Spring practice is in full swing for most schools in the Big Ten and the first drafts of depth charts across the conference are starting to take shape. Some positions are well in hand, others won’t be decided until the teams take the field in September. This week we’re taking a look at the most interesting position battles to watch in the coming month for each team.
Next up: Minnesota.
1. Left tackle: The all-important position is open this spring, and redshirt freshman Nick Connelly is getting the first crack at the gig. But the coaching staff is also looking at redshirt junior Chad Fahning and junior college transfer Vincent Calhoun, who has bounced around at different spots during the early practice sessions. Another juco import, Garrison Wright, has been limited with a minor injury but could also get a shot at tackle. Finding the right mix on the O-line will be crucial for the Golden Gophers and new position coach Bart Miller, as the team places a huge importance on being a physical running attack.
2. Defensive back: Two spots in the secondary are set, with senior cornerback Jalen Myrick and safety Damarius Travis, whom Minnesota really missed last year when he was lost for the season after the opener versus TCU. The other two positions feature some good competitions this spring. KiAnte Hardin is likely the leader for the other corner job, though Antonio Shenault showed some things as a true freshman in 2015. And the second safety slot is pretty open, with competition between Kunle Ayinde, Duke McGhee and Ace Rogers, among others. This staff knows how to coach up the secondary.
3. Punter: Ryan Santoso, the team's placekicker, could pull double duty by being the Gophers' punter as well. The coaches would prefer to avoid that situation, though, and are hoping left-footer Jacob Herbers can seize the job. One will have to replace Big Ten punter of the year Peter Mortell, who was a valuable field-position weapon.