Freshmen get first lesson from Mason and company

All University freshmen arriving on campus the summer prior to their first semester are required to attend a two-day orientation session.
But if you’re a football player, you’ll have to attend two such sessions. The first is under the direction of your new college. The second is under the direction of coach Glen Mason.
The newest Gophers had their first official practice on Tuesday at the newly refurbished Gibson/Nagurski practice fields.
While Mason doesn’t expect any rookies to make an immediate difference this season, he was pleased with the first-day efforts of his newest recruiting class.
“We have a young bunch of guys out here. They’re eager, they don’t know what they’re doing, but we’ll bring them up to speed pretty quickly,” Mason said jokingly.
One of those freshmen Mason had a close eye on is prize recruit Dominique Sims. Last year’s Minnesota high school player of the year, Sims will compete for playing time at free safety.
However, Mason said it’s “unfair” to put pressure on Sims with expectations to step on the field and play like a veteran.
“It’s impossible to judge how quickly he’ll adjust to this level,” Mason said. “He’ll adjust eventually. It might be this year; it might not be.
“If he can help us win this year, then we’re going to play him.”
After another practice on Wednesday, the freshmen will have two days off before returning to the field with the veteran players on Saturday.
“These young men are literally a couple hours out of high school,” Mason said. “They are taking a major step in college football. If they think it was rough today, they have the shock of their life (coming Saturday).”
Tapeh still ailing
Mason said Thomas Tapeh, the redshirt running back expected to replace all-Big Ten selection Thomas Hamner, is still nursing an injured foot and is likely to miss the first couple of games.
The injury has already kept Tapeh from participating in April’s intrasquad game.
“His recovery is right on track,” Mason said. “Our plan of action for Thomas is to try and get him ready to go by mid-September.
“I don’t want to go full-speed with Thomas until he’s 100 percent healthy.

Gophers receive votes
Seven Big Ten teams made their way into the preseason AP football poll. The Gophers, however, aren’t one of them.
Minnesota received five votes, but it was not nearly enough to earn a spot in the top 25.
“We’re not there,” Mason said. “It’s a tough league. You can’t have all top 25 teams in just from the Big Ten. But there isn’t much difference when you start talking about teams five through 11 in this league.”
Wisconsin is the highest-ranked conference team. The Badgers, last year’s Rose Bowl champions, own the No. 4 spot and received the only first-place vote of any Big Ten team.
Michigan, picked by media members to win the conference championship, is ranked sixth.
Heisman candidate Drew Brees and Purdue come in at No. 14, with Ohio State (16), Illinois (21), Penn State (22) and Michigan State (25) rounding out the Big Ten’s representatives in the poll.
The Gophers take on five of these conference foes during the season.
John R. Carter is the sports editor and welcomes comments at [email protected].