The wait is almost over.
Technically the offseason hasn’t quite ended yet, but the annual appearance for every program at Big Ten media days serves as an unofficial kickoff for the season -- and a welcome reminder that football is nearly back. The event opens next Monday in Chicago with the coach and three players from every team in the league reporting for two days of questions, answers and some predictions sure to go wrong by the time September rolls around.
To help set the scene in advance, this week the Big Ten blog is rolling through a list of the hottest topics each team will be addressing from the assembled media. Up next: the Minnesota Golden Gophers, whose media day contingent includes quarterback Mitch Leidner, linebacker Jack Lynn and defensive back Damarius Travis, along with head coach Tracy Claeys.
1. How's the foot, Mitch?: Leidner's left foot might be the most important appendage in Gopherland. He had surgery on the foot immediately after the Quick Lane Bowl and was very limited during spring practice as it healed. The recovery has reportedly gone well, but foot injuries can be tricky, especially for someone who relies on his mobility as much as Leidner does. He will certainly be asked a lot about it, since the fifth-year quarterback is crucial to Minnesota's hopes in 2016.
2. How's the new offense?: Claeys surprised many by letting longtime coworker Matt Limegrover go as offensive coordinator after Minnesota took the interim tag off Claeys' job status. In came Jay Johnson from Louisiana Lafayette as Claeys sought to get back to a tough, run-first attack with a few new wrinkles. The Gophers' offense has been spotty the past few years and probably held them back from pulling off some bigger wins. How is the implementation of the new scheme going, and will the offensive line be strong enough to pull it off?
3. How's the stability?: Minnesota went for stability in hiring Claeys to follow Jerry Kill after Kill's retirement for health reasons. Claeys has done an excellent job in keeping the program on a steady course. However, he did only receive a three-year contract, and the school recently hired a new athletic director, Mark Coyle, with no ties to Claeys. As we saw at Illinois, the new AD often wants to bring in his own football coach, especially if the one he inherited isn't cemented in place. How does Claeys feel about all that, and can this program continue to build on what Kill started?