Mason announces personnel changes

The backup and third-string quarterbacks will not be the same for spring practice.

by Matt Anderson

After losing out on the three-way quarterback derby last spring, both of the runners-up have had their offensive careers put down heading into this season’s spring practice.

Minnesota football coach Glen Mason announced at Tuesday’s spring practice opening press conference that senior Adam Ernst, last year’s backup quarterback, will not play this season after undergoing shoulder surgery during the offseason.

Mason also announced several position changes, including last year’s third-string quarterback John Carlson to defensive back after having a shoulder surgery of his own in the offseason.

The backup quarterback job is now up for grabs.

“It’s hard to play quarterback,” Mason said. “It’s impossible to play if you can’t throw the ball with a shoulder injury to the right shoulder.”

Carlson will be joined in the defensive backfield by Brandon Owens, who will return to the position after playing linebacker last season.

Amir Pinnix was shifted back to running back after he was moved to defensive back before December’s Music City Bowl. Mason said Pinnix would have returned to the offensive side of the ball even if Marion Barber III had not forgone his final year of eligibility and declared for the 2005 NFL Draft in January.

With Barber gone from the backfield, Mason said Pinnix and Gary Russell will become part of the running back mix.

“We’re not going into any game thinking our running back position is only going to carry the ball 15 times,” Mason said. “We’re going to run the ball more than that.”

Spring practice concludes with the Spring Game on April 16 at the Metrodome.

Schedules settled

Minnesota filled its open spot on this year’s schedule, reaching a three-game agreement with Florida Atlantic that starts this year. The Gophers play host to the Owls on Sept. 17 and play them again in 2007 and 2008.

To accommodate the Florida Atlantic game, Minnesota moved its Sept. 17 home game against Colorado State to Sept. 10.

The Gophers’ 2007 and 2008 Big Ten schedules were also announced Tuesday. Northwestern and Illinois will return to the conference schedule. Penn State and Michigan State will rotate off.