Greetings and salutations and Happy Friday. Gopher football practice today (3:55), tomorrow (8:50am and 4:50pm), Monday (8:50/4:50) and Tuesday (9:50am @ TCF Bank Stadium) are your last chances to watch practices, so get there if you haven't already (I'm including myself among that group). After tomorrow's practice, we'll already be one week into Fall camp. Crazy, no? Loco.
There's been a lot of talented scribes covering the first week of practice, and if you've been reading the Nugz this week you should be up to speed on all of it. Me being me, I want to know if we've learned anything about Jerry Kill's 2011 Gopher football squad after just four practices. There's a LOT of questions about this team coming into camp, so are we any closer to getting some answers? Sure that might be jumping to conclusions a wee bit, but what else is there to do on a Friday afternoon (well besides skip out of work early to go to Gopher practice #5. Duh)? Exactly.
What we know at this point is that Jerry Kill would rename his first born child Max if he could. True freshman Max Shortell is already receiving more reps than any other QB not nicknamed Q, and has been running with the second team the past few days. Does it make any sense whatseover to have Shortell be the backup QB this year? In my book, none. This is the exact same situation Tim Brewster gets lambasted for (and rightfully so), which was not redshirting MarQueis Gray when he was a true freshman even though the obvious starting QB Adam Weber was only a junior. The same rule applies to Shortell- if he's not starting this year, he should shirt. If Gray were a senior, that's another story. Kill and Co. may still go the redshirting route, yet keep giving him plenty of reps. Still, pretty clear Shortell has been the second best QB in camp.
#2 WIDE RECEIVER
So far, exactly everybody and nobody has stepped up to claim the #2 wide receiver spot opposite Da'Jon McKnight. We've quite literally seen a different name surface in the daily practice reports just about every day. First it was Victor Keise, then Malcolm Moulton, and today it's Ge'Shun Harris. And don't forget Brandon Green, who is still working back to 100% from a knee injury. Perhaps next week we can have a receiver have two good days in a row, and that might start to clear things up. Then again, probably not.
Our first Tommy Olson report of the spring came today from Marcus Fuller and according to Mr. Fuller looks like it's so far so good for the highly touted freshman. He's already worked his way up the depth chart and practiced with the 2's yesterday. Unlike Shortell's situation, it makes all the sense in the world NOT to redshirt Olson, even if he doesn't start right away. He's not the most experienced interior o-linemen in Maroon and Gold right now, but I'd bet he might be the most talented. He might start the year as a backup but I wouldn't be surprised to see him starting by the end of the year. And even if he doesn't, with both guys ahead of him in seniors Chris Bunders and Ryan Orton graduating in the spring, the experience this season will give him the inside track to a starting job next year.
Other than Tommy, it's been status quo on the starting line with Ed Olson and Jimmy Gjere at tackle, Bunders and Orton at guard, and Ryan Wynn at center. I see that as nothing but good news, and hopefully a positive sign of a solid offensive line for 2011.
Per GN's practice notes from Day 2, no real surprises here. D.L. Wilhite and Matt Garin at end, with seniors Brandon Kirksey and Anthony Jacobs starting at tackle. Former Washburn star Ra'Shede Hageman will be in the rotation, and I'll be interested to see if he can get some increased playing time.
The only surprise about the outside linebackers from the first week is that Keanon Cooper is apparently the fastest player on the team. And yes, he plays linebacker, and not defensive back. On the inside, Gary Tinsley seems to have gotten his starting job back in the middle from transfer Brendan Beal, but both should play a lot, and at times even at the same time. Not a bad problem to have.
We knew Troy Stoudermire had one corner spot locked up, and thus far it looks like Brock Vereen will be starting opposite him with Michael Carter and Kyle Henderson the backups. It's at least a clear-cut two deep, and hopefully the competition within the group makes everybody better (especially Michael Carter. Come back to us, freshman Michael Carter. Please!).
I thought GN's comments about the safety spots very interesting:
There are two groups of starting safeties and it still isn't clear which one will start. The Minnesota combo of Shady Salamon and Kim Royston seem to have a slight edge over James Manuel and Christyn Lewis. Royston made some nice plays and Salamon was filling rushing lanes nicely during some 9-on-9 running drills.
If Royston were 100% healthy he should be the clear answer at FS, and I still think he gets the benefit of the doubt to start the year. His leadership and experience are invaluable for a secondary that is lacking in that area, so unless he's clearly behind the other three guys, I still think he starts at FS. I was surprised to see Shady Salamon's name in the mix here. The former Cretin Derham Hall star was moved over to defensive back a few springs ago after not working out at RB. I hadn't heard much about him in the spring, yet here he is on the two deep as camp starts. Good for him for working his way up the depth chart.