Practice Notes Part 1

Minnesota Football is starting up and the Gophers took the practice field this weekend, so find out the latest in the first part of our practice notes report.

The Minnesota Football team wasn't in pads the first two days, so it is tough to make any real judgements on players. What can be noted was the physical readiness of the newcomers and those expected to step into a larger role.

The Newcomers:

The first thing I noticed when I arrived at practice was just how big JUCO LB De'Vondre Campbell was. He is every bit of his listed 6'5" 225 lb frame. Something head coach Jerry Kill joked about after practice. Campbell is already pushing for James Manuel's OLB spot after just two practices. If he's able to continue to impress he may very well start against UNLV.

Another newcomer that stood apart from his teammates because of his size was TE Nate Wozniak. He is at least as tall as his listed 6'9" if not 6'10". There was a lot of chatter amongst fans that Wozniak would likely end up at tackle because of his size but he has narrow shoulders so that does not seem terribly likely as he will likely be unable to put on the necessary weight. The good news there is he will be a huge asset for the Gopher QB's (pun intended). While Wozniak is fairly raw technique wise he is already able to use his size to get separation and had a nice catch over the middle that no other TE would have had a chance at on his first day. Wozniak will likely redshirt this year though as the team has multiple weapons at TE already and Wozniak is very thin.

Some other new potential weapons for the offense are freshman receivers Drew Wolitarsky and Eric Carter. Both impressed those at practice friday and saturday. Wolitarsky, simply with his size. He looks the part of a Big Ten receiver already as a true freshman. Carter on the other hand, impressed people with his hands and his quickness. He will be a huge asset, likely out of the slot, before he leaves Minneapolis. If Wolitarsky can perform well in camp he will have a shot to play this year. Carter will likely have a harder time seeing the field this year simply because he's built very similarly to Jamel Harbison and K.J. Maye.

The other newcomer on offense that got a lot of hype from fans was Berkley Edwards, younger brother of former Michigan receiver Braylon Edwards. Running back is a very tough position to judge before they get in pads, but Berkley is as fast as advertised and has elite agility to go along with it. He definitely has something no other RB on the roster does, so he may see the field this year.

The first two practices were also the first chance to get a look at former SEC commit Donovahn Jones. Jones worked exclusively at QB both days and looked exactly like you would expect a freshman QB to look on his first two days. His arm strength looked a little shaky on some of the outside passes but he has a decent release. He didn't get a chance to really show off any athleticism but he certainly looks like the type of athlete that gives defenses nightmares.

The other freshman QB was a bit better as he had the entirety of spring practice to adjust to the college game. Streveler has also put on a good amount of muscle. Streveler also got some time in with the special teams unit working at holder. Streveler's throwing motion is still a bit off and will need some work before he sees the field but that won't likely be necessary until his redshirt Junior year. Potentially blocking for Streveler/Jones down the road is OL Alex Mayes. Mayes certainly looks the part of a Big Ten lineman and will only continue to get bigger as he spends time in the program. Barring a crazy number of injuries Alex will redshirt.

On the defensive side of the ball the most impressive newcomer outside of the JUCO LB's was freshman DB Jalen Myrick. Myrick is much bigger than I had anticipated and likely matches his listed 6' 200 lbs. Myrick is also one of the faster guys on the team. A team official joked if he didn't see the field at DB he may end up starting at RB. It's possible Myrick sees the field this year but its not likely. He should redshirt this year due to depth at DB.

The other freshman in the defensive backfield was a bit less physically impressive as Delatavious McGhee didn't seem quite as big as his listed 6'1" 195 lbs. He will have to put on some weight before he plays at safety. He's pretty much a lock to redshirt as the Gophers have a lot of depth at safety.

One area where the Gophers may be forced to play a true freshman is linebacker. None of the freshman is exactly intimidating as Chris Wipson, Rayfield Dixon, and De'Niro Laster are a bit lanky at this point in their careers. Once the pads get on the staff will have a much better idea of what they have in the freshman backers though it seems that all should redshirt at this point in time. Wipson seems the least likely to see the field however as he is coming off an injury though he seemed to be at 100%.

The newcomers on the defensive line were physically impressive as both Owen Salzwedel and Demarius Peppers look like Big Ten players. Jordan Hinojosa will be an intimidating player by the time he graduates, thanks largely to his attitude and less because of his frame, but is a bit small at this point in time and could probably use a redshirt. Salzwedel and Peppers could also benefit from a redshirt year as well. The most likely newcomer to play would probably be Hendrick Ekpe, younger brother of defensive tackle Scott Ekpe. Hendrick has the spring and summer to adjust and put on weight and he has some of the longest arms I've ever seen. If he's able to redshirt this year it will be quite beneficial to future Gopher teams as he will be good player down the line.

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