Weber still with much work to do

Gophers vs Purdue

Gophers win make it 7-1 season

Ashley Goetz

Gophers vs Purdue Gophers win make it 7-1 season

Adam Weber didnâÄôt exactly steal the show in the spring game. Slower than usual, he was confined mostly to the pocket and finished the game a respectable 9-for-12 for 77 yards, but it was against one of the worst pass defenses in the country last season. Spring game statistics arenâÄôt a measure of much of anything, but Weber has a ways to go and he knows it. After all, he wore the red âÄúdo not hit me under any circumstancesâÄù jersey for a reason âÄî the junior-to-be underwent shoulder surgery in the offseason and couldnâÄôt work out most of the winter. Before that, Weber had quick and unannounced arthroscopic knee surgery three days before playing. âÄúShoulderâÄôs really, really good,âÄù Weber said. âÄúThe focus in May time is getting back into the weight room and getting my body back in shape. I havenâÄôt done much in the weight room or running, so itâÄôs been a struggle this spring staying in shape and catching my breath.âÄù Weber said he will be able to start lifting at 100 percent in the next few weeks. Shining at quarterback was MarQueis Gray, who had to sit out last season due to academic issues. Gray came to the Gophers as the highest rated recruit in the 2008 class and took the first reps with the Gophers offense at the spring game Saturday. Gray finished 8-for-10 for 141 yards and two touchdowns in the game, leaving head coach Tim Brewster and his teammates impressed. While Weber will be the clear starter, Brewster said, the team will have a package of plays drawn up for Gray every game. One possible option came to light Saturday, when new offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch called a pitch-back and Weber threw unsuccessfully to Gray in the end zone. Gray also showed himself as more than a running threat, going deep a few times and hitting Brodrick Smith on a 59-yard pass near the end of the scrimmage. âÄúI think he made tremendous strides this spring,âÄù Brewster said. âÄúThe game isnâÄôt too big for MarQueis, and those are the type of players you want on your team, that embrace the challenge. HeâÄôs got a big arm, and as he grows at that position, heâÄôs got a chance to do some things.âÄù Missing Decker Of course, both quarterbacks shared one major disadvantage: they didnâÄôt have their No. 1 receiver to throw to. Eric Decker, who will be a senior next season, is playing his second-straight season with the baseball team, and sitting out spring practice. âÄúEric isnâÄôt here, so we have a mindset every day that if EricâÄôs not here, weâÄôre all fighting for the starting position,âÄù Smith said. He said last season that missing the spring practices set him back in terms of learning the offense, which will be a problem again this season with another new offensive coordinator, but Brewster has long stood behind him on the baseball topic. Decker has said publicly that he will eventually have to make a choice between football and baseball, and that he hasnâÄôt decided yet. The Milwaukee Brewers drafted him in the 39th round last season, but with another solid season, could go higher this year. Two former Gophers sign NFL contracts No Gophers were picked in the weekendâÄôs NFL draft, but two have signed contracts since, and will have a chance to make the team out of training camp. Defensive end and 2008 captain Willie VanDeSteeg signed a free agent contract with the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night, and tight end Jack Simmons signed with the New York Jets . VanDeSteeg, a native of Silver Lake, Minn., went undrafted in this weekendâÄôs NFL draft despite being named first-team All-Big Ten by the media this season and finishing his career as the teamâÄôs record-holder for tackles for losses, with 43.5. Simmons caught 36 passes for 331 yards and two touchdowns for the Gophers this season. Ellestad impresses With graduated field-goal kicker and kickoff specialist Joel Monroe watching from the sidelines, Eric Ellestad finally got his chance. The redshirt junior, who had never appeared in a game before, caught some gasps early in the scrimmage when he hit a 47-yard field goal with plenty of room to spare and with little wind in the first quarter. He later hit a 21-yarder along with handling kickoffs, where he saved a touchdown by tackling returner Troy Stoudermire past midfield. âÄúIâÄôm really happy for him today,âÄù Brewster said. âÄúHe did a great job on field goals, and he wasnâÄôt as deep on the kickoffs as I wouldâÄôve liked, but he had good hang time. All spring long heâÄôs done a nice job.âÄù Notes – Student tickets for the new stadium went on sale Saturday morning, and by the time of the spring gameâÄôs 1:30 p.m. kickoff, more than 6,000 of the 8,000 tickets available to all students had been sold. 2,000 tickets were reserved for incoming freshmen, graduate students and transfer students. -Redshirt freshman Kevin Whaley took the most carries in the game, going 63 yards on 12 carries. Brewster said the biggest emphasis this spring had been running the ball, and Whaley could be a factor. Incumbent running back DeLeon Eskridge rushed seven times for 35 yards. – The spring game was the last of 15 spring practices allowed by the NCAA. The Gophers play their first game Sept. 5 at Syracuse, and their first home game at TCF Bank Stadium on Sept. 12 against Air Force.