundraising, with someone yet to be hired to work with him.

• Former Minnetonka High School and Gophers golfer Donald Constable shot rounds of 70 and 75 during stroke play at the U.S. Amateur and missed the cut by two strokes in Cherry Hills Village, Colo.

• The Green Bay Packers placed former Gophers tight end Eric Lair on injured reserve to make room for running back Cedric Benson. Lair suffered a knee injury during training camp. ... Also on the Packers roster are former Gophers running backs Du'ane Bennett and Jon Hoese. Neither player suited up for Green Bay's opening preseason game because of injuries, Bennett because of a bad knee and Hoese because of a hamstring injury.

• Former Gophers football coach Brewster has joined CBS Sports as a commentator. Brewster's son, Nolan, was a safety at Texas, but had his football career end last September because of concussion problems.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. • shartman@startribune.com

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