One day after suffering a left knee injury, Gophers left tackle Ben Lauer had an MRI exam and walked with a limp during Monday’s practice.
Coach Jerry Kill said he didn’t have the MRI results, but there were indications the team still didn’t think the injury was serious.
With Lauer out, senior Foster Bush took his place as the first-team left tackle, and true freshman Quinn Oseland got the second- and third-team left tackle reps. Alex Mayes took Bush’s spot as the second-team right tackle.
Protecting quarterback Mitch Leidner’s blind side is the left tackle’s primary responsibility, and defensive end Hank Ekpe made it tough on both Bush and Oseland. He blew past each one on consecutive plays during the full team drills. A few players later, he raced by Bush again.
“It’s good because you’re playing against a guy [Ekpe] who’s going to be one of the better defensive ends in the Big Ten — him and TC [Theiren Cockran],” Kill said.
If Lauer’s injury keeps him out, the Gophers also have the option of switching senior Josh Campion back to left tackle from right guard, with Connor Mayes and Joe Bjorklund both candidates to start at guard. Campion started all 13 games at left tackle last season.
“I’d love to just keep him at right guard, but we’re going to put our best five on the field,” offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover said. “If that means bumping him over to tackle and putting someone else in at guard, we’re not going to hesitate to do that for sure.”
Dehydration sets in
Wide receiver KJ Maye and safety Damarius Travis both sat out practice after suffering from dehydration Sunday, Kill said.
With Maye out, the Gophers’ top wide receiver group was Drew Wolitarsky, Melvin Holland and Eric Carter.
With Travis out, the Gophers gave Adekunle Ayinde the first-team safety reps. Ayinde is a third-year walk-on from Blaine, but he’s right behind starting safeties Travis and Antonio Johnson. Other candidates are Ace Rogers and Duke McGhee, who had two interceptions Sunday.
“They’re all good, and we’re kind of just waiting for them to hit that next notch,” senior cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun said of the team’s reserve safeties.
• Leidner had his best practice since training camp opened, throwing several good deep passes and looking better on the intermediate routes. In the full-team drills, Leidner connected with Holland three times, including a crossing pattern on which Holland made a leaping catch and was off to the races. Leidner hit Carter on a 70-yard touchdown pass that traveled a good 50 yards in the air.
• Kill said Georgia native Shannon Brooks is the furthest along of the true freshmen running backs, though he noted that Jonathan Femi-Cole and James Johannesson are still getting acclimated. “They’ve all got talent,” Kill said.
• Wide receiver Isaiah Gentry (hamstring) and tight end Lincoln Plsek (back) also sat out practice with injuries.
• Everett Williams has been the first-team middle linebacker, but Cody Poock is right on his heels with the second team. Poock, a junior college transfer who tore an ACL last year, has met the running back in the hole numerous times and seems to be a magnet for the ball.
• Another reason redshirt freshman tailback Rodney Smith will see significant playing time this year: He’s good in pass protection. On one play, Ekpe got by the line, but Smith was there to stop him from getting to the quarterback.
• Tight end Duke Anyanwu made the play of the day with a one-handed grab near the sidelines on a throw from Leidner.