By: Justin Gaard
Year two of the Jerry Kill era of Minnesota football began quietly on Saturday morning. While the first few days of last years camp may have been spent demanding a faster tempo, more intensity and more attention to detail, it appears this camp will focus more on teaching the new guys the new concepts.
"We got a lot of kids that are trying to learn what to do. We were focused down here on some of the younger kids," said Jerry Kill, "I thought they did a nice job."
The veterans on this team understand the expectations of the coaching staff when it comes to practice. Kill and the staff frequently had to remind players last year to hustle in and out of the huddle or to sprint from drill to drill. Less time yelling at a player to hustle means more time to critque performance.
"The first two weeks you're evaluating," Kill said,"seeing who is ready, who is going to be able to perform."
Some other notes from fall practice #1:
-The first team offense starts left to right on the offensive line with Ed Olson, Tommy Olson, Zach Mottla, Zac Epping and Josh Campion. Offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover likes the options he has on the right side of the line, it wil be interesting to see how that side evolves during camp. Running backs Donnell Kirkwood and newcomer James Gillum split the reps as first-team running back. Sophomores David Cobb and Devin Wright split carries with the second group. Gillum spent the last part of practice under the trainer tent with a left ankle injury. It didn't appear too serious but something to watch.
-MarQueis Gray looked very relaxed today and threw the ball pretty well. The rapport he has built over the summer with Devin Crawford-Tufts was obvious during most of the live drills. Gray's best moment came during one of the 7-on-7 periods when he connected with fellow senior Brandon Green on a 35-40 yard pass. Green made a great diving catch despite pretty good defensive coverage. Max Shortell struggled today, throwing 2 interceptions to senior defensive back Michael Carter. I'm interested to see how Shortell bounces back tomorrow, we saw last year that the Gophers will need him at some point this season.
-It will be hard to keep freshman wide receiver Andre McDonald off the field this year. Receiver is a question mark for this team, and McDonald absolutely looks the part. He opened my eyes early in practice making a one-handed catch out of bounds: Mitch Leidner overthrew him on a fade route, McDonald tracked it down with one hand and held on while falling backwards into the wall just past the end zone. It will be fun to watch him develop, it's obvious why he was so coveted.
-Offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover looks like a new guy after losing 118 pounds. He told us he's lost the weight by making a few minor adjustments to his diet. He's off carbs, he's off caffeine, and he looks fantastic. He feels he let the team down last year because of his weight, he couldn't be at his best. If the players were going to work hard all summer to be at their best, he felt he needed to do the same. He's down from a pant size of 54 to 42, and hopes to one day weigh 235 pounds. His playing weight in college was 275.