Gophers quarterback Max Shortell has put together a string of impressive performances, Gophers coach Jerry Kill said after Monday's practice. He expressed confidence in starting quarterback MarQueis Gray, but he also said Shortell, a 6-6 freshman from Kansas, has to be ready to compete if necessary.

"The best news we have is that the freshman is progressing very well," Kill said. "He had a very good practice last night, he had a very good practice today. He's going to have to be available, and he knows that. That's encouraging that he's progressing."

Gray said he's focusing on solidifying his balance and throwing technique before he makes his debut as the face of the program against the Trojans. Said Gray: "I still have a lot more work to do."

Kill said Gray continues to learn some of the nuances of the position after spending two years at wide receiver. After the ball continued to slip out of the junior quarterback's hands in practice, Kill suggested he wear a wristband.

"I imagine his mind's got a lot on it right now," Kill said.


• As the Gophers prepare for their season opener Sept. 3 at Southern California, Kill said he'll adjust the schedule in the coming days so that players can recover and get ready for game week. Kill said the Gophers will hold two short practices Wednesday, another one Thursday and a Friday "game preparation" session at TCF Bank Stadium. Over the weekend, players will mostly attend meetings because "we gotta get their legs back," Kill said.

• Kill said some of the team's younger players can prove to the staff that they're ready to play against the Trojans based on the way they handle some of the upcoming practice sessions. "These next three or four days, if they're making tons of mental mistakes, they're not going to be ready to play USC," he said.

• Starting linebacker Keanon Cooper, who had a cast and a sling on his right arm, was not in uniform for the second day in a row.