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Continued: Toughness, physical play highlight Gophers scrimmage

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: April 15, 2013 - 12:34 AM

Top defensive performer

Derrick Wells has made a seamless transition from safety to cornerback, allowing the Gophers to tap into their other depth at safety with Vereen, Cedric Thompson, Antonio Johnson and Demarius Travis.

But even in limited contact so far, 6-6, 311-pound defensive lineman Ra’Shede Hageman continues has separated himself as the team’s most imposing force.

“You can tell he’s hungrier than he’s ever been,” Vereen said. “He will definitely be a top playmaker for us.”

Health report

As expected, some Gophers have missed the entire spring, including offensive linemen Ed Olson (ankle surgery) and Zach Mottla (broken leg), defensive tackle Roland Johnson (knee surgery) and receiver Andre McDonald (personal reasons).

Devon Wright converted to receiver but has since been lost to shoulder surgery, and offensive lineman Jonah Pirsig missed the past week because of a left kneecap injury.

Beyond that, the Gophers have been mostly healthy. Wide receiver Jamel Harbison has been running well, seven months removed from reconstructive knee surgery.

Best moment

Every Gophers spring practice is open to the public, and the April 6 session had one of the biggest turnouts, with numerous high school coaches visiting during the state coaching clinic.

“Our kids — we had to make sure we settled some of them down,” Kill said. “It was an intense practice. This place was packed, and the kids got after each other. When you left, you said, ‘Hmmm, this is pretty good.’ ”

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  • Gophers coach Jerry Kill, shown watching quarterback Philip Nelson earlier in spring practice, saw Nelson have some early difficulty against the first-team defense during Friday night’s scrimmage, but Kill said he had no second thoughts about removing Nelson’s redshirt tag last season.

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