For the first time this spring, the Minnesota football team practiced outdoors at the Gibson-Nagurski Football Complex during Tuesday’s practice.
Although heavy winds blew in the afternoon, it did not disrupt the Gophers from having a practice with consistent intensity, toughness, execution and tempo, said head coach Tim Brewster.
The wind might have affected Minnesota’s quarterbacks in their throwing, but Brewster said he was happy with their performance and the competition taking place every day.
It’s freshman quarterback Adam Weber’s job to lose, but close behind are junior-college transfer David Pittman, freshman Clint Brewster and senior Tony Mortensen.
“I think all of those guys are doing a really nice job together,” Brewster said of the quarterbacks. “I really like the depth that we have there.”
Coach Brewster continues to rave about Pittman’s intelligence on and off the field, saying his maturity and knowledge of the game will help him learn the multiple positions, including quarterback, wide receiver, defensive back and punt returner.
“He’s a very savvy athlete,” Brewster said of the 5-foot-11 Pittman. “In the spring game people can expect to see him at a number of different positions on both offense and defense.”
Weber continues to impress his coaches and teammates with intense offseason workouts, muscle growth, continued willingness to learn and newfound leadership abilities.
The Gophers held a scrimmage last Friday in which Weber worked well with the first team, but also got an opportunity to watch his competition in action.
“There’s a reason that they are here, they’re all good enough,” Weber said. “It’s coming around for them and it’s coming around for everybody. It was nice to see them get out there and play.”
Behind the quarterbacks lie a number of question marks and another spirited competition with the running backs.
Like Weber, freshman running back Duane Bennett starts spring practice with the job in his hands, but Brewster said he has also been impressed with sophomores Damola Ogundipe and R.J. Buckner.
“We’ve challenged Duane to be a more physical runner and to get his pads down,” Brewster said. “We are a little thin at the position right now, so we are anticipating the three freshmen coming in this summer to compete for playing time as well.”
The freshman Brewster referenced are Cretin-Derham Hall star Shady Salamon, Kevin Whaley from Virginia and DeLeon Eskridge from California.
Weber said he has been impressed with the adjustments the running backs have made to improve from last season, like hitting the hole harder and running lower to the ground, but also said injuries could be a problem with the lack of depth.
“It’s a tough situation, but they are doing a great job,” Weber said of the running backs. “We are going to expect a lot out of them and the offensive line next season.”
Another question mark lies with sophomore running back Jay Thomas, who ended last season with his second career ACL tear and now tries to recover in time for next fall.
Thomas’ speed and experience at the position would help Minnesota next season, but the Gophers are taking it slow with his recovery.
“Jay has tremendous persistence and he is a tough guy, so I don’t question his ability to come back,” Brewster said. “I think he’ll be back in the fall and ready to help us.”