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Quarterback to cornerback, what to watch at today's Gophers practice



The Gophers will hold their final training camp practice that's open to the public at 4:15 p.m. Friday. Here are some areas to watch from the sidelines of the outdoor fields at Athletes Village:

  1. Backup quarterbacks: Sophomore Tanner Morgan is the starter, but which true freshman will take up the second spot? Eden Prairie's Cole Kramer and Texas native Jacob Clark are in a battle, but after a scrimmage earlier this week, it will be interesting to see if one has emerged. Offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca said he sees "a lot of potential" in both.
    "When Zack  [Annexstad] got injured they were able to increase their repetitions," he said. "In spring ball, the only thing I really knew was they had a good skill set, and they were really hard workers. ... They've been thrust into a more important role now at this point,  and I've been really impressed with how they've handled it."
  2. Left tackle: If you can pry your eyes away from Daniel Faalele at right tackle, the other side of the offensive line has a battle going on. Could be junior Sam Schlueter or junior Jason Dickson
  3. Cornerbacks: New position coach Rod Chance has been giving starting reps to pretty much all his players in an effort to fill those wide-open spots. Sophomore Terrell Smith, junior Coney Durr and senior Chris Williamson seem to have emerged, though junior Kiondre Thomas, junior Phillip Howard and transfer Benjamin St-Juste also are in the mix.
  4. Kicker: Coach P.J. Fleck seemed to have named redshirt freshman Brock Walker and freshman Michael Lantz as the top-two candidates. Walker's also in the conversation for kickoffs along with sophomore Grant Ryerse.
  5. KFAN and the Big Ten Network will be on site, so that'll be a fun thing to observe for sports media purposes. Senior defensive end Winston DeLattiboudere is also hosting a school supply drive, so bring some notebooks, pens, pencils, etc., to donate. 

Gophers hold open practice under the lights at TCF Bank Stadium

Thursday night under the TCF Bank Stadium lights, the Gophers scrimmaged for a solid hour. 

Ones vs. ones, twos vs. twos, and so on and so forth. Coach P.J. Fleck put his team through various scenarios, and there were some predictably fun moments. Quarterback Tanner Morgan's pass to receiver Tyler Johnson for a touchdown. Running back Mohamed Ibrahim taking a bunch of carries. The kickers taking turns sinking field goals, as competition for that spot heats up.

A memorable scene came when Fleck tasked his first-string players with a two-minute drill. With no timeouts left, the offense had to drive from around the 50-yard line to at least field goal position for the win. But this time when Morgan tried to float the ball to Johnson with the end zone in sight, safety Antoine Winfield Jr., swooped in for the game-saving interception.

About 150 people showed up to watch this late-add open practice. And the Gophers will hold another session for the public 4:30 p.m. Friday at the outdoor fields at Athletes Village. But considering the team practiced from about 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday, there might not be much action. In fact, it will likely be a walk-through. 

Check out a quick video below of a one-on-one receiver vs. defensive back drill. Douglas also caught a touchdown pass during the scrimmage. Thomas might have had an interception, too, but I'm going to be honest, I didn't fully catch it.