Maciejowski and Mortensen battle for backup quarterback position

Mike Maciejowski ran the second-team offense at Saturday’s open scrimmage.

by David McCoy

Last year, when Minnesota’s football team held spring practices, there was a three-way competition for the starting quarterback job.

Bryan Cupito won it, and now that he’s going into his second full season as the Gophers’ starter, he can go through this spring’s workouts assured of his job.

But that doesn’t mean Minnesota’s quarterback battles are over.

With both of last year’s backup quarterbacks out of the picture, a pair of redshirt freshmen – Mike Maciejowski and Tony Mortensen – are vying for the job of backing up Cupito.

And so far, they think they’re doing pretty well.

“We both, I think, didn’t do as well during the season as we would have liked,” Maciejowski said. “And now with the spring, we’re more comfortable with all the players, and we feel like we’re progressing a lot, learning the offense, just getting a rhythm in the game.”

Maciejowski appears to be the front-runner after practicing with the second team at Saturday’s scrimmage.

He looked confident in the pocket Saturday and credited much of his increased development to confidence.

“At the beginning of the year, I would hesitate to tell one of the starters, ‘Hey, you’ve got to run this route,’ ” Maciejowski said. “But now, I’m just a lot more comfortable with everyone and I can say, ‘Hey, you got to do this,’ and tell them what to do.”

Maciejowski is 6 feet 3 inches tall and 210 pounds. Mortensen is also 6-foot-3 but a little lighter than Maciejowski, at 200 pounds.

The backup job is open because second-stringer Adam Ernst suffered a career-ending shoulder injury, and third-stringer John Carlson was moved to defensive back after a shoulder injury of his own.

Kick, punt job update

With last year’s kicker/punter Rhys Lloyd out of eligibility, Minnesota is looking to fill those two positions this spring as well.

The Gophers seem to have found their punter, as freshman Justin Kucek looked solid Saturday.

Kucek hit several punts of more than 50 yards and appears poised for the starting job.

“He punted well again,” coach Glen Mason said. “He’s really been punting well. He punted with the wind today, though.”

Meanwhile, Minnesota’s kicking game did not look so good.

Redshirt freshman Jason Giannini, who seems to be the favorite after taking most of the kicks Saturday, and the rest of the kickers struggled to hit a single field goal as they clanked a couple off the posts and missed several others wide.

Lockwood not happy

Minnesota’s defense looked much improved over last year, and did not allow a touchdown Saturday.

But defensive coordinator David Lockwood said Saturday was a low point compared with the other spring practices and scrimmages.

“Compared to all spring, our intensity level and enthusiasm today I don’t think was even close to where we’ve been in the other 10 practices,” Lockwood said.

Lockwood also said the defense is in need of a leader to rise up from the group.

“We’ve got some guys who are capable of being leaders but are still kind of quite unsure how to lead,” Lockwood said. “And, obviously, we’ve got to help them with that as coaches.”

Maroney still out

Gophers running back Laurence Maroney did not play in Saturday’s scrimmage, as Minnesota is still being extremely cautious about his banged-up knee.