Friday, April 26, 2013
Spring game preview: Minnesota
By Brian Bennett
The last two Big Ten spring games of the year will take place on Saturday, as Floyd of Rosedale rivals Minnesota and Iowa finish off their spring practices. We're here to preview both of them, starting with the Gophers:
When: Saturday, 2 p.m. ET
Where: TCF Bank Stadium
Admission: Free, though a $1 minimum donation is encouraged and all proceeds will go to the Gary Tinsley Memorial Scholarship Fund. Parking lots open at 10 a.m. ET. An alumni flag football game will be held at 11:45 a.m. ET.
TV: Live on Big Ten Network
Weather forecast: Sunny, with a high of 70 degrees.
What to watch for: Head coach Jerry Kill said he'll make this an actual game, with 15-minute quarters, two teams and a controlled kicking game. "We want to make it as game-like as we possibly can," Kill said, "because we have a lot of younger players."
And Gophers fans will be able to see how those younger players are growing, starting with sophomore quarterback Philip Nelson. He has been pushed this spring by Mitch Leidner and Chris Streveler but seems to have a firm grasp on the job. Kill -- and Gophers fans -- want to see a whole lot more out of the passing game this fall.
Minnesota has been preaching a more physical attitude and a style of play similar to what we saw in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas game against Texas Tech. Things don't figure to get as physical in a spring-game setting, but the running game -- powered by Donnell Kirkwood and Rodrick Williams Jr. -- ought to be a strength.
On defense, linebacker is the biggest question mark. Junior-college import Damien Wilson has turned some heads this spring, so keep an eye on him. Who will step up and join Ra'Shede Hageman as playmakers on the defensive line? How has Derrick Wells' transition from safety to cornerback gone?
There shouldn't be too many surprises for truly avid Minnesota fans, as Kill has opened up many of his practices to the public. But the more casual fans will be looking for signs of continued growth in Year 3 under Kill and his staff.