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Minnesota Football: Spring Practice Notes and Schedule Reminder

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Both local papers recently caught up with head coach Tracy Claeys. Here are the highlights.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Tuesday marks the return of Minnesota Football to our lives as the Gophers will hold their first Spring practice. If you're like me, you could use a little more football in your life right now. News from the team has been pretty limited since National Signing Day passed, but both Joe Christensen and Andy Greder set forth to change that fact in posts about recent comments from Gophers head coach Tracy Claeys. You should read both Andy's story from the PiPress and Joe's blog post at the STrib in full, but in the meantime here are some of the highlights.

Tracy Claeys has comments that should cheer up the minions

Let me be clear, the header of this section is a joke. Tracy Claeys views Mitch Leidner as the unquestioned starter. He did however have some nice things to say about new Gopher Seth Green. As a result, expect Mitch haters and fans of QBGAZE moments to highlight this quote any time Mitch struggles in fall camp. On

Seth [Green], for his athleticism and that, he’s really stuck out. I didn’t realize, he just turned 18 here a week or so ago [Feb. 14]. He’s a good looking kid. I was telling him how crazy it is, you leave home at 17 years old to go to college. It’s a weird deal. He’s done awfully well with that part of stuff.

Other offensive team members received praise

Claeys also singled out tackle Nick Connelly of Red Wing, and former junior college offensive linemen Garrison Wright and Vincent Calhoun, for praise. "The two junior college O-lineman are going to help us out," he said. "There is no question on that up front."

You might be wondering "whither are the talented young running backs in this discussion?"

Shannon Brooks has continued to get better. He’s really done well at the running back spot and you know, those two kids we redshirted -- I’m excited to see them go in the spring: Femi [Jonathan Femi-Cole] and James [Johannesson]. Those two kids have done good. That’s a positive.

Defensive thoughts

The former Minnesota DC also shared thoughts about the other side of the ball.

Defensively, Merrick [Jackson], the junior college kid that we brought in, has had a good offseason. Gary Moore is a lot better player before he redshirted. Still growing and all that. He’s a big, strong dude, so that is helpful. Defensive line, of the ones returning, Andrew Stelter has had probably the best offseason workout of the guys up front. He’s up to 295 pounds and hasn’t lost anything. He has made himself a better football player, so that is a good deal. Scott [Ekpe] is finally completely back form his ACL and has done really good. He’s about three bills too. We are getting bigger in there.

Claeys loves him some linebackers right now.

Linebacker, this is by far, since we’ve been here, is the most depth, all of those kids. I can’t dog on any of them. They've competed hard with Jack [Lynn] coming back, and that will be fun to watch, the competition and that. Then it'll be up to us to find ways to get some of those guys on the field like we did against Central [Michigan] a little bit because all of those guys can run and hit.

What about Mitch's foot?

Andy also had some updates on Mitch Leidner's recovery from foot surgery.

Quarterback Mitch Leidner, who had surgery to repair his left foot after the Gophers’ 21-14 win over Central Michigan in the Quick Lane Bowl, will be limited in spring drills.

"It is not a priority," Claeys said, "and we are not going to take any chances on his foot."

Leidner could take some snaps in some 7-on-7 passing drills after students return from spring break on March 22. "That will be plenty," the coach said.

Three things about the "new" offense from Claeys

Here are three quotes that stood out to me when Claeys discussed what the offense would look like under new offensive coordinator Jay Johnson:

Even with a new offensive coordinator, he added, only about 25 percent of the playbook will be new.

I'm really interested to see how this plays out and what new types of plays we'll see. I'd also note that I doubt this means everything in the other 75% are the exact same plays, rather I'm guessing Claeys means they'll follow the same concepts. Or maybe he really means it. We'll see.

The Gophers will blur the lines between fullback and tight end to throw the defense off diagnosing its personnel groups.

I like watching fullbacks line up wide so this is pleasing to me.

Claeys said he wants to spring the new offensive schemes of coordinator Jay Johnson starting with the season opener Sept. 1 against Oregon State, and when Big Ten play opens Oct. 1 at Penn State.

Way to entice me with "new wrinkles" as I make my decision about going to Penn State coach!

Spring practice schedule

Here's the full schedule for the upcoming Spring practices. Those marked in bold are open to the public. As always, times/locations can change.

March 1 -- Practice 1 (Closed to the public and media)

March 3 -- Practice 2 (Closed to the public and media)

March 5 -- Practice 3 (Closed to the public and media) March 8 -- Practice 4 (Closed to the public and media)

March 10 -- Practice 5, Gibson-Nagurski Football Complex (Open to the public and media)

March 22 -- Practice 6 (Closed to the public and media)

March 24 -- Practice 7, Gibson-Nagurski Football Complex (Open to the public and media)

March 26 -- Practice 8, Gibson-Nagurski Football Complex (Open to the public and media)

March 29 -- Practice 9 (Closed to the public and media)

March 31 -- Practice 10, Gibson-Nagurski Football Complex (Open to the public and media)

April 2 -- Practice 11, Gibson-Nagurski Football Complex (Open to the public and media)

April 5 -- Practice 12 (Closed to the public and media)

April 7 -- Practice 13, Gibson-Nagurski Football Complex (Open to the public and media)

April 8 -- Practice 14 (Closed to the public and media)

April 9 -- Spring Game, TCF Bank Stadium