Football notebook: Decker ready after missing spring practice

Trevor Born

After he finished third in the Big Ten in receiving yards per game and sixth in receptions per game last season, junior wide receiver Eric Decker is one player Gophers coach Tim Brewster has high hopes for.

2008 Media day notes

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“I think Eric Decker is going to be one of the better wide receivers in the country,” Brewster said after the team’s first practice Monday. “I’ve made that statement and I think it’s going to hold true, without question. He’s certainly going to be a focal point in our offense.”

Decker is by far the most experienced player in this year’s receiving core – sophomore Ralph Spry and junior Ben Kuznia are the only other receivers with game experience – and will likely be thrown to much more in Minnesota’s pass-heavy spread offense .

Decker spent the spring playing for the baseball team and missed all of spring practice , but worked out with the team during the summer and said he feels caught up .

“Coming in this summer, I really had to sit down and learn the whole system over again,” he said. “It’s pretty complex. Missing spring hurt me a little bit, but physically it was a nice break.”

Thin at corner

Minnesota coaches moved wide receiver Marcus Sherels to cornerback over the offseason because the team is thin at the position , Brewster said.

The defense gave up an average of 289.3 passing yards per game , which ranked 115th in the country, out of 119 teams .

Sherels, who is listed at the top of the team’s pre-camp depth chart , played cornerback in high school and has impressed coaches and teammates with how quickly he’s adapted to the new role.

“When I saw him play, it kind of looked natural to him,” linebacker Steve Davis said. “Usually when you see a wide receiver come play defense, you wonder if they can tackle and stuff, but he’s been making a lot of plays.”

Decision on Gray

Brewster said the coaching staff hasn’t made a decision on whether to redshirt freshman quarterback MarQueis Gray .

Gray, the top-ranked player to come out of Indiana and the third-best dual-threat quarterback in the country according to Rivals.com , would compete for a job with quarterbacks Adam Weber, Tony Mortensen and David Pittman .

Brewster said that “in a perfect world” he would like to redshirt Gray, but that injuries would play a big role in the decision.

Etc.

ï Running back Jay Thomas , who suffered two ACL injuries and missed the last half of the 2007 season , is “100 percent,” according to Brewster, and is listed behind Duane Bennett on the team’s depth chart .

ï True freshmen Tim McGee, Vincent Hill and Spencer Reeves were the only three incoming recruits who didn’t attend Monday’s practice , Brewster said.

ï The team’s first official activity Monday was a 6 a.m. running test.