For Carter Coughlin, spring has offered an opportunity to make an impact both on and off the football field.
On the field, the Gophers junior from Eden Prairie and the team’s sacks leader last season, has been a standout during the six spring practice sessions, feeling more and more at home at a hybrid defensive end/linebacker position.
“Carter Coughlin is flying around. He is so active,’’ coach P.J. Fleck said after Tuesday’s practice. “You can tell this year he is very comfortable.’’
Coughlin, who had 6.5 sacks in 2017, is bigger — up to 232 pounds from 225 last season — and quicker in his decision-making.
“Everything is happening so much faster for me,’’ he said. “I understand my job. Last year, playing run defense out of a defensive end kind of position was challenging at first. We put an install in [this spring], and I’m like, ‘Ah, I already know that.’ So, I get to work on all the little details and make it a lot better.’’
Fleck is seeing the increased confidence in Coughlin. “His trained behavior has become instinct,’’ he said. “It was more of a habit last year.’’
Off the field, Coughlin and group of teammates spent spring break in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. While there, Coughlin organized a trip to a local orphanage, where the Gophers played sports and hung out with the children. It’s something Coughlin and his parents did in previous trips to Cabo over the past decade.
“That was the most fun we had all week, and we were in Cabo, which is a really fun place,’’ Coughlin said. “… It was exhausting because those kids were so high-strung from energy. It was so much fun doing push-up contests with them and pull-ups with them on our backs. They loved it.
“We got worked in soccer,’’ Coughlin added. “It was unbelievable. Little 5-year-olds were dangling.’’
QBs ‘getting better’
Redshirt freshman Tanner Morgan got much of the work with the first team during 11-on-11 drills, with junior college transfer Vic Viramontes rotating in at times. Sophomore Seth Green and true freshman Zach Annexstad followed in the mix.
“They’re getting better,’’ Fleck said. “One day at a time. We just want them to get a little bit better today than they were yesterday. They don’t have to play in a game today, but they’ve got to have that type of pressure on them in practice.’’
Pro day is here
The Gophers will hold their pro day on Wednesday at the Athletes Village. Eleven seniors from the 2017 team are scheduled to participate in the drills for NFL coaches, scouts and team officials. They are: running back Kobe McCrary, offensive linemen Vincent Calhoun and Garrison Wright; tight end Nate Wozniak; defensive linemen Steven Richardson, Merrick Jackson and Andrew Stelter; linebacker Jonathan Celestin; defensive backs Adekunle Ayinde and Duke McGhee; and punter/kicker Ryan Santoso.
Minnesota has had 12 players selected in the past 10 drafts. Fleck wants that number to increase.
“We want to have every NFL team represented, not only by the assistant coaches but by the GMs, the head coaches,’’ Fleck said. “That’s when you know you have a ton of prospects. We’ve got to up that. … We’re a Big Ten football program. With just one on average coming out, we’ve got to change that.’’
Fleck was surprised that the subject of hockey, and specifically new Gophers coach Bob Motzko, didn’t come up during his post-practice media session.
“Western Michigan, I’m all about hockey,’’ said Fleck, mentioning his former school, an NCHC member, after faking a wrist shot. “Can’t wait to meet [Motzko].’’