Spring Practice Primer: Minnesota Golden Gophers
Minnesota improved by three wins in Jerry Kill's second season and reached a bowl game. Will the Gophers take the next step in 2013?
College football never ends. And during the next few weeks, teams will be getting ready for the 2013 season in their spring practice sessions. Here's a look at the Minnesota Golden Gophers and what they'll be working on this spring.
Spring practice begins: March 26
Spring game: April 27
2012 record: 6-7
Returning starters: 16 (ten offense, six defense)
The Least You Should Know About Minnesota This Spring
-- The quarterback job is Philip Nelson's to lose. The freshman took over the starting job during the middle of the 2012 season and at times looked brilliant, showing everybody why people were so high on his potential. Then there were the times where Nelson reminded you he was a freshman. Still, it was easy to see why Jerry Kill would consider Nelson his quarterback of the future, but that doesn't mean Kill is just going to hand him the job this year. Nelson will be competing with redshirt freshman Mitch Leidner and true freshman Chris Streveler. Though it's hard to see anybody but Nelson emerge from the spring as Minnesota's starter, but stranger things have happened.
-- The Gophers need a receiver to emerge. Whether it's Nelson running the offense or one of the freshmen, life will be a lot easier if a receiving target makes himself known. Minnesota's leading returning receiver is Derrick Engel and he only had 18 receptions for 375 yards and a touchdown last season. Though the good news is Engel had a breakthrough performance in Minnesota's bowl loss, which is when he caught four of those passes for 108 yards. Still, guys like Engel, Devin Crawford-Tufts and Isaac Fruechte will need to prove themselves this spring.
-- The secondary has holes to fill. The Minnesota pass defense was excellent in 2012. The Gophers finished with a defensive pass efficiency of 113.43, which was the fourth best mark in the Big Ten and ranked 23rd in the country. Unfortunately both starting cornerbacks, Michael Carter and Troy Stoudermire are gone and will not be easily replaced. Guys like Martez Shabazz and Jeremy Baltazar will need to step up this spring, but incoming freshmen Jalen Myrick is somebody you should keep your eye on as well.
-- The losses at linebacker shouldn't be as hard to replace. That's not a knock on either Mike Rallis or Keanon Cooper as both were good players. It's just that Minnesota landed a couple of junior college linebackers in its 2013 recruiting class and De'Vondre Campbell and Damien Wilson should have a much easier time stepping right in. If they can help improve a Minnesota run defense that allowed 4.68 yards per carry last season they'll be heroes.
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