Newcomers show

Murali Balaji

Gophers defensive end Karon Riley had been waiting for this opportunity since his arrival at Minnesota one year ago.
The Gophers were expecting big things from Riley, as well, and the 6-foot-4, 248-pound junior didn’t disappoint. Riley finished Saturday’s intrasquad spring game with two sacks and an interception, and was the consistent, disruptive force the coaching staff expected when he transferred from Southern Methodist prior to last year.
Because of NCAA transfer rules, Riley had to sit out the 1998 season and watch his defensive linemates put up relatively feeble numbers on the pass rush. After being tabbed as a pass rusher in the mold of former Minnesota All-America sack machine Lamanzer Williams, Riley admitted he was apprehensive prior to his debut.
“I was a little nervous, to be honest,” he said. “I just wanted to have a good practice and a good spring game and show the coaches what I could do.”
Gophers coach Glen Mason said he was hopeful that Riley could boost the team’s pass rush immediately, considering the defense had to blitz constantly last year in order to generate pressure.
“Karon Riley has been a disciplined player throughout spring practice,” Mason said. “He’s deceptively big, and he’s really fast coming off the corner. I think you saw just a glimpse of what he could do for us.”
Riley’s biggest asset is his phenomenal speed and acceleration at the point of attack. He said he was timed at 4.55 in the 40-yard dash, which is almost unheard of for a defensive lineman.
“I kind of compare myself to Peter Boulware (a linebacker for the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens) or Simeon Rice (a defensive end for the Arizona Cardinals),” Riley said.
Riley’s interception and return of a Billy Cockerham pass was one of the highlights of the spring game. Riley caught a ball that bounced off wide receiver Ron Johnson’s chest and proceeded to race 40 yards down the sideline.
“I was dropped back because the offensive line was doubling up on me, so I got a read on the play,” Riley said. “When I got the ball, I just wanted to score the touchdown.”
Another player who turned some heads was freshman tailback Tellis Redmon, who saw the most carries of any of the running backs during the game.
In addtion to his running and pass-catching duties, Redmon was also in on four halfback-option throws, one of which was picked off by senior safety Tyrone Carter.
“I have the best arm of any of the other guys,” Redmon said. “If that’s what the coaches want me to do to get playing time, I’ll do it.”