Spring Practice Notes: Gophers see coaching changes

by Jack Satzinger

Minnesota's defense has improved dramatically in Tracy Claeys' three full seasons as defensive coordinator. When multiple head coaching opportunities arose at season's end, Claeys opted to stay in Minneapolis. 

"It really wasn't that hard," he said of turning down other jobs. "There's nothing there that even peaked my interest."

Claeys stepped in as acting head coach when Jerry Kill took a leave of absence last season. Considering everything the Gophers went through over the course of the year, the 2013 campaign was pretty remarkable.

"For people to go into last season and say we'd win maybe one Big Ten game, and really most of them picked us not to win any, and to have the type of season we did with the situations that went on — I really thought that the staff and the kids handled it very well," Claeys said.  

While it was somewhat of a breakthrough year for Minnesota, there are a few things Claeys would change. He said he should have come down to the field to coach at Michigan — the first full game Kill missed last season. Claeys also said the Gophers' effort in the bowl game left more to be desired. 

"I thought we participated in the game, but we didn't compete as well as we should have competed. It was hard to get over that," he said.

Coaching changes

While Claeys doesn't appear to be going anywhere, Minnesota's position coaches have seen a shake-up. Last month, linebackers coach Bill Miller left the Gophers for Florida State. Defensive graduate assistant Mike Sherels has filled the void.

Gophers linebacker De'Vondre Campbell said it was tough to see Miller leave at first, but he understands the move.

"I realize he's doing it for his family," Campbell said. "I'm a family man and I understand."

Brian Anderson and Pat Poore have flipped duties. Anderson, who has been the running backs coach, will now work with the receivers. Poore was previously coaching receivers, but will now be in charge of Minnesota's stacked running backs unit.

Learning from the best

Claeys said the Gophers' coaching staff will travel to Alabama in the coming months to watch Auburn practice. Auburn lost to Florida State in the 2013 BCS National Championship Game and won it in 2011. In addition, the Gophers have spent a lot of time breaking down film of the Seattle Seahawks, who play the same 4-3 defensive scheme as Minnesota. The Seahawks ranked first in the NFL in total defense last season.

"You better watch them, the way they dominated the Super Bowl," Kill said.