CHICAGO -- Gophers coach Tracy Claeys was the fifth coach to take the podium Monday at Big Ten Media Days. Like the others, he opened with a tribute to Nebraska punter Sam Foltz and former Michigan State punter Mike Sadler, who were killed in a car crash Saturday.

"Before I get started I would like to express my sympathy and those of our players to the University of Nebraska and Michigan State University, their friends and families, who both lost two great young men way too early," Claeys said.

Claeys went on to say he thinks the Gophers enter the season with the best team they've had since he and former coach Jerry Kill arrived in December 2010. Claeys said he was proud of how the team handled adversity last year, including the loss of Kill, to finish at 6-7. He noted that six of the seven losses came against teams that won 10 or more games last year.

"At the same time, it was great to win a bowl game for the first time in [11] years and be a part of the Quick Lane, but that’s not our goal," Claeys said. "We have two goals at the University of Minnesota. That’s to win the Big Ten and graduate all of our players. We’ve got some work to do there.

"I do think winning the bowl game gave our kids some energy. We’ve had as good an offseason as we’ve had and we’re looking forward to see our kids compete because they expect better of themselves also."