Football team opens new season without All-American Carter’s face

It was a strange sight at the opening of spring football practice Friday afternoon at the Bierman practice fields.
No Tyrone Carter.
The safety and all-time leading tackler in NCAA history was nowhere to be found. When the Gophers suit up for their first game in early September, Carter might be playing in the NFL.
It’s a loss coach Glen Mason is very concerned about, not just because of Carter’s presence on the field, but his presence on the team.
“That’s more than just losing a strong safety on defense,” Mason said. “I really think he was the heart and soul of our football team.”
Last season the Carter-led Gophers went to a bowl game for the first time since 1986. But one postseason trip every 13 years won’t cut it for Mason or his players.
“As far as I’m concerned, the pressure is on,” Mason said. “We went from a loser to a winner. Now, can we be a consistent winner? A lot of guys will tell you it’s a lot easier getting there than staying there.”
Senior defensive end Karon Riley said Minnesota built a standard last year by going to a bowl game, and the Gophers want to stay there despite losing an All-American in Carter.
“He built a good foundation for us,” Riley said. “Then he leaves, and we still have a strong house. We better continue to do what we have to do.”
But if the Gophers are to continue their rise in the Big Ten, they’ll have to do it with fresh faces at key positions.
Besides Carter, Mason has the job of finding replacements at running back and quarterback too.
It seems redshirt freshman Thomas Tapeh will get the nod to carry the ball for Minnesota. Mason said he continues to be impressed with the back, who sat out last year because of academics but will be ready to play this season.
Mason also mentioned four possible candidates that can step in for the departed Billy Cockerham at QB. It seems likely it will come down to redshirt freshman Asad Abdul-Khaliq or junior transfer Travis Cole to fill the void.
But Mason said he doesn’t have a clear-cut favorite yet, and the future QB will have to earn the job.
“There is no decision that has been made. We’re going to play the best quarterback,” Mason said. “I don’t care where they’re from or what their name is. If I think we have a better chance to win with a particular individual, that is who we’re going to go with.”

Mason contract talk
Mason was asked about his contract and a possible extension, but it appears he’s in no hurry to sign a new one.
“Remember? I wasn’t the one who brought up this whole idea of a new contract,” Mason said. “That’s not my style.
“I’m very happy here. We’ve made a lot of progress, but we still have a long way to go.”
Mason still has four years remaining on his original contract.

Spring game
All the proceeds from the April 15 spring game will go to the Children’s Cancer Research Fund, an organization supported by Mason and his wife, Kate.
The game kicks off at 10 a.m. at the Metrodome. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door.

John R. Carter welcomes comments at [email protected]