Friday, April 11, 2014
Spring game preview: Minnesota
By Brian Bennett
Ten league squads wrap up spring practice this weekend, and we’re taking a look at each spring game or scrimmage. Next up: Minnesota.
When: 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday
Where: TCF Bank Stadium
Admission: Free. Gates open at 1:30 p.m. ET. There will be a Gopher football alumni football game from 2-3 p.m. ET, and former players will sign autographs in the west plaza after the game.
TV: Streamed live on BTN2Go.com. The game will be also shown Sunday at 6:30 p.m. on Big Ten Network.
Weather forecast: Mostly cloudy, with a high near 67. Chance of precipitation is 70 percent, though most of the rain is predicted for the morning.
What to watch for: One of the Gophers' biggest goals for this offseason was to develop more playmakers, especially in the passing game. So it would be very encouraging to see the offense come up with some explosive plays during the spring game.
Mitch Leidner has established himself as the clear No. 1 quarterback, and the team is hoping young receivers Drew Wolitarsky and Donovahn Jones continue to make strides, along with a deep crew at tight end (Maxx Williams is out with a knee injury). The Gophers could also use a few more home runs in their rushing attack, and perhaps redshirt freshman Berkley Edwards, who broke off a 50-yard scoring run in last week's scrimmage, can provide that. Offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover knows he can still pound the ball with veteran backs David Cobb and Donnell Kirkwood, plus Leidner. Top recruit Jeff Jones is also on the way.
If Minnesota's offense can move the ball effectively against its own defense, that's a reason for optimism. Despite losing star defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman and defensive back Brock Vereen, coordinator Tracy Claeys can call on a pretty experienced crew. Claeys would like to see a leap forward from his linebacker group, which lost seniors Aaron Hill and James Manuel but returns guys like Damien Wilson, De'Vondre Campbell and Jack Lynn who saw action last season. Replacing Hageman will probably require a group effort, but the coaching staff likes the potential of Scott Ekpe and Cameron Botticelli inside.
All in all, the team probably has fewer question marks going into this spring game than any previous ones under Jerry Kill. That's why hopes are high in Minneapolis.