The players were in pro pads today (helmets and shoulder pads), so there was a little more contact. A couple recruits were in attendance today in Blaise Andries, 2017 offensive lineman from Marshall (Minn.) and 2016 offensive line commit Sam Schlueter as well. Interim AD Beth Goetz was at practice again today.
Here on my thoughts.
It was a very up and down day for Mitch Leidner. He started out very well as he was money during the Gophers one on ones today. I can't think of a deep ball that wasn't placed into the wide receivers bread basket on the run during that period. It was probably nine or ten throws and each was on target, so Leidner's deep ball, which really did develop last season remains good. The issue remains his consistency. He struggled during the team period as his first attempted was jumped by safety Damarius Travis in the slot for an easy pick six. He also was flushed out of the pocket rolling to his right and tried to throw across his body to a receiver, but linebacker De'Vondre Campbell used his giant frame to jump and pick off the pass. Consistency and decision making are probably my two biggest concerns as when his pocket is clean, he can do things like connecting to Desmond Gant on a 50+ yard pass in stride during team, but when he's forced to deviate from his initial plan, things are dicey. He needs to keep improving on his decision making. Again, my expectations for Leidner aren't for him to be the next Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady, but to be a capable game manager. I think he can be the game manager type as he's shown flashes in the past, but needs to keep working on being more consistent as fall camp roles on.
Chris Streveler had some troubles with accuracy as he overthrew I believe it was Eric Carter on a crossing route rolling left for an easy interception for Duke McGhee. Seemed like he was trying to force some throws that weren't there. His deep ball during one on ones was surprisingly good as he receivers down field consistently as well. Jacques Perra got a couple of series with the two's during team and looked fine. Hit the check down a few times, completed a couple passes out to the flats, but did have a couple knocked away by Eric Murray. Demry Croft has the quickest release of the quarterbacks and is probably the most athletic. Looked just fine running the read option. He's done well for a freshman thus far, but just needs to keep learning the offense and working on his mechanics.
Rodney Smith has already started to see more reps with the top group as I thought he and Rodrick Williams were pretty even in their splits. You started to see some of that patience that makes Smith special today since the lines were hitting. While Smith's speed and cuts may be better than Williams, Rodrick had one of the longest runs again today. No tackling to ground as I don't know that it will start until the scrimmage next weekend. Shannon Brooks was the freshman getting the most reps of the three and he's got a good burst. Good hands as well as he caught everything I saw out of the backfield today. Johannesson may be the fastest of the three, but I think he may be pressing a little bit out there too as the transition from Fargo to Big Ten football doesn't look to be too much, but more of he's trying to do too much. Just needs to relax and he'll be just fine. Same goes from Jonathan Femi-Cole as he's a physical freak, but the learning curve is high for him. He'll be just fine as well, just needs to keep learning and adjusting to Minnesota football.
Senior tight end Lincoln Plsek hasn't been getting as many reps so far, maybe a little from injury, but more of as Gophers offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover said after practice that they know what he can do and are working on giving some other guys reps to see what they can do. Guys like Brandon Lingen, Nate Wozniak and Duke Anyanwu saw a lot of reps today. Not sure if Anyanwu is experiencing some soreness or what, but haven't seen him out in team a lot. Lingen and Wozniak and Noah Scarver have seen a lot of reps and Limegrover talked up all three after practice today. Jerry Gibson continues to work at H-back and with his increased work, I like that role for him. Definite mismatch. Another guy I should mention is Miles Thomas as he's added weight to his upper body and increased his speed. Love him on a third and three type of situation leaking out of the backfield like last season.
After seeing a full spring of the defensive backs getting the best of the receiving core during one on ones, I thought the receivers did better than expected for me. One guy who did very well during this period was walk-on Brian Smith. Went against Murray twice and won both reps. Can't say I've written that much more. Smith used his physicality and size well and adjusted to the ball well on the sidelines. Intrigued to see if he gets more reps going forward after today. Jeff Jones did well during this period as well. Cuts very well on and not sure if I've seen him drop a pass in three days. Used his speed as well on Shenault on a deep ball along the sideline. Freshman walk-on Adam Mayer caught everything sent his way and created space well. Desmond Gant has the ability, just needs keep being consistent. He'll do things like break open on a 50+ yard route and highpoint it in stride, but then not secure it for Myrick to strip it out. I will say that from what I've heard, Gant was one of the hardest workers this summer and stayed after to get extra work in everyday. Gentry caught a deep ball on Boddy-Calhoun on a good throw from Leidner for a deep ball. Still believe KJ Maye is the most complete receiver in this group. Does the little things well.
Finally got to see somethings during team and OL vs. DL one on ones. I'll start by mentioning as Joe Christenson said on Twitter this afternoon, Ben Lauer was dinged up a bit toward the end of practice, so sophomore Alex Mayes and true freshman Quinn Oseland were seeing reps in his place. The interior of the offensive line had a good day today. Limegrover talked about after how Jon Christensen, Brian Bobek and Josh Campion have started to develop some chemistry among each other. Christensen probably had the best day for the OL during one on one's as he stonewalled his guy more times than not. Thought Bobek and Campion did well too. The first team OL has opened some holes for the running backs and I think it comes on the heels of these three guys. The tackles need to become more consistent as Pirsig had a couple of issues today off the edge and Lauer was dinged up as well. Alex Mayes for his first day being 100% in full pads in two years did well I thought. Just needs to get more reps. Quinn Oseland really impressed me for a true freshman offensive lineman. Hasn't seem overwhelmed at all and is very athletic for his size. Isn't afraid to mix it up as well. Tyler Moore was getting a lot of loud encouragement from Limegrover during team. He's got high expectations for the true freshman and will keep pushing.
Steven Richardson dominated one on ones today. Using his low pad level and explosive first step, he was a handful for any lineman he went against. He's somehow gained ten pounds to his frame, but hasn't lost a step. Scott Ekpe looks fully recovered to me and Limegrover mentioned after practice that he thought Scott looked like "A million bucks" today. First step was explosive and showed an array of moves during one on ones. Winston Delattiboudere was guy who impressed as well with his quick first step. The freshmen OT's had issues with him. Gaelin Elmore batted another pass down today. Theiren Cockran had his way with the tackles a few times as well. Hank Ekpe was no match for Nick Connelly as the upperclassmen has too much speed.
Another day, another article hyping up Cody Poock. He's constantly meeting backs in the hole and bringing the physicality. Love his instincts. Jack Lynn nearly has an INT in pass shell as he read the QB's eyes and jumped the route. I still feel comfortable with the linebacker depth between Julian Huff, Jonathan Celestin, Everett Williams, Cody Poock, De'Vondre Campbell and Jack Lynn.
News flash, Minnesota has really good defensive backs. Eric Murray and Briean Boddy-Calhoun were impressive all day. Each Boddy rep showed something different about his game. He started the period against K.J. Maye and stayed right on his hip and jumped the route for a near INT. Next rep, he ran step for step with the WR and instinctively read when the ball was coming to bat it away at the last second. Murray is so physical at the line of scrimmage that receivers have issues coming off the ball and it disrupts everything. Had a couple of pass break-ups in team as well. Damarius Travis had an interception and Duke McGhee was the recipient of two. Jalen Myrick had his best day of the three so far as along with the Desmong Gant play, he broke up a few passes as well. KiAnte Hardin is more physical than I thought as he had no issues during one on one's. I should also note that Alonzo Craighton, who was brought in as a corner, has played exclusively at safety throughout camp and after talking with a source he may stay there.
Gopher Football practice notes: 8/9
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