One of the big questions the Gophers face heading into spring practice next Tuesday is how they're going to replace starting cornerbacks Eric Murray and Briean Boddy-Calhoun, who are both at the NFL Combine this weekend, along with former Gophers linebacker De'Vondre Campbell.*
(*Quick note on the Combine schedule: Media interviews for Campbell and the linebackers are Friday. Media interviews for Murray, Boddy-Calhoun and the defensive backs are Saturday. On-field workouts for the LBs are Sunday, and on-field workouts for DBs are Monday, televised on NFL Network.)
Asked this week about filling the holes at cornerback, Gophers coach Tracy Claeys sounded confident.
"You always try to recruit kids that are better than what you had in the past," he said. "And you’re not always going to be able to do it at every spot. You get somebody like Eric [Murray] and that. [Senior] Jalen Myrick will be able to do the things that we need to do, and he’s a big body [5-10, 205 pounds].
"And I think KiAnte [Hardin] is a dude that -- he can play. And he’s just as aggressive, and he’s got the strength and so does [redshirt freshman] Ray Buford. Ray will be young, but Ray is long [6-2] and can run. I feel pretty good about where we’re at, and maybe we have to mix things up more and stuff. There will be a few growing pains, and things to start out with.
"But like Ray Buford -- he came down and practiced with us defensively with the 2’s [second string] all through the bowl game and probably the last three weeks of the season because of the injuries. So he’s already got some pretty good experience into what we’re doing.
"You have some lapses mentally when you’ve got those young kids, so that’ll be the thing. But we have kids there who have the skills to play. [Sophomore] Antonio Shenault is coming back.
"[Incoming freshman] Coney Durr’s got a chance to play right away. He’s strong enough, he’s fast enough. Antoine Winfield will have a chance to play wherever that’s at right away because he’s strong enough coming out of high school, and so will Kiondre [Thomas], that kid from Fort Smith, Ark. He may be just a little bit bigger than Eric Murray [6-0, 170], but he’s basically the spitting image of Eric Murray coming out of high school."