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Gophers football discusses offseason developments and role model culture

Minnesota football hosted their annual media days on Wednesday where athletes spoke on the upcoming season and ways mentors helped throughout their careers.
Image by Photo by Alex Karwowski
The Gophers are prepping for their first home game, and first game of the season, on Aug. 31.

The Gophers football season is quickly approaching with the first kickoff scheduled for Aug. 31 at Huntington Bank Stadium.

With athletes stepping into leadership roles, others returning to the field from injury and the focus on a detail-oriented defense, Gopher fans have a lot to look forward to in the fall. In preparation for the season, athletes met with the media at the annual media days to discuss what to expect for the season.

Last season, quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis started five of the 11 games for the Gophers and compiled a 3-2 record as a starter. 

Despite the success Kaliakmanis had for the Gophers, he said he wants to improve on “becoming a better teammate, a better football player and a better person.”

The native out of Antioch, Illinois, suffered an injury when Minnesota took on Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl. Throughout his recovery, he said he has looked up to the late Kobe Bryant. 

“No matter what you go through in life, you always get back up no matter what’s going on,” Kaliakmanis said in a press conference. “Kobe Bryant always did that.”

Kaliakmanis is set to compete with Cole Kramer for the starting quarterback position in fall camp.

Kramer competed in eight games last season and completed five passes. He said he felt the most confident in the quarterback position from the first spring practice to the spring game

“I’d say just the whole mental side of things,” Kramer in a press conference said on what clicked for him. “I’m making decisions a little bit quicker, being more decisive.”

Among the returning talent for the Gophers is wide receiver Chris Autman-Bell who suffered a lower leg injury against Colorado, preventing him from seeing the field for the remainder of the season.

As far as Autman-Bell playing next year, he said he is “not clear yet” but is quickly reaching the point where he will be ready.

“Finding that trust within myself and getting smoother again,” Autman-Bell said in a press conference on his final steps in recovery. “It’s definitely the goal to play against Nebraska.”

With the added help in the backfield, the Gophers have been focusing on the finer details of the game, especially on defense.

Defensive Linemen Danny Striggow said Defensive Coordinator Joe Rossi emphasizes details through his coaching technique.

“That’s the number one thing in our defense,” Striggow said in a press conference. “As long as you do the little things right –– the details right –– you’re more likely to have success.”

Defensive Back Tyler Nubin said the team must understand the playbook before fall camp begins so the defense is not spending time re-teaching base concepts.

“We can talk about game plan stuff, adjustment stuff, things that are actually going to help us during the season,” Nubin said in a press conference. 

Making defensive adjustments for different teams in fall camp is critical because there is not much time to work out the kinks between regular season games.

“We try to really expedite that process and have us learn those things now so that when we do have to go in our toolbox and use those during the season, it’s just like memory,” Nubin said.

The veteran Gophers’ commitment to details serves as an example to the younger athletes on the team who will one day take on leadership roles.

Redshirt senior Nathan Boe had his second career start as center against Syracuse this past season. He said he learned a lot about what it takes to be a center from former Gopher John Michael Schmitz through Minnesota’s strong mentorship culture.

“He wasn’t always the most vocal guy, but he always led with his presence,” Boe said about Michael Schmitz. “I’ve learned from him every single day for five years and he’s impacted me a ton.”

Linebacker Derik LeCaptain spoke heavily on the support from friends, family and teammates he receives.

“Playing Division I football is something that me and my dad had talked about since I was a little kid,” LeCaptain said. “Kind of just makes you really appreciate everything you have here.”

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