Spring Presser Notebook: 3/21

MINNEAPOLIS — Jerry Kill touched on a number of topics during Wednesday's presser including injuries, position changes, and newcomers to watch this spring.

Kill addressed a number of key position changes that will be seen this spring. The biggest change is moving backup quarterback Moses Alipate to tight end. At 290 pounds, Alipate will add some size to the position.

Kendall Gregory-McGee will also make the move to tight end. Gregory-McGee played tight end and receiver in high school which will make the transition from defensive line easier.

Moving from tight end is redshirt freshman Ernie Heifort. At 6-foot-6 and 255 pounds, the Gopher staff will now tryout the Brainerd (Minn.) native at offensive tackle.

The defensive side of the ball is also seeing some changes. James Manuel will make the switch from safety to weakside linebacker, a position that will fit Manuel's downhill playing style.

Brock Vereen saw significant playing time at cornerback last year but will be moved to safety this spring.

Making the same move to safety is sophomore defensive back Derrick Wells. Kill noted that Wells has bulked up from 175 pounds to over 200 this off season.

With the departure of Duane Bennett, one of the biggest position battles will be at running back. David Cobb is up to 220 pounds while seeing big gains in the weight room. Kill seemed excited about JUCO transfer James Gillum's potential at the position. He also mentioned Devon Wright and walk-on Cole Banham as guys who could compete for playing time.

Kill also talked about some lesser-known wide receivers that have impressed this off-season. A.J. Barker has put up great athletic numbers with a 34-inch vertical and a 4.09 pro agility drill. Transfer Derrick Engel made an impression throughout last season and this winter, putting in hard work on the practice squad. Brandon Green and newcomer Isaac Fruechte were mentioned as players who seemed like they could see significant playing time.

After an up-and-down season for punter Dan Orseske, there will be competition at the position this spring. Kill stated that walk-on Peter Mortell has a lot of potential as a punter and is a name that fans will want to remember going forward.

One mid-year freshman that Kill seemed excited about was Scott Ekpe. He noted that Ekpe came to Minnesota weighing 248 but is already up to 276. Just 17-years old, Kill is anxious to see how Ekpe will develop in a college weight training program three or four years down the road.

Kill mentioned that freshmen quarterbacks Mitch Leidner and Philip Nelson are in close competition with each other and have done an outstanding job at this point. Both young signal-callers have similar physical attributes and have earned compliments in both the classroom and the weight room.

Sophomore transfer Isaac Fruechte has done a great job in the off-season. He recently posted a 34-inch vertical jump with a 4.1-second pro agility which "is pretty good for a long, lengthy kid" according to Kill.

Like Fruechte, defensive back Briean Boddy has three years of eligibility remaining. Both Boddy and junior Martez Shabazz have done very well in the off-season strength and conditioning program.

Jeremy Baltazar will join Boddy and Shabazz in the secondary, likely as a cornerback. The 6-foot, 200-pounder gives the Gophers a more physical presence on the outside. Baltazar benches 390 pounds, squats 455 pounds and has a vertical over 33 inches.

Martez Shabazz-3
Philip Nelson-9
Mitch Leidner-7
Jeremy Baltazar-22
Briean Boddy-29
Scott Ekpe-97

The following players will start spring practice wearing an orange jersey, which means they can't have any contact and will be working with the trainers and strength staff.

Jimmy Gjere battled concussion symptoms last year. He's improving but will be brought along very slowly.

Quinn Bauducco had a surgery back during the season and is recuperating from that.

Brendan Beal is progressing well from his two knee injuries and may eventually get to participate in non contact drills this spring.

Mike Henry was involved in a car accident during spring break and suffered a concussion. The redshirt junior fullback is okay but will be slowed up early.

Brock Vereen and Foster Bush both had minor surgery to clean their knees up. Kill was hopeful that both would eventually be able to participate in practice this spring.

Players who are wearing a green jersey will be allowed to participate in certain activities but will be held out of contact drills.

Keanon Cooper has a wrist injury but will participate in non-contact drills.

Marcus Jones, who is recovering from tearing his ACL last season, has made unbelievable progress. Kill raved about Jones' recovery stating, "He's kind of gone against science." The explosive sophomore is already running and cutting at full speed.

Steven Montgomery tore a pectoral muscle in the off-season and he'll be held out of contact drills.

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