There was a lot of conversation during the 2014 Gophers football season about how good the redshirt players were, and how many of them could have played last year rather than sit out the season and still have four years of competition remaining.

Gophers coach Jerry Kill was asked if he’s excited to see those redshirt freshman in action during spring practice.

“Well, there’s no question Isaiah Gentry and Desmond Gant, those guys, and I just think that Melvin Holland is a guy that people have forgotten, those are three redshirt freshman [wide receivers] that all have length and speed, and I can’t wait to see them on Tuesday,” Kill said. “I’m also anxious to see Jeff Jones [a four-star running back recruit from Minneapolis Washburn], like everybody else is. He has had good workouts. He was behind because he had to get himself in shape, but anxious to see him and Rodney Smith in the backfield. Both those guys were redshirted.

“There’s a lot of guys I’m really excited about seeing. Those skill players right there, I’m excited about watching them. I know they’ll bring a whole lot of speed to the table. … There’s some good people, and some people have changed their body a lot. They’ve worked hard. It’s amazing when kids get an opportunity. Take [junior running back] Roderick Williams, he’s a whole different kid right now. He’s leaned up. Got some of the baby fat off. He looks good. Kids have worked hard and I’m anxious to watch them work in the spring.”

Kill also is high on is Duke Anyanwu, a 6-5, 250-pound redshirt sophomore tight end. Kill was asked if the former Blaine star is considered the replacement for Maxx Williams, who is turning pro.

“Last year we felt like him and Maxx would be on the field at the same time because they’re both athletic and can catch the ball,” Kill said. “When [Anyanwu] got hurt we went a little different direction, but athletically there’s no question we need Duke to be healthy and come through. He has done a great job in his rehab. He’s very talented. [Redshirt freshman tight end] Nick Hart kind of came out of nowhere and has done a good job. [Freshman] Jerry Gibson, a new young man that we redshirted, can do a lot of things.”

Kill talked about how big the tight ends are including Nate Wozniak, a redshirt freshman from Greenwood, Ind.

“We really look forward to seeing Wozniak play,” Kill said. “He’s 6-10 and now he’s about 270, 275, so I feel like he’ll emerge. We have some talent at tight end.”

Will you have open practices?

“Yeah, we will,” Kill said. “You know, we were going to close the first five and then I said, ‘Hey, we haven’t done that since we’ve been here and that’s not fair to the fans.’ All [the practice times are] on our website, and practices will be open after the first two.”

Talking to Peterson

Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman traveled to the Texas home of Adrian Peterson this week to try and convince the great running back to play this coming season with the team.

Peterson is under contract for $12.75 million this season, and if the Vikings are willing to pay him that figure, he has no choice but to play here if he wants to be in the NFL next season. Peterson can become a free agent if the Vikings choose to release him. They could also try to renegotiate his contract and possibly give Peterson more guaranteed money, because none of his present contract is guaranteed.

However, the big problem in getting Peterson to return to the Vikings might be that people close to Peterson claim his wife, Ashley, doesn’t want him to play here because of all the negative publicity he has received here. If Peterson wouldn’t have a good year, the fans and media would make him uncomfortable and constantly bring up his child endangerment charge and subsequent suspension.

But again, Peterson is under contract, and if the Vikings are willing to pay him and won’t trade him, he’ll have no choice but to play here if he wants to stay active.

Jottings

• The trade of Matt Cassel wasn’t a surprise because Spielman hinted in a conversation Sunday that the Vikings were trying to renegotiate his contract and weren’t going to pay a backup quarterback close to $5 million. Apparently Buffalo was willing to pick up Cassell’s contract and maybe even extend it for him to be a starter. The Vikings have only one quarterback under contract in addition to Teddy Bridgewater, and he is Pat Devlin, a former Delaware quarterback who has been in the NFL for four years and was on the 2014 practice squad. The Vikings did have former Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish under contract last year, but he is a free agent.

• Since Bo Ryan became the Wisconsin men’s basketball coach in 2001, he has posted a 19-7 record against the Gophers, including Big Ten tournament play. It’s interesting to note that in the past 11 games, dating back to 2009, the Gophers and Badgers have played things much tighter, with Wisconsin leading 6-5 in that time. The Gophers also beat Wisconsin last year at home when the Badgers were 16-2.

• The word is that Carter Coughlin, the 6-4, 205-pound junior linebacker for Eden Prairie, is down to three schools: Minnesota, where he is visiting this weekend, Oregon and Ohio State. His grandfather, Tom Moe, is a former Gophers football and baseball player and was an interim athletic director for the Gophers. His father, Bob Coughlin, was a star defensive player for the Gophers. And his mother, Jennie Moe Coughlin, was an outstanding tennis player for Edina and the Gophers.

• The Gophers men’s track and field coaches think they might have a future Olympian on their squad in sophomore Luca Wieland in the heptathlon. Weiland, an international recruit from Germany, set a school record at the 2015 Big Ten Indoor Championships with 5,787 points. Weiland also ranks fifth in the nation and tops in the Big Ten in the event.

• The Timberwolves have done a great job increasing their web presence this year. Data from the NBA shows the team’s website growth this season is up 70 percent from last year, the highest jump in the league. … Wolves rookie forward Andrew Wiggins is averaging 18.8 points on 46.6 percent shooting over the past 33 games going into Wednesday’s game against Denver. He leads all rookies in scoring (15.8 ppg), minutes (34.8 mpg), and is fourth in steals (1.14 spg) and rebounding (4.3 rpg). … Wolves point guard Ricky Rubio is averaging 12.7 points, 10.0 assists, 8.2 rebounds and 2.67 steals per game over his past six games. The one area that Rubio continues to try to improve is his shooting; he is at 29.2 percent from the field over that stretch. He’s bolstered that miserable field goal percentage by shooting 82.9 percent from the free-throw line and averaging 6.8 attempts per game.

 

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com