Gopher Football practice notes: 8/14

The Gopher Football team held their second to last practice open 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.

  • Gophers tight end Duke Anyanwu was not at practice today. Kill hinted it was similar to Ben Lauer (awaiting MRI) but did not give specifics. Definitely something I'll be keeping an eye on.

  • Left tackle Ben Lauer did not practice again today, so senior Josh Campion slid over to left tackle with the starting unit and Connor Mayes replaced him at right guard. Foster Bush moved to second string right tackle, Alex Mayes to left tackle and Isaac Hayes replaced him at right guard.

  • Guys who did not participate in practice today were RB Jonathan Femi-Cole, TE Duke Anyanwu, Lincoln Plsek and Nick Hart, WR Isaiah Gentry and Drew Wolitarsky, OL Ben Lauer, DL Mose Hall, Alex Keith and Robert Ndondo-Lay

  • Today's practice was very light in nature as the guys only wore shoulder pads and it was the shortest practice in length open to the media thus far. Obviously in preparation for the scrimmage tomorrow morning at Concordia-St.Paul.

  • Other notable attendees at practice today were Interim athletic director Beth Goetz, University of Minnesota president Eric W. Kaler, Tampa Bay Buccaneers director of college scouting Mike Biehl, Pittsburgh Steelers college scout Mike Butler.
    Quarterbacks:

    Quarterback Mitch Leidner wasn't as consistent as he'd been previously as it was just a middle of the road day for him. Play that sticks out to me about today was there was a busted coverage among the secondary that resulted in Eric Carter wide open heading up the seam. I'll also preface this by saying the play was already a couple seconds in as Carter had been jammed at the line of scrimmage and Leidner was feeling pressure in the pocket. But the result of the play was Leidner over-throwing Carter by 10 yards with no one around him. Would have been a 70+ yard TD easy. Short and intermediate game was fine and no interceptions were thrown today by any of the quarterbacks today that I can remember. Very interested to see how he does in the scrimmage tomorrow.

    Through six practices that I've attended now in fall camp, I think that Demry Croft may have the most natural talent of a quarterback that Kill has brought in thus far. Yes I know to some people out there that not be saying much, but Croft's abilities were on display again today. His play of the day came during 11 on 11 when Croft felt pressure from behind, took two steps up into the pocket and delivered a bullet to TE Bryce Witham up the seam for a 20+ yard gain. Nice tight spiral that was right on the money. His poise is something I've wrote about a few times now, but nothing seems to get him flustered. Consistently keeps his eyes down field and while Croft can run, he definitely throw it more than run it if he has a choice. I believe that it's in the best interest of the football team to redshirt Demry as he's still inconsistent with some throw in terms of accuracy, but am excited for his progression to continue. Also excited to see what he does tomorrow at the scrimmage in front of a lot of people.

    Running backs:

    Still looks to be a two running back race between Rodrick Williams and Rodney Smith as they're consistently the two guys getting the carries with the first team. Still believe it'll be a running back by committee. Smith was the most impressive to me today during the one on ones between the LB's and RB's in a pass catching drill as his cuts were the sharpest and he caught every ball. Berkley made a few nice catches out of the backfield today, but not ready to anoint his hands as steady improvement just yet. Shannon Brooks is a guy who I think is starting to separate himself a little bit from the other two running backs. Natural receiver out of the backfield and while his running style isn't tight as he's a little all over from the place, he's starting to come into his own a little bit within that group. Here's how I'd put the RB depth chart for the tomorrow's scrimmage.

    1) Rodrick Williams
    2) Rodney Smith
    3) Berkley Edwards
    4) Shannon Brooks
    5) James johannesson
    6) Jonathan Femi-Cole

    Tight ends:

    With Duke Anyanwu absent from practice today, Jerry Gibson was the guy who stepped into his role. I think Jerry will have no issue replacing Anyanwu if things are serious as he's been the more explosive and physical guy to me between the two thus far. Brandon Lingen and Nate Wozniak are two guys who saw a lot of reps with the ones again today as I think Lingen is the most complete tight end right row. Colton Beebe had a tough day with a couple non-characteristic drops and Witham had a couple as well, but did convert on the nice throw from Croft. Here's how I see the depth chart for tomorrow's scrimmage.

    Y:
    1) Brandon Lingen
    2) Nate Wozniak
    3) Noah Scarver
    4) Bryce Witham

    H-back:
    1) Jerry Gibson
    2) Tyler Hartmann

    FB:
    1) Miles Thomas
    2) Colton Beebe

    Wide Receiver:

    No Drew Wolitarsky today meant increased reps for both Eric Carter and Melvin Holland. I think both will have impacts on the passing game this fall. Nothing too spectacular to report today, but the longer Isaiah Gentry is out, the more I think Desmond Gant is going to be this year's Donovahn Jones. He'll be the deep threat and it'll all be about if he can secure the catch through those next few yards after as he's had some issues with that. One of the most explosive athletes on the team. Still believe he's more of an athlete than receiver, but he's improved much since the spring. Interested to see how they do against the DB's tomorrow.

    Offensive line:

    As I mentioned earlier, there were quite a few changes along the offense line today with guys moving from other positions, but I thought Campion did the best thus far against Hank Ekpe. As he probably should have as he's started 39 games at tackle so far, but still worth noting. Connor Mayes didn't look overwhelmed at all at guard with the first group today and I expect him to stay there as long as Lauer is out. Christenson got a rest on a couple of series at LG with Joe Bjorklund filling in there, but I don't believe it to be something to really watch going forward as Christenson has done well thus far. Isaac Hayes getting the move up the second team isn't as surprised looking back on it as Jared Weyler is still a ways off and the rest were true freshmen there. For those wondering who I expect to back up the offensive line this season, I'd say Foster Bush is the swing tackle, Joe Bjorklund/Connor Mayes at the guard spot and Jon Christenson at Center. I really hope Minnesota is able to redshirt both Quinn Oseland and Tyler Moore. Here are my projected units for tomorrow's scrimmage from left to right.

    1) Campion/Christenson/Bobek/C.Mayes/Pirsig
    2) A. Mayes/Bjorklund/Moore/Hayes/Bush
    3) Oseland/Stieber/Ma.Leidner/Weyler/Connelly

    Defensive line:

    Not a ton new to report here other than there are still some concerns in terms of depth with Ndondo-Lay and Keith out, but that's not something that should be long-term. Richardson is still a penetrating monster in the backfield, Hank Ekpe is primed for a breakout year and veterans Theiren Cockran and Scott Ekpe look ready for the season. I feel comfortable with both DT Andrew Stelter and DE Gaelin Elmore being the backups at each position respectively. Gary Moore still needs to be more consistent as when he plays with low pad level, he's a force. Most of the time still he's too high and the offensive line wins the battle. Julien Kafo and Winston Delattiboudere need another year to keep learning the defense. Also, don't be surprised if Julian Huff works some at defensive end tomorrow with this group short on bodies. My projected groups for tomorrow's scrimmage:

    1) H.Ekpe/Richardson/S.Ekpe/Cockran
    2) Elmore/Stelter/Moore/Kafo

    Linebackers:

    Deepest two-deep on the team and the more I watch sophomore Cody Poock, the more I think he's going to be a very good player by the time he leaves Minnesota. So instinctual in his reads and doesn't have any issues shedding a block. He's still with the second team, but I don't know how much longer that continues. Definitely someone who will be making a lot of tackles at the scrimmage tomorrow. Not a ton of plays or hitting out of this group with the scrimmage tomorrow, but I would say that Jack Lynn was getting a lot of work in the nickel package as the linebacker, so that's something. Also to note that I haven't seen LB Chris Wipson at the last few practices. Here's my projected groups for the scrimmage.

    1) Lynn/Williams/Campbell
    2) Ju.Huff/Poock/Celestin
    3) Rallis/Waters/Dixon

    Defensive backs:

    Again, it was a very light day for this group, but it appears KiAnte Hardin is really emerging from Ray Buford and Antonio Shenault. He was getting reps with the two's when they went nickle. Has the athletic ability, plus is gaining knowledge of the defense quickly, so he's one I think will play as a true freshman. A lot of different defensive backs worked as the nickle corner today from Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Eric Murray and I believe I saw Damarius Travis and Kunle Ayinde there. I wouldn't expect a ton of the starting DB's tomorrow as there's not a whole lot to gain there, so expect heavy dosages from Craig James, Jalen Myrick, Ace Rogers, Daletavious McGhee, Kunle Ayinde and all the true freshmen.

    Special Teams:

    They finally did some kick-offs today as I've been preaching all summer, redshirt freshman Emmit Carpenter has a boot. Consistently was placing the balls in the back half of the endzone while the others were getting it to the goal line. Love his potential and fully expect him to be the kick-off starter when the team takes the field against TCU. The tandems returning kicks today were Antonio Johnson and Jalen Myirck, Jeff Jones and K.J. Maye and Briean Boddy-Calhoun and Rodney Smith in that order. Take all that for what you will.


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