Gopher sports talk foreign travel, next football season on road-trip

Athletic director Norwood Teague (left) talks to Gopher fan Ed Donaldson at an American Legion in Willmar, Minn. on May 20. Teague and other Gopher coaches are reaching out to fans in cities across Minnesota until June 4 for the Chalk Talk 2014.

Chelsea Gortmaker

Athletic director Norwood Teague (left) talks to Gopher fan Ed Donaldson at an American Legion in Willmar, Minn. on May 20. Teague and other Gopher coaches are reaching out to fans in cities across Minnesota until June 4 for the Chalk Talk 2014.

Ben Gotz

For the third year in a row, the University of Minnesota’s athletic department packed up for a trip across Minnesota.

Gopher Road Trip: Chalk Talk 2015 is halfway complete, with Athletic Director Norwood Teague and select Minnesota coaches making appearances in eight Minnesota towns over a two-week stretch.

The Minnesota Daily attended one of the trip’s events at Blueberry Pines Golf Course by Park Rapids Thursday, and picked up pieces of information from the assembled coaches.

Claeys bullish on Gophers as Big Ten contenders

Minnesota defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys represented the football program at the event, and he was not shy about his optimism for the upcoming season.

Claeys said he believes the 2015 team can be better than the 2014 squad that went 8-5 and went to the program’s first New Year’s Day bowl since 1962.

“Without a doubt, I think we’ll have our best football team coming back,” Claeys told the assembled crowd near the golf course. “You can’t always control injuries and things like that and close ball games but we’re going to be disappointed if we don’t have a better season.”

In his speech to the gathered fans, Claeys said the team has as much depth defensively as it has since Claeys and the rest of head coach Jerry Kill’s staff arrived at Minnesota. He said quarterback Mitch Leidner has improved and the wide receivers the team redshirted last season will help on offense.

“This season, we feel like we have our best opportunity to compete for the Big Ten championship,” Claeys said. “We’ll definitely be disappointed if going into the last week or two we’re not in it to win the Big Ten West and play in the championship game.”

Not only that, but Claeys said if the Gophers improve their facilities they should be annual contenders in the Big Ten.

“It’s the missing jewel,” Claeys said.

Basketball taking foreign trip

The Minnesota basketball team will spend 10 days in Spain this summer assistant coach Nate Pomeday said at Chalk Talk.

The team will play four games in Spain, allowing the members of their seven man recruiting class to gain experience playing together before the season starts.

The trip also means the team is allowed to hold a few more practices than typically allowed in the offseason by the NCAA, according to Pomeday.

“This is a good year for it,” Pomeday said. “We have seven new guys, it’s nice to get some games under your belt before we start.”

Reilly leaving, but destination still unknown
 

Men’s hockey associate head coach Mike Guentzel confirmed to the Minnesota Daily at Chalk Talk that All-American defenseman Mike Reilly will de-enroll from classes at the University of Minnesota and sign a professional contract.

Reilly, a 2015 Hobey Baker award finalist, was drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets 98th overall in the 2011 NHL Draft and has until June 15th to sign with Columbus or he becomes a free agent.

Reilly recently finished competing with the U.S. national team at the 2015 International Ice Hockey Federation Men’s World Championship in Prague and is currently in China studying abroad with his brothers Connor and Ryan.

Guentzel said Reilly will make a decision on where to sign when he returns from China later next week. Guentzel said Reilly is hoping to sign with an organization that fits his style of play, and from talking to Reilly Columbus is still in the mix.

Other Notes

Current Twins closer and Minnesota alumni Glen Perkins gave the baseball program “a very nice gift” to start building an indoor hitting and pitching building, head coach John Anderson said.

– The men’s basketball schedule is almost complete. Pomeday said the Gophers are trying to schedule one or two more high-major opponents.

– Pomeday told the crowd the Gophers are trying to schedule a home-and-home series in 2016-17 and 2017-18 with “a basketball program within [head coach Richard Pitino’s] family.”