One of the low points of spring camp came when starting wide receiver Da'Jon McKnight was sidelined with an injured knee. McKnight, who had 48 catches for 750 yards and 10 scores last season, hurt his knee late in the spring and was forced to miss several practices. The Gopher coaching staff will be taking things slow during camp to see how McKnight progresses. Keep an eye on McKnight being that he could be Minnesota's biggest playmaker on offense in 2011.
2. Battle at Middle Linebacker
A key position battle during spring was at the middle linebacker spot. Transfer Brendan Beal took most of the first-team snaps throughout the spring due to a minor injury to former starter Gary Tinsley. Beal certainly looks the part of an imposing linebacker but struggled at times during scrimmage scenarios. Tinsley had a productive 2010 season with 90 total tackles, an interception and a forced fumble, numbers he could build on this season. While the Gopher staff will certainly use plenty of substituting on defense during games, it will be interesting to see which linebacker wins the starting job.
3. Freshmen Quarterbacks
The Gophers have two incoming freshman quarterbacks, Max Shortell and Dexter Foreman. Shortell was an early commit, giving his pledge prior to Jerry Kill's hiring. Foreman on the other hand was a late add to the 2011 class, months after National Signing Day. With a number of quarterbacks already on the roster, it will be up to the underclassmen to prove in the fall that they are ready for Big Ten football. Look for one or both of these players to make big strides during camp.
4. Troy Stoudermire
Already an early favorite to earn All-Big Ten Honors as a return specialist, Stoudermire will have to prove he can continue to play cornerback at a high level. Last season, the former wide receiver was converted to the defensive side of the ball. While he did struggle at times, Stoudermire also showed great promise at corner. Spring ball brought more optimism as Stoudermire appeared to be a more physical defensive back while also showing a knack for coverage. Stoudermire will be an important piece of the defense this year and should impress fans this fall during practice.
5. Stable of Running Backs
The Gophers will be very deep this season at running back. Despite the loss of DeLeon Eskridge, the Maroon and Gold will still have the services of Duane Bennett and Donnell Kirkwood, both of whom saw carries last season. Minnesota will also have redshirt freshmen Devon Wright and Lamonte Edwards as well as incoming freshman David Cobb. Within this group there are many different running styles which could lead to an interesting battle for playing time throughout camp.