Connor Mayes was one of the nation’s top high school centers last year at Van Alstyne (Texas) High School, but the Gophers moved him to guard during training camp, knowing that’s where they might need him.
Sure enough, with injuries mounting, the Gophers turned to Mayes for a few plays last Saturday against Northwestern, removing a potential redshirt. Offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover said it wasn’t an easy decision.
“We’re banged up,” Limegrover said. “We felt like he’s a kid that could help us. We’re going to continue to escalate that development and keep bringing him along and continue to get him reps.”
The 6-5, 306-pound Mayes was rated the nation’s No. 2 center by Scout.com and played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Eventually, he could move back to center, but this year, the Gophers need him at guard, where Zac Epping, Foster Bush and Joe Bjorklund have all battled injuries.
Inserting Mayes could add needed depth, especially looking ahead to some of the physical defensive lines the Gophers will face in the season’s second half.
“He’s actually exceeded what I thought he might be,” Limegrover said. “Being a kid coming from a smaller level school, we didn’t know exactly what we were going to get. We knew the physical part, but just the technique and mentality and mind frame. He’s been great. Very coachable kid. You’re going to see more and more of him.”
Kiante Hardin, a 5-10, 164-pound cornerback from Webb City (Mo.) High School, committed to the Gophers on Tuesday, giving them 16 commitments for the 2015 class.
Gophers coach Jerry Kill coached at Webb City in 1988 and ’89, going 25-1 with one state title.