Familiar faces, and especially Cooper, stand out in first full-contact practice

The Gophers practiced without pads last week but geared up fully on Tuesday. Running back Duane Bennett broke a 70-yard touchdown run.

by Josh Katzenstein

Keanon Cooper weighs about 170 pounds less than Johnathan Ragoo, so when the two lined up across from each other to see who could push the other one further off the line, some people at Gophers spring football practice scratched their heads.

Even though Cooper, a 219-pound linebacker, said he wanted to match up with the biggest guy on the team, surely he wouldnâÄôt move a 391-pound offensive lineman.

The whistle blew, and Cooper needed about 1 second to put Ragoo on his back, sparking lots of roars from the Minnesota players, who were glad to practice in full pads for the first time Tuesday.

âÄúThereâÄôs a winner and loser on every play, and Coop definitely won that one,âÄù head coach Jerry Kill said, remembering the dayâÄôs first drill.

The defense played pretty well after Cooper set the early tone. Sixth-year senior Kim Royston had an interception, and Brock Vereen wrestled a pass from the grasp of wideout GeâÄôShun Harris. Linebacker Brendan Beal, a Florida transfer, tackled freshman running back Lamonte Edwards without even lifting his feet.

Still, Kill thinks both sides of the ball are fairly even and have plenty of improvements to make during the remaining spring practices.

âÄúWeâÄôve got a lot of people making a lot of mistakes, but theyâÄôve gotten a lot thrown at them over the last couple days,âÄù he said.

Senior running back Duane Bennett was a bright spot for the offense Tuesday, busting a short pass play for a 70-yard touchdown. He also showed lateral quickness on a 25-yard rush to the right.

âÄúOnce guys put pads back on you see how everybody kind of flows, get you back in the groove,âÄù Bennett said. âÄúYou bring more physicality to the game and thatâÄôs what the gameâÄôs about.âÄù

Kill hopes to have the Gophers playing outside for practice Thursday as he keeps learning more about the team.

Carter practices for first time

After spending the first three practices in a brown jersey that said, âÄúI let my teammates down,âÄù defensive back Michael Carter joined the team for full practice.

While in the âÄúMinnesota LophersâÄù jersey, Carter had to perform intense individual strength drills, a task only made worse with practices being open to the public.

âÄúIt betters you. It makes you a better man that way,âÄù Carter said of the discipline, received for undisclosed reasons. âÄúIf IâÄôm the example, cool. LetâÄôs get it. LetâÄôs go. LetâÄôs practice.âÄù

Carter played on the third team defense in 11-on-11 drills, but he had one moment that stood out. Freshman receiver Marcus Jones caught a screen pass, only to be instantly dropped by Carter.

âÄúIt felt great,âÄù he said of the hit. âÄúIt felt like I was part of the team.âÄù

Injury update

Linebacker Gary Tinsley wore an orange no-contact jersey for TuesdayâÄôs practice. Kill said he turned an ankle but didnâÄôt make the injury sound serious.

Safety Kim Royston practiced again Tuesday, continuing his trend of playing and resting to fully recover from a broken leg suffered last year during spring practice. Kill said the trainers want him to avoid live contact, but he was running freely during practice.