Just got back from the start of the Gophers’ first practice of the fall, and I hate to say it, but there is real reason for alarm, Minnesota. Cluelessness about some of the drills, confusion over assignments, a failure to understand concepts as simple as where to stand – wow, what a mess.

I’ll try to do better tomorrow.

The Gophers? They looked fine, fired up and eager to work despite the hot sun. A huge banner at one end of the practice field demands “FINISH” – it’s the Gophers’ mantra this season, for reasons I’m certain you can suss out – but the start looked pretty good, too. There wasn’t much time spent on formalities; it was right to work, with the defense going right into a formation drill, practicing quick adjustments in reaction to offensive formations. The offense started working on run blocking, a particular emphasis this year according to coach Tim Brewster.

Reporters are only allowed to watch the first 20 minutes of practice, a brief period I spent frantically trying to match names and numbers to faces, and even more frantically trying not to be knocked down by a linebacker doing a scoop-the-fumble drill. I’m not even close to midseason form, so there’s not much to report yet.

I noticed Kim Royston joining in the drills that didn’t require too much exertion on his broken leg. I watched Adam Weber hit one receiver in stride on a deep pass, then Moses Alipate hit one about five yards deeper. Running backs worked on hitting the hole inside and bursting across the line of scrimmage. All pretty basic stuff.

Wish I had some meatier information to report, and I’ll work hard to get some as camp goes on. So without anything else to write before I go back for Brewster’s post-practice interview, I’ll leave you with something left over from Big Ten media day earlier this week.

Illinois coach Ron Zook was invited by the Cubs to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch, and it was a train wreck. The Cubs trailed 13-1 when Zook finally took the mike, en route to an 18-1 embarrassment at the hands of the Brewers, and the coach was almost as bad.

He rushed the tempo. He stopped and waited for the organ to catch up. He got confused by the lyrics for a second, and went through the “1-2-3” part so fast, the fans couldn’t hold up their fingers to count with him.

“I was about as bad as there is. Don't know that they'll have me back,” Zook said the next morning. “I was walking out and somebody said, ‘Don’t quit your day job’ – well, no kidding. Hey, everyone thinks it’s easy. It’s the scariest thing I’ve ever done. Everybody is looking up at you, and you stand there trying to do something you’re not the least bit comfortable doing. I had absolutely no chance of doing well.”

I’m headed back to campus, so I’ll leave you to make your own joke.