Gophers football notes: Kill credits seniors in turnaround

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 21, 2013 - 12:35 AM

The Gophers football team will honor its seniors before Saturday’s game against Wisconsin, and it will serve a reminder how few offensive players they’re going to lose heading into next year.

Only three seniors have started on offense this year: wide receiver Derrick Engel, fullback Mike Henry and left tackle Ed Olson.

There will be more key losses on defense, as the Gophers’ outgoing seniors include Ra’Shede Hageman, Roland Johnson, Aaron Hill, James Manuel, Brock Vereen, Martez Shabazz and Jeremy Baltazar.

Two special teams players who will be missed are kicker Chris Hawthorne and Jake Filkins, a four-year starter at long snapper. Others the Gophers plan to honor Saturday include Moses Alipate, Connor Cosgrove, James Gillum, Victor Keise, Zach Mottla, Sahr Ngekia and Dan Orseske.

Cosgrove was a member of that outgoing class before he was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010.

“I think if I went through them all, they’re tough, they’ve survived some tough times, they’ve worked hard, and every one of them has contributed,” coach Jerry Kill said. “I just couldn’t be more proud of what they’ve done.

“They’ve allowed us to get to this point because they bought in with another [coaching staff], and they didn’t have to.”

Engel practices

Engel (knee injury) wasn’t able to work out with the wide receivers, but he did catch punts in Wednesday’s practice. He remains doubtful for Saturday.

Kill declined to comment about Engel’s magnetic resonance imaging exam but said, “He’s a tough kid; I think he’s proven that, so we’re going to wait and see.”

Bak remains sidelined

Caleb Bak, who started 20 consecutive games at right guard before missing the Nov. 9 Penn State game because of a concussion, won’t play Saturday, Kill said.

“Whenever you have a concussion, you have to be very careful in this day and age,” Kill said. “… He’s making progress, but again those things are different for everybody.”

Foster Bush, a sophomore from Menasha, Wis., will start in Bak’s place again Saturday.

Other injury updates

Beyond Engel and Bak, the Gophers are doing well injury wise.

Running back Rodrick Williams (turf toe) is back to full health, Kill said. Safety Cedric Thompson, who injured an ankle against Penn State, has been back practicing at full speed. Linebacker Damien Wilson also was banged up in the Penn State game but he’s been practicing, too.

Even though the Gophers are on a four-game winning streak, Kill said the bye week helped.

“We would have been in trouble,” he said. “I don’t like to have a bye week when you’re rolling pretty good, but the status of a lot of kids would have been questionable if we would have played the next week. And in this particular case, we have some kids that are healthier than they would have been.”

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