Spring breakout player: Minnesota

With spring practice officially behind us, we're taking a look at each Big Ten team and identifying a player who announced himself as a potential key performer this fall.

These are guys who haven't played big roles yet but showed enough during the 15 spring practices -- not just some fluky, spring-game performance against backups -- to factor heavily into their team's plans.

The series now continues on to the Minnesota Golden Gophers and their defensive backfield.

Spring breakout player: S Damarius Travis

Safety Cedric Thompson started 10 games last season and led the Gophers in tackles (79). Safety Antonio Johnson started in six games and finished fourth with 69 tackles. They’re both returning this upcoming season -- so the pair are a lock to return to their starting positions, right?

Think again. That’s the kind of spring that Travis had.

“If we had to play a game next week, Damarius Travis would be starting,” defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys told the Minnesota Daily last month. “He’s the most improved [defensive back] by far.”

Travis played in 13 games last season, but he was an afterthought to both Thompson and Johnson. He started in just two games and finished with 28 tackles. But the Florida native has shown a lot of potential this offseason -- so much that he’s caught the eye of just about everyone who’s seen him practice.

Jerry Kill realized by mid-March that Travis “has really stood out.” BTN’s Tom Dienhart identified Travis as a defensive playmaker in mid-April. And Claeys offered up his quote somewhere in between.

Travis is quick, he’s focused, and he’s looking to be more than just a role player this season. Minnesota is just hoping he continues to progress as quickly this summer as he did this spring.