P.J. Fleck’s first Spring Game as head coach of the Minnesota Golden Gophers is in the books. What originally looked like it would be a rain soaked affair turned into a wonderful spring day in Minnesota. And a game that Fleck cautiously predicted would be broken up by drills (in order to give the extremely depleted offensive line breaks in the action) ended up being a pretty traditional scrimmage in most respects.
I myself have only been able to watch bits and pieces of the game (/waves at the DVR copy that awaits me). Rather than go full Off Tackle Empire and comment on a game I haven’t seen, I reached out to other members of the TDG staff who had watched the game in person or on BTN to answer a few simple questions.
Which players stood out the most to you and why?
IowaGopher: I was impressed with Demry Croft at quarterback, with the caveat that spring game success is not indicative of regular season success and I think he has lot of work to do this offseason before he'll be ready to lead the Gophers against Buffalo in the season opener. But I liked what I saw. He appears to have improved dramatically from the sophomore last season who was seemingly an afterthought as the previous staff prepared to move ahead with freshman Seth Green under center. Regardless of whether he was competing against the 1's or the 2's, he led two scoring drives early in the game and seemed to have the offense in a rhythm when he was on the field.
I also thought wide receiver Tyler Johnson had a good spring game. Rashad Still is probably the Gophers' best big play threat at wideout, but I think Johnson could easily lead the team in receptions next season. On defense, I continue to be a fan of Duke McGhee, and I think he can be a real force at strong safety if he can clean up his game and avoid being ejected for targeting.
Ustreet: Rashad Still. If Spring games are anything to go by, and they are usually not, Still is going to get a lot of balls thrown his way next season.
gopherguy05: Croft looked decent. Enough that at least a few questions maybe can be put to bed. Femi-Cole pulled a James Johannson and looked great, but will have no real impact on the field. Coughlin will be a stud at that rush end spot...just wait and see.
What did you like best about what you saw?
IowaGopher: How could you not be impressed with the offensive line? Those five offensive lineman were on the field for about an hour and a half with short breaks in between drives, and they held up pretty well, in my opinion. Of course, there were issues -- a couple bad snaps from Conner Olson come to mind, and there was a period where Carter Coughlin and Tai'yon Devers were able to get to the quarterback a bit too quickly -- but for a group missing three starters and lacking a single back-up, I'm suddenly less concerned about this group, especially knowing what they have coming back for the fall. And the fact that the running game was able to churn out yards and a few big plays, even with Kobe McCrary and Jonathan Femi-Cole carrying the load, was a positive sign.
Ustreet: No one was injured.
gopherguy05: The development of the wr. Still and Tyler Johnson can step up and have big impacts. They still looked good, but we know Rodney Smith and emit carpenter will be at the top of their big ten position groups once again
Did the scrimmage raise any new concerns for you?
IowaGopher: The lack of depth in the defensive backfield continues to scare me. I think the Gophers have a strong starting five -- with Antoine Winfield, Jr. at nickel and Jacob Huff at safety -- but the lack of bodies to back them up is a huge concern. I believe the second-string defensive backs for the spring game were Huff at safety, redshirt sophomore transfer Troy Dipre at the other safety spot, senior Kunle Ayinde at cornerback, and redshirt freshman walk-on Brady Wieland at the other cornerback spot. Yikes. Let's hope the incoming freshman class is ready to contribute.
Ustreet: No new concerns. The Spring game showed that QB play is still going to be an issue and that having few healthy lineman is not a recipe for success.
gopherguy05: Depth depth depth ol, secondary, de...all will need true frosh to step in immediately and make impacts. That’s not really a new concern but one that was strongly reinforced.
Could you have done a better job fielding punts than those students?
NOTE: Not sure what we’re referring to here? Watch the following video...
Next time you're getting ready to yell at your TV when your favorite player muffs a punt, watch this instead: https://t.co/zPigO0t51F— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) April 15, 2017
IowaGopher: I'd like to think so, but I've been wrong before.
Ustreet: Yes. Among other things, I wouldn't have worn overalls to field a punt.
gopherguy05: Let's be honest here. Nope.
GoAUpher’s quick thoughts (given what he’s watched)
- Dave Lee is a loyal and true Gopher fan. But yesterday’s broadcast was a painful reminder of why anyone who listens to Gopher Football on the radio is thankful beyond measure that he’s no longer the play by play man for the Gophers. On the game’s very first play, he thought Demry Croft was Tanner Morgan. This is all kinds of wrong given that: A) Croft is #11 and Morgan is #13, B) at no point had Morgan been anywhere near the #1 QB, and C) a rather obvious physical trait that differs between the two players.
- I’m there for you students who missed the punts. I’d have missed the punts too, though hopefully viewers would have been too dazzled by the Zubaz I was wearing to notice.