Gopher Football practice notes: 8/10

The Gopher Football team held their second padded practice of fall camp earlier today and GopherDigest's Ryan Burns was there. All the info on what Gophers are starting to make an impact can be found inside.

  • Pro-pads again today, but there was a little more rough and tumble then yesterday.

  • Seniors Damarius Travis and K.J. Maye did not practice today as they were suffering from dehydration from the day prior, so they got a day of rest. Tight ends Nick Hart and Lincoln Plsek, offensive lineman Ben Lauer, wide receiver Isaiah Gentry and defensive tackle Mose Hall were also not practicing because of various injuries.

  • Kill said after practice that Lauer had an MRI on his left knee this morning and that they should get the results back tonight, but it's thought to not be a serious injury.

  • Quarterbacks:

    Today was Mitch Leidner's best and most consistent day thus far. No interceptions and no close calls. For the second day in a row Leidner was money on the deep balls in both one on ones and translated it over to team today. I'll also mention that the ball is wobbly yes, but I don't care what it looks like if it's on-time, in the right spot and where the receiver can go make a play. One of the play's of the day came in team where the offensive line gave him enough time on play action to hit wide receiver Eric Carter in stride with a defensive back just a step behind. Would have been a 70+ yard TD, with the throw 50-55 in the air. Leidner also made a great throw rolling to his right to hit Melvin Holland on deep crossing route along the sidelines. Also hit Jeff Jones across the middle in a tight window, both going right. Hoping Leidner can put another day like this tomorrow and on Saturday for the scrimmage.

    Streveler also was more consistent today. Still has the funky throwing motion, but he connected on a few deep balls as well. Still believe he's the number two quarterback. Conor Rhoda is getting reps before Jacques Perra and Demry Croft still as well. Perra and Croft may sling it better, but Rhoda maintains the lead thus far. Croft still has his flashes and his poise for a true freshman is impressive. Nothing seems to phase him or get him excited. Just needs to keep being consistent as he'll thread the needle one throw and then miss the next. Talent is there, but just needs to keep progressing as a freshman. Heard today again that the staff really wants to redshirt him.

    Running backs:

    Both Rodrick Williams and Rodney Smith continue to battle for starter reps. Still think that Rodrick will start against TCU as the staff wants to give him a shot, but that Rodney will get more carries as the season progresses. Shannon Brooks and James johannesson got the majority of the reps with the rookie team, while Femi-Cole gets some here and there. Physically he's impressive, but just like Julien Kafo last year, it's a big learning curve from Canadian Football to that of the B1G. Brooks has soft hands and runs hard and agressive. Johannesson caught a nice swing pass of his shoelaces and made a man miss for a nice gain. Heard Limegrover a few times giving praise to Rodney.

    Tight ends:

    After a couple of nondescript days, Duke Anyanwu saw first team reps with Brandon Lingen today and made the catch of camp so far. Leinder threw to his right with Anyanwu closing to the sidelines and Duke, using threw out his right hand with a defender on him to snag it out drawing a lot of "whoa's" from teammates and fans alike. Heck of a catch. Anyanwu will be the pass catching H-back for this offense this fall I'm guessing, while Brandon Lingen is more of the true Y tight end that will be in more. I think he's got a larger role than I expected. Guys like Nate Wozniak will also be seeing some reps as well. Bryce Witham has some deceptive speed as he caught a pass going to his right and turned it up well along the sidelines. Needs a year to redshirt after dropping some weight, but he's a playmaker with the ball in his hands. Like his potential going forward. For those wondering about Colton Beebe, he's behind Miles Thomas and Tyler Hartmann right now, but I think his time to shine is Saturday when the pads come on. Still looks fluid coming out of the backfield with good hands.

    Wide Receiver:

    For the second day in a row, Eric Carter had a heck of a day. He's finally starting to show why he was so highly rated coming out of high school as he's got some good confidence/mojo right now. He does a very good job at creating space between he and the defender and sets them up well with headfakes among other things. He's been on the starting wide receiver core and I think that his spot to lose right now, and he's making sure that doesn't happen. Jeff Jones absolutely left Jalen Myrick in the dust during pass shell. Jeff's cuts that made him a fan favorite out of high school were on display as he got Myrick all sorts of turned around on a nice slant route that drew some hollering from his teammates. He's coming along nicely. Desmond Gant still is doing things out there that I haven't seen Gopher wide receiver do since Kill got here. He's extremely physical, tall, has great speed and knows how to get open. Beat defensive backs twice more today during one on ones for long gains, issue he's having is securing the catch through as he was stripped again after a few steps. If he can hold onto the ball, he's going to turn some heads. Another guy who keeps popping up is freshman walk-on Adam Mayer. He's a tough, solid receiver who holds onto everything. Not afraid out there and the stage doesn't seem too big at all. Also loves to block as he tossed KiAnte Hardin in team. Two guys who saw an increase in their reps with the first team were walk-on Brian Smith and Melvin Holland with K J Maye out. Smith earned those reps with his performance in camp thus far and made a nice one handed catch on a Leidner throw deep along the right sideline. Big target with decent speed that's physical and can block. Holland has received a lot of coaching from Anderson and Kill so far in camp, but he's got a lot of physical tools and they're working on improving the little things with him such as ball security and the correct routes. Of the freshmen receivers, I think he and Jeff see the field first. Hunter Register and Rashad Still look like they belong with their tall frame and both aren't afraid of physicality.

    Offensive line:

    There was some movement along the offensive line today with the Lauer injury and Limegrover making some tweaks, so the lines went as followed from left to right.

    1st: Bush, Christenson, Bobek, Campion, Pirsig
    2nd: Oseland, Bjorklund, Moore, C. Mayes, A. Mayes

    So the changes are moving Foster Bush from 2nd RT to starting LT. Oseland assuming duties as the 2nd AND 3rd string LT. Tyler Moore and Connor Mayes switching spots from center to right guard and Alex Mayes sliding over to right tackle from left. From talking with a source after practice, sounds like the Tyler Moore to center and Connor Mayes to right guard are going to be staying at their new positions for awhile. Foster really struggled today with Hendrick Ekpe, as did Quinn Oseland, so if Lauer is going to be out for an extended period of time, I wonder if Josh Campion slides back out to left tackle and Joe Bjorklund slides into guard for him. Just a thought, but we'll see if any of the line combos change tomorrow. Interior of the OL is definitely the strength of the group. The first team OL is opening more holes for their running backs against the defense than I can remember so early in fall camp, which is a good thing. Leidner too many times was feeling pressure off the edge though between Cockran and Ekpe.

    Defensive line:

    Today was Hank Ekpe's day. His first step is so explosive that there were times Bush or whomever was at left tackle couldn't get a hand on him. I think I counted four or five "sacks" during the team periods for him as he was getting to the QB at will. Love to see that and hope it continues. Alex Keith drew praise from Claeys on numerous occasions today as well for closing down on the gaps and drawing the right assignment. Theiren Cockran had a sack or two today and Gaelin Elmore batted down another pass today. Third day in a row Elmore has done so. Yoshoub Timms was gaining leverage into the backfield against the 2nd and 3rd string OL with Phelps giving some praise. Still faces a tough battle for playing time behind Ekpe, Richardson, Stelter, Ndondo-Lay and Moore.

    Linebackers:

    I'm starting to really want to hype sophomore Cody Poock up as he's been in the middle of everything so far in camp. As I said yesterday, love his instincts as that's something you just can teach and he's extremely physical. You'll never watch him hit someone and wish he would have brought more of the wood. Can shed a block and his speed is better from the spring as he's very close to being fully recovered, if he isn't already. He's still behind Everett Williams, and while Everett has done well this spring, I just can't see how Poock stays off the field. Jack Lynn did well in pass coverage against today as he broke up a pass to the tight end, staying step for step with him on the outside to make a nice play. Still have high hopes for Jonathan Celestin as well as he's a guy with very good instincts as well. Good tackler as well. I also think there's no way Julian Huff redshirts as he's too physical and explosive to not help out on special teams at least. He's still ahead of Nick Rallis.

    Defensive backs:

    Another day, another Briean Boddy-Calhoun interception. After Drew Wolitarsky caught a couple passes on him during one on ones, Boddy stepped it up a notch in the team period. On a deep ball along the left sideline, Boddy's natural instincts when the ball is near and when to look are definitely among the things that make him such a great playmaker for the Gopher defense. Rhoda put it up there for wide receiver E.J. Sardinha and Boddy turned at the right moment and snatched the ball out of the air. Kunle Ayinde and Ace Rogers saw reps with the first team with Travis out. Ayinde is comfortable in space and does everything solid. Rogers may be more explosive and a little taller, but Ayinde will have a role in this secondary come this fall. Ray Buford has a better day in one on ones as he swatted a ball from the receiver as he was securing the catch to draw praise from his teammates. Love his length out there. KiAnte Hardin is the farthest along of the freshman corners as his speed makes up for some mistakes out there. Very content with all the freshmen defensive backs thus far.

    Other Notes:

  • To be honest here, I wouldn't be surprised if Jeff Jones stays at receiver permanently. He's learning the position quickly and looks like a natural pass catcher with the ability to make a man miss. With the Gophers having four freshman on scholarship at the position and will take running back in 2016, I could see Jeff staying out there going forward. Not saying it's going to happen, but just don't be shocked if it does.

  • Minnesota does have to figure out what to do at left tackle if Lauer is down for an extended period of time. Hank Ekpe ate up Foster Bush today and yes, I know that they can't cut defensive lineman in practice, but it looked like Ekpe's speed overmatched Bush. Hoping that Lauer gets back soon, or that Campion slides back out to tackle.

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