Mason outlines season plan

Minnesota’s spring football practice began Thursday – with a question at QB.

by Adam Fink

Minnesota football coach Glen Mason was quick to state how happy he was with last year’s 10-win season Thursday afternoon.

But as spring practice began, the many new objectives Mason laid out showed he isn’t quite thrilled.

After back-to-back bowl wins, Mason laid out a bold and detailed plan for the offense (improving the running game), defense (utilizing team speed) and kicking game (having consistency) prior to the Gophers’ first practice of the spring.

“We want to make sure we get the best players on the field,” said Mason, who completed his seventh season at Minnesota when the Gophers beat Oregon 31-30 in the Sun Bowl on Dec. 31. “We want to figure out what is working and what isn’t working.”

Arguably the biggest personnel decision Mason will have to make is who will be his starting quarterback. After losing starter Asad Abdul-Khaliq and backup Benji Kamrath to graduation, the Gophers’ most inexperienced position is also one of the most important positions on the field.

Sophomore Bryan Cupito heads the list of three players looking to fill Abdul-Khaliq’s shoes. Junior college transfer Adam Ernst and freshman John Carlson are also expected to vie for the top spot.

Mason still has yet to watch Ernst in a game, and he said he wouldn’t make the decision hastily.

“There will be no knee jerk evaluation or decision,” Mason said. “The bad news is there

isn’t a lot of experience (from the three). The good news is they have an awful good supporting cast.”

With four of its starters returning on the offensive line, Mason wants the team to improve its running game, a tough task considering it finished as the third best attack in the nation last year.

“You are either getting better or getting worse, and I think the only way we want to go is up,” tackle Rian Melander said.

On defense, Mason said the Gophers’ speed is unparalleled by any of his recent teams and he hopes it will lead to more pressure on the opposing quarterback and increased turnovers.

Last year Minnesota only forced 15 turnovers.

“Somehow, some way, we’ve got to get more turnovers,” Mason said.

The most notable change on defense is Darrell Reid’s switch from tackle to end.

“I think it allows me the opportunity to make a lot more plays,” said Reid, an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection by the media last year.

Nearly three weeks of spring practice culminate with the spring game on April 17 at the Metrodome.