As Damarius Travis said recently, the Gophers defense backs are hungry to prove they have the best secondary in the Big Ten. They will likely start two seniors at safety (Travis and Antonio Johnson) and two seniors at cornerback (Eric Murray and Briean Boddy-Calhoun).

But they know it’s going to take more than four guys. In fact, they’ll probably be running their nickel package, with five defensive backs, more than their base packages.

This spring, they’ve had junior Jalen Myrick and junior college transfer Charlie Rogers working at nickel. As a fallback, defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys said Murray could move to nickel, as he’s done it before.

“That nickel -- we ask an awful lot of him,” Claeys said. “It’s gotta be a guy who can blitz and tackle. When you blitz, you want somebody who can get there and do some damage; it can’t be too light a guy. But at the same time, you’re asking him to cover some people who run very well, so it’s a tough position.”

Claeys trumpets Thompson's NFL upside

Former Gophers safety Brock Vereen was a fourth-round pick by the Bears last year after an impressive showing at the NFL Combine. Vereen’s stock rose steadily through the winter and early spring, and now the same is happening for Cedric Thompson.

Thompson didn’t get a Combine invite, so the pressure was on March 2, at the Gophers Pro Day. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.37 seconds and posted a 40.5-inch vertical jump. The Vikings, Texans, Patriots, Giants and Dolphins are among the teams taking a long look at him.

“I think Cedric’s upside in the NFL is tremendous,” Claeys said. “He won’t have school, so he’ll spend every free minute working on the video and what he’s supposed to do. And then, he works extremely hard in practice.”

Claeys was talking about Travis’ NFL potential when he said so much of it comes down to workouts. The scouts want to see these players’ top-end speed, and Thompson was able to show his at Pro Day.

“I think Cedric’s played well for us the last two years,” Claeys said. “He’s not somebody who was on a lot of people’s lists. The [scouts] came through, they’ve seen him run, and it was all going to be based off his workout.”

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