Gopher Football practice notes: 8/7

The Gopher Football team opened fall camp earlier today and GopherDigest's Ryan Burns was there. All the info on the new Minnesota freshman and what position battles to keep an eye on can be found below.

With today being the first day of practice for the Minnesota Gophers football team, all the players were just in helmets, so tough to take away much from positions such as the offensive or defensive line, but there were a few players left off the 105 man roster that I noticed.
  • OL Luke Rasmussen

  • WR Michael Conway

  • LB Cedric Dicke

  • WR Jeff Borchardt

  • RB Jake Kirsch

  • OL Matt Oldenkamp

  • DL Justin Carr

  • OL Chad Fahning

  • OL Noah Kuehn

  • WR Will Reger

  • That was just a list of I found off the top of my head, obviously there were a few more as I'm a few short of the 105, but interesting that Rasmussen didn't make the cut as he's a redshirt freshman on scholarship.

    I'll also give my initial thoughts on each position group from today's session and while I'll try to cover most of the players, I won't be able to cover all.

    Quarterbacks:

    Mitch Leidner didn't have the greatest first day as he was intercepted a couple times, once by Briean Boddy-Calhoun and the other by Cody Poock who highpointed a ball as Leidner tried to fit the ball up the seam to Duke Anyanwu. For those wondering, Mitch still is the undisputed starter right now and did make some good throws out to the flats with some zip on the them. Ball is still a little wobbly, but he's not afraid to make some tough throws into the defense. Also was encouraged to see Leidner throw it away if nothing was there. As Kill said earlier in the week at his press conference, Chris Streveler did work at both wide receiver and quarterback while in individual drills, but I'd still expect him to be the back-up quarterback. Admittedly, I didn't catch as much of him as I would have liked, so I'll have more on him tomorrow. I was impressed with Jacques Perra today though as he throws a good ball. I'd really like to see him get a shot against the starter's to see how he handles it, but I'll keep an eye on him going forward. Freshman Demry Croft has put on some weight since he arrived on campus, but he still is impressive. Threw a tight spiral today and fit it into a tight window a couple of times with the defense right on the receiver. As Kill has stated, he doesn't get flustered if he doesn't make a bad throw, he's very even-keel.

    Running backs:

    What stood out to me right away is that all three of the freshmen running backs in Shannon Brooks, Jonathan Femi-Cole and James johannesson look physically ready to play this year if called upon. Brooks from watching him in individual drills today, has a more aggressive running style to where I think he'll want to run you over more times than not. Femi-Cole has good hands out of the backfield as thankfully he doesn't have Adrian Peterson's. Liked his burst as well. Johannesson surprised me today with his speed. Yes I know he's one of the faster guys on the team, but seeing is believing and he's got good agility to go along with that speed. I'm very intrigued to see Johannesson live when pads come on. Rodrick Williams looks to be about the same weight from the spring and I think his vision and patience have improved from then. Burst is still good as well. He'll start to shine more once pads come on. Rodney Smith looks the part of an every-down back as he doesn't have trouble catching the ball out of the backfield and has undervalued speed. Still like my pick for him to breakout this year after seeing him today. Berkley Edwards has definitely added some weight to his upper-body to carry a potential bigger workload. Burst and speed are what'd you expect from a high school track champion.

    Tight ends:

    These guys were on the far side of the field from me and did a lot of work on the Lev Sled, so I'll only get to give some general impressions. Duke Anyanwu did look a little slimmer, but I think his burst is getting close to where it was before his ACL tear last year. I really liked Nate Wozniak today as he was much more fluid than I remember him being in the spring. Hands were good as well. Freshman Colton Beebe looks to be ready physically to play from day one and I wouldn't be surprised to see him get some use on special teams. He's listed around 265 pounds, but I have no idea where that weight is as he runs like he's 230. Moves very well for his size and is fluid coming out of the backfield and at tight end. Bryce Witham is taller than I thought as he actually is around a legit 6'4", but does look the part of a 230 lbs guy. I think he could use a year to put on ten pounds of muscle. I only got quick looks at Jerry Gibson and Lincoln Plsek, but Jerry does looked bulked up to 240 and could definitely be mismatch at H-back at that weight. Plsek will have the same role he's had throughout his career of the not-appreciated enough run blocking tight end that people will miss when he's gone. Didn't see a ton of Noah Scarver or Brandon Lingen today, so I'll get more on them this weekend.

    Wide Receiver:

    Guy who stood out right away was senior K.J. Maye. Between his leadership abilities with that receiver group and his carried over confidence from the spring, I thought Maye looked like a guy who was primed for a breakout year. Made a couple nice catches on the ground as well. Drew Wolitarsky did look slimmer, but still a good solid weight. If he's healthy, I think he's a definite contributor. The two freshmen receivers in Rashad Still and Hunter Register were guys I was expecting to be twigs, but they're a solid branch. Both guys looked bulked up from when they last played and weren't as raw as expected. Still have a lot of learning to do schematically in the offense, but the physical talent is absolutely there. Melvin Holland on the technical side of the game such as route running and his crisp cuts, is still very good. Will have to watch how his hands are going forward. Isaiah Gentry is still ahead of Desmond Gant in their developments. Gentry is more polished of the two, but that's not saying a ton as Gant is more of a physical freak than a football player yet, but if that lightbulb goes on for him, watch out. Jeffrey Jones didn't look rusty at all at wide receiver. Cuts were still on a dime and hands are among the best in the group.

    Offensive line:

    I won't comment on these guys until pads get on as there's really no substantial value to it. Physically, the five freshmen offensive line guys are the most advanced I've seen in a Kill class. I was expecting Nick Connelly to look really lean still, but he's filled out that frame with good weight. Quinn Oseland and Ted Stieber are no slouches either, especially Quinn as I think he's dropped weight since being on campus, but lost the bad weight and put on muscle. Tyler Moore looks to have trimmed out some of that baby fat and added on muscle, plus Bronson Dobich looks good as well. Only other thing I'll mention is that is was very good to see a healthy Jon Christenson today. He's a guy I'd expect to play against TCU.

    Defensive line:

    Again, not a whole lot to say until they start doing things in pads with team drills or one on ones against the offensive line. Winston Delattiboudere was thicker than I was expected. Still on the shorter side, but not the 215 he was listed at coming out of high school. Andrew Stelter definitely put on weight over the summer and should be competing more at defensive tackle than defensive end. Hendrick Ekpe looks like an action figure. He's jacked and definitely added more to his upper body. Scott Ekpe looked fully back from his knee surgery as he wasn't wearing a brace and not favoring the knee at all. Gaelin Elmore looks to have added weight as well. Steven Richardson added weight, not sure how, but the man has the biggest arms and legs I've ever seen for a guy of his size. His forearms are literally tree trunks. Excited for his year.

    Linebackers:

    Tough to eval linebackers in helmets, but I already like how deep this group will be. The guy I haven't been talking enough about and will now going forward is Cody Poock. No knee brace and he looks more explosive than in the spring. Where Poock (pronounced Poke) is really going to shine is when pads get on, but really liked his instincts in team today. Read his keys well and I think he'll end up starting at Mike linebacker. De'Vondre Campbell and Jack Lynn look very similar in their body types. Really like the future of this group between Jonathan Celestin and Julian Huff too. Both guys are at good weight and it's really fun to watch them fly around in the flats from their outside linebacker positions. Jaylen Waters did a lot of learning today in each of the drills, but physically looks the part. Nick Rallis was a full go and didn't wear a knee brace as well.

    Defensive backs:

    This group of freshmen has me excited. Watching the freshman groups and seeing Ray Buford and Dior Johhson out there together and looking at their size (Buford listed at 6'2", 195 and Johnson at 6'2" 207), it's crazy to think about their potential. KiAnte Hardin is really explosive and can get to top speed quickly. Zo Craighton has filled out very nice at safety and both Antonio Shenault and Jacob Huff are no slouches either. Excited to watch these guys learn over the next two weeks. Not sure how much more I can hype up this secondary, but they all are very confident. Briean Boddy-Calhoun exploded out of his back-pedal for an interception and Murray is the same old Murray. Travis does look slimmer and he's gained a step with his speed. I have no concerns about his durability with a lower weight before someone asks. Antonio Johnson looks faster too. I could see why Kunle Ayinde was hearing the hype machine this summer and he doesn't look like a walk-on at all. Solid in his movements and confident in his actions. From watching this starting group, it seemed like there was an unspoken, quiet confidence about them. They're communication between one another is very good and they know what each is going to do. Just something I thought I'd mention.

    Other notes:
  • There was a lot of special teams working as in every Jerry Kill practice. A lot of individual work on the punt unit and all the details there.

  • Santoso and the rest of the kickers got some work in before practice started. Santoso still has a huge leg, but needs to remain consistent.

  • Kill mentioned this in the interviews afterwards, but this was the most vocal I've heard Kill during practice since the first couple of years. A lot of loud encouragement for his players on keeping up the tempo and playing until the whistle.

  • Tempo was a huge thing that was stressed today as the players were never walking in between drills, but always jogging/running.


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