The Vikings special teams unit is already trying to get acclimated with its new home at TCF Bank Stadium, which can be a challenge.
The wind intensifies in the horseshoe-shaped stadium and can create headaches for punters and kickers. So Blair Walsh and Jeff Locke paid a visit to the stadium before the university began installing the new turf and reached out to a few Gophers to swap notes.
Walsh said the idea came from Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer at the end of last season. Walsh and Locke reached out to redshirt junior punter Peter Mortell and former Gophers kicker Chris Hawthorne, who started last season.
“The field is definitely not conducive to hit straight balls,” Walsh said. “The ball is going to move no matter what with that wind, but you can definitely conquer it, master it and sort of make it your advantage. And that’s the way we’re going to have to look at it from a positive outlook on it.”
The stadium is built east-and-west, rather than north-and-south, so the Minneapolis skyline could be in the background of the west end zone. It’s created some tricky wind patterns and according to Hawthorne, TCF Bank Stadium was one of the toughest Big 10 stadiums to kick at during his career.
“This one and Indiana both were really tough,” Hawthorne said. “This one is even tougher because of the really frigid temperature we had the last two games. Obviously, the wind doesn’t help things.”
Hawthorne said it’s difficult to judge distance on kicks because the wind will make the ball spin quicker. Walsh said the wind doesn’t impact field goals inside 40 yards, but he noticed the wind coming over the scoreboard when kicking from 45 yards.
Despite the challenge Walsh and Locke didn’t have to face in the Metrodome, they hope to get comfortable with the conditions and use it to their advantage.
“Priefer told me something way back when that everybody is playing in the same conditions,” Walsh said. “When you’re at that stadium, the team across on the other sideline is playing in the same conditions you are. It’s a mental thing as much as it as a physical.”