August 2011 Archives



"We're just ready to get out there and see what we're made of... For us to go in [to USC] this year and knock the head off the snake is going to be so good."

Senior Brandon Kirksey's words pretty much sum up what the entire Gopher roster is thinking right now -- we all know that "Saturday's Coming," but it needs to get here already! Only three days to go in our 10-day countdown, and the excitement is building among players, coaches and staff -- they're ready to stop talking and let their play on the field say it all.

Check back again tomorrow when we look at Day 2 in the countdown -- we'll hear from the who could have a bigger impact on Saturday's outcome than anyone else. Saturday's Coming!

Lots of Gopher Football on TV in Coming Days

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Fans excited for the Gopher Football season to begin should be able to get a huge fix in the days leading up to Saturday's season-opener at USC.

Gopher Football with Jerry Kill premieres at 5 p.m. CT on FSN today (Wednesday). The show will re-air again tonight at 10:30 p.m. CT on FSN. Gopher Football with Jerry Kill will air throughout the rest of the week, as well. Here's a look at times you can catch the coach's television show on FSN or BTN:

Wednesday, Aug. 31 - 5 p.m. CT (FSN), 10:30 p.m. CT (FSN)
Thursday, Sept. 1 - 7 a.m. CT (FSN), 11 a.m. CT (FSN)
Friday, Sept. 2 - 10:30 a.m. (BTN), 7 p.m. CT (FSN)

In addition to Gopher Football with Jerry Kill, all four Gopher Undercover episodes will be airing Friday on BTN from 11 a.m. through 1 p.m. That means Gopher Football will dominate the BTN from 10:30 .m. through 1 p.m. Friday.

Royston Like Another Coach On the Field

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Secondary coach Jay Sawvel has been with head coach Jerry Kill for 10 years. Sawvel's responsibility has been to coach the defensive backs for that entire decade. Kill trusts him, like he trusts all his assistant coaches.
  

But with the Gophers, Kill has an extra security blanket when it comes to the defensive backs - at least for this season anyway. Kill, Sawvel and defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys have been the beneficiaries of an NCAA decision to grant safety Kim Royston a sixth year of eligibility.

Kill has often mentioned that Royston will be one of the lynchpins of the defense. Due to his age and experience, the 50-year-old head coach has also joked that the 24-year-old Royston is "close to my age." But most helpful is Royston's maturity, experience and willingness to help his teammates.

"Kim, he's older, he's been in it for six years, he's had the ups and downs, all the things kids do as young people, he's already done and understands that," Kill said. "(He) is ... kind of like a coach, so to speak, on the field. We need him to stay healthy and we need him to play well. But there's no question that he's an important cog in what we do, certainly the back end."

It's interesting that Kill touts him as being like a coach on the field, because Royston has coach-speak down. The sixth-year senior sounded like he was channeling Kill as he met with the media following the head coach's press conference Tuesday afternoon.

"I'm not going to put any numbers to it, wins and losses," Royston said when asked about expectations for this year's team. "But I think we expect to play hard, play physical and play to win every game. If we do that, the rest will take care of itself."

Claeys hopes what Royston brings to the table will rub off on his teammates, not only this season but in the future.

"Kim has done a great job of getting them on the straight and narrow," Claeys said. "That position takes a lot of experience, because they're the quarterbacks back there. They've got to get everybody lined up and make sure they communicate. His age and maturity is a huge plus. Hopefully the other kids will learn from him, so when he's done playing they can continue those same things."

Kill told me recently that he may not name captains until the end of the season, saying he just didn't know enough about the team and the individuals on the team just yet. But virtually every time Kill is asked about leadership, Royston's name comes up. Whether it's tomorrow or at the end of the season, my money is on Royston to be named a captain when Kill pulls the trigger on that decision.

"As far as somebody jumping out, certainly Kim has done some good things," Kill said. "I would tell you that through the summer, I think Royston did a great job."

Royston's broken leg in the spring of 2010, the questions about his possible return for the 2010 season and his sixth year of eligibility being granted are all well-documented. After having gone through all of that, Royston just can't wait to get back out the field in maroon and gold.

"It's been a long time coming ... a lot of rehab, a lot of ups and downs," Royston said. "But after having a year off, I'm definitely ready to get back out there and stick my nose into some stuff."

He'll get his chance to do just that Saturday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Click the video below to see more of Kim's comments during Tuesday's press conference.

Camp Blog Day 6: Wrapping it Up with One Last Run and DQ

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Kevin Lachowitzer-Junior

Today was the last full day at camp. We started the day off by traveling to Itasca State Park for a hilly long run and afterwards we visited the headwaters of the Mississippi. When we got back from running, the nice weather we had all week moved out and it rained on and off the rest of the night. This ended the badmitten tournament without crowning a champion for the second straight year. 

The afternoon turned into playing dominos and watching movies. The team was in for a treat for supper, Wayne fried up a meal of fish he had caught this year and Bunch made some delicious desserts to go with it. This was my favorite meal of camp.  

After supper, the team went into Park Rapids for an evening of bowling. After bowling the team stopped at the local DQ and overwhelmed the staff for a few ice cream cones, then it was back to the cabins to start the long process of cleaning up after a week of making messes. The freshman got the privilege of cleaning out and vacuuming the vans for everyone. 

The team looks pretty tired after an intense week of training so I believe it's gonna be an early night tonight.  Thanks to everyone for an awesome week of camp!

Countdown to USC, 4 Days: Coach weighs in

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The clock is ticking down -- four days from now Gopher Football will finally open their season in Los Angeles agains the USC Trojans!

Today in the countdown, we hear from the man behind the program -- head coach Jerry Kill. Coach Kill held his first weekly in-season press conference today to talk about the USC game. A lot was said (for even more coverage, visit our Gopher Football Blog) but one little tidbit stood out to us. Saturday will be the first time that these Gophers can truly put Coach Kill's favorite saying ("I hear what you say, and trust what you do) into practice.

Only four days left in the countdown! Check back tomorrow for Number Three. Saturday's Coming!

The Art of Scheduling

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Read the whole transcript of Kill's press conference here

Head coach Jerry Kill says there's an art to scheduling -- especially when you're building a program.

If Coach Kill had his way, the Gophers would not be opening the season at the University of Southern California this week. In the first game of his first season, Kill said he would much rather be playing at TCF Bank Stadium.

"No," Kill said when asked if he would have scheduled things the way they will play out this week. "I'm very honest. We'd be playing at home. You asked. I'm being straight. I don't like playing the first game (against a) BCS (team). I want to play at home.  There's a whole lot of difference between playing at home and going on the road, plus going to USC and the time difference, the whole ball of wax."

But there aren't going to be any excuses either.

"But it is what it is, so we'll bow up and we'll be excited and we'll go out and do it," Kill said of this Saturday's game with the Trojans. "It is what it is. We'll have them ready to go. I'm not worried about it.  I'm looking forward to it.  I expect any time we go to a game, we go to win.  I'm a competitor, and that's how I'm going to approach every game."

Kill said scheduling philosophies in the Big Ten will probably be changing drastically over the next few years, with the addition of a nine-game conference schedule coming in 2017.

"I think everybody in the Big Ten is going to have to solve that problem," Kill said. "I can't give you that answer right now because I'm worried about playing USC.  But everybody is going to have to look at that because we're going to an extra conference game now, and then we're going to have three (non-conference) games, and you'd better win those three.  There's going to be a whole change in the Big Ten scheduling because of what's going to happen.  So I think all our coaches from the Big Ten are going to have to look at what you're going to do because you'd better be ready for the Big Ten (schedule)."


The Eye In the Sky Never Lies

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"Big Brother is watching you" - 1984, George Orwell

Head coach Jerry Kill's message may not be quite as ominous as the Party's oft-used phrase in Orwell's novel. But he has made it clear to his team and his staff that everyone's behavior is up for evaluation, on the field and off.

Kill talked with the media in his weekly press conference for nearly 30 minutes Tuesday. One of the items that piqued the interest of many in the room was his mention of videotaping the sidelines on game day.

Kill believes you can learn a lot about people when you see how they react to different situations. For that reason, he wants to see what's going on behind him on the sideline on Saturdays. When most coaches watch game film, they only watch what's taking place between the white lines. Kill is just as interested in what takes place outside them.

"I might be the only coach in America that videos the sideline," Kill said. "I want to see how people handle themselves.  I want to see who's throwing that helmet down, I want to see who's losing their cool.  I evaluate the coaches (too) ... everybody is accountable on game day."

Kill started in on the topic when he was talking about facing adversity.  He believes the only way to truly test someone's mettle to see how they react to adversity. Kill has tried to create as much adversity as he can in practice. But he knows there is no substitute for game day to see how a team reacts to it.

"Maybe you're down two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, are you going to battle back or are you going to lay down and quit, or maybe you lose a good player with an injury," Kill said. "Who's going to step up and play?  Are we going to sit around and say, gosh darn, we lost so and so?  The next guy has got to step up.  Maybe something happens off the field.  Maybe losing two straight games, maybe getting your tail end kicked, whatever that may be."

Kill also mentioned adversity when asked if leaders had stepped forward on the team yet.

"I don't judge anybody until their back is against the wall," Kill said. "We've had six months and there hasn't been any adversity. I judge people in adverse conditions. Do they turn on each other, do they step up? We'll find out how we are through this year because there will be good times, there will be tough times, there will be bad times. How are we going to deal with it? That's how you develop leadership."

Captain's Blog Day 4:Coming Together as a Family

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Stephanie Price, senior captain

What a great day 4 at preseason camp here in lovely Ely, Minnesota! The days of running, relaxing, and team bonding are flying by and will be drawing to a close after a full day of activities tomorrow. Today turned out to be a gorgeous day here with plenty of sunshine and good times. Not much was planned for the team today outside of a recovery run between workout days. We filled our time instead with plenty of canoeing, sailing, sunbathing, reading, and bananagrams!

The evening wrapped up with a team trip into town for Dairy Queen, a traditional night of soft-serve ice cream that continues year after year. Along the way, our car learned a great deal about Coach Wilson's taste in music. We found in his CD player some Bruno Mars, plenty of Michael Jackson, Black Eyed Peas, and best of all the olympic theme song. Now we all know what Coach Wilson likes to jam out to on his road trips!

After the team was pretty well sugared-up from all sorts of Blizzard concoctions, we finished the night with an impromptu concert put on in the mess hall by some teammates, followed up by a memorable dance party. The team is really coming together as a family and the freshmen already fit right in! The Gopher Women's Cross Country team definitely has a special bond this year!


Final Gopher Football Webisode Premieres

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The Gopher Football Webisode series comes to a close as we are less than one week away from the season-opener at USC on Saturday.

I'd like to personally thank 3 Penny Films for being so incredible to work with. Their team was great. I don't know if we'll be able to work together with them again in the future. But I would welcome that opportunity. They did a great job and I think I speak for the football staff with those sentiments as well. 

This final webisode focuses on the team getting through camp with humor and preparation for Saturday's game at USC. Please click the player below to view the webisode. Don't forget to bookmark the Gopher Football Blog for all your Gopher news throughout the season. Tomorrow will be a big day on the blog, as Coach Kill will hold his weekly press conference prior to the USC game.

Slideshow

Aaron Bartnik-Freshman

It was another early start to the day with the four University vans leaving for the twenty minute drive to the ATV trails at 8:00.  It was a nice, relaxing run ranging between 50 to 60 minutes for most of the team.  Everyone was a little sore form the workout the day before, and preparing for the long run at Itasca State Park tomorrow.  The run was proceeded by strides and returning back to Belle Shores Resort.  Followed by a refreshing lake shower, it was a lazy morning with most athletes returning to their cabins to relax before lunch.

Bunch's amazing turkey sandwiches and sweet potato surprise filled everyone's bellies for lunch.  The food seemed to bring back energy to the team with more activities taking place after lunch.  Minnow races were a big hit of the afternoon with all the athletes and coaches encouraging their minnows down two parallel gutters.  Some of the minnow's names were Chuck Norris, Salty Sulkin, Nevis Nightmare, Disappointing but Consistent, Nemo, Tim, and Never-Ending Daydream.  Freshman Alex Brend came out as the overall champion leading his minnow, Roxxxy, to five wins.  The races were followed by delicious popsicles.

Bocce Ball, badminton, football, swimming, board games, and tanning occurred in the afternoon.  While most people were having a great time, Coach Chris Rombough decided he would be anti-social and take a three hour nap missing team bonding time and the second practice of the day....naughty naughty. 

At 4:30 the team met for a short and relaxed second run of the day.  Hurdle mobility drills and a medicine ball routine followed.  Another lake shower and tanning session followed the run.  A wonderful dinner of spaghetti, salad, and bread was served around 6:30.  Puzzles and relaxing ended the night of another day at CC camp.

Countdown to USC, 5 Days: Student "excited" for LA

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Only five days left in our countdown to Gopher Football's season opener against the USC Trojans at the LA Coliseum. Today, we look at the game from a fan's point of view -- one very lucky fan, in fact.

U of M junior and three-year student season ticket holder Rachel Kroska was just minding her own business at work a couple of weeks ago when she received a call from the Gopher  marketing department -- as the first student to reserve her football tickets, she had won a trip to travel with the team to Los Angeles for the USC game!

Watch the video for more of Rachel's reaction to this news, but let's just say that she was... "Excited," to say the least.

Come back tomorrow when Coach Kill makes his first appearance on our countdown. Only five days left to go!

Camp Blog Day 4: Tempo Run!

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By: Steve Sulkin-Sophomore 

Today was everyone's favorite day at camp; tempo run day. We drove out to Park Rapids and ran our tempo run back to Belle Shores. Coach Rombough marked out the miles for us so we could keep track of our paces. Overall it was a good workout. Because we all ran hard in the morning, everyone just laid low for the rest of the day until the afternoon run. 

For the afternoon practice, the freshman reluctantly ran in the water. Everyone else ran on the roads outside Belle Shores. When we got back, Plaz set up kayak races for the whole team. In the third place match, which my team was too good for, Larz, (Andrew Larsen) drew first blood after getting nailed in the head with a paddle by Coach Rombough. In the championship race, I left Hassan in my wake when I handed off to Skaret. But Drew was too strong and he overpowered Skaret for the victory. Soon after the race, I beat Larz in badminton again, maintaining my crown as best from Illinois. Too bad that makes me second worse on the team. 

At night time we had our team bonfire. Every year the freshman have to stand up and sing their high school fight song. I am convinced that half of them just made it up and sang the Minnesota rouser with a couple different words. Alez Brend just read the words off his phone and it made no sense. By the end of the fire, everyone was exhausted from the tempo run and kayak races so we fell asleep easily. 

Captain's Blog Day 3: Just Another Day in Ely, MN

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By: Junior Captain Bre Valle

Ely, what a glorious place! Today was an adventured filled day with the first "workout" of camp and amazing food to fuel our bodies.

We drove into town today to do our progressive run around a four mile lake which went extremely well for the whole team. The progressive is just gradually picking up the pace every 10 minutes three times. It was awesome to see people improve from past years and really just focus on themselves and what they needed to do. The freshmen seemed to have a great first progressive run experiences! One down, about a million to go!

Coming back from the workout we were starving. Not to worry though because camp Ely has the best cooks in the WORLD!!!!! No joke, if i could have camp food for the rest of my life well, I would be one happy Camper :) Nina and the rest of the cooks here at Ely really go out of their way to make sure we're getting awesome food to fuel our bodies and that taste absolutely amazing!

After filling my belly with deliciousness I took a little nap and by little I mean two hour nap. After waking up I decided to hit up the kayaks and take a stroll around the lake, which is absolutely majestic by the way. We then ended the day with a campfire and grilling out for dinner. I'm currently in the mess hall working on this blog but I'm almost positive that a mad dance party is bound to break out any minute now. Would love to share more but I should probably go stretch so I don't pull anything dancing... yes it gets that intense!

Pretty much Ely is the bomb diggity!

Countdown to USC, 6 Days: Da'Jon's Day

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For the 10 days before Golden Gopher Football opens the 2011 season against the USC Trojans at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Sept. 3, GopherSports.com will feature a new video vignette highlighting the matchup between these two storied programs.

With six days remaining, we look back at a more recent highlight from the game between these two teams last fall at TCF Bank Stadium. Down 13-7 late in the third period on third and long, Da'Jon McKnight made a spectacular catch on a 31-yard touchdown pass from Adam Weber to put the Gophers in front 14-13 temporarily (the Gophers eventually fell 32-21).

"We were down, and the linebacker kept coming on and off the field," recalls McKnight. "I had a small DB on me, and [Weber] said hike. I ran my go route... I reached out with my big hands and had the ball in my hand, and I scored."

Watch the video to see how excited Da'Jon is to make another highlight-reel catch this Saturday, and check back on Monday for Number 5 in our countdown!

Saturday's Coming!

In-game Blog: Minnesota at UC Santa Barbara

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The Golden Gophers (1-2-0) look to rebound against UC Santa Barbara (1-1-1) after a disappointing loss to San Diego State this past Friday night. The in-game blog will begin at 1:15 CST (11:15 PST).

Camp Blog Day 21: Speaking of Specialists

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Today is the last day before the first official practice of game week, so today's entry wraps up the 2011 Preseason Camp Blog. But never fear, come Monday (or more likely Tuesday) this blog will morph into the Golden Gopher Football blog. You can check that blog for all your Golden Gopher Football happenings, complete with behind-the-scenes photos, video and insight.

The Gophers had yesterday off and will have today off as well. Coach Kill made the rounds with a couple local radio stations (WCCO and KFAN) at the Minnesota State Fair this morning. He had running back Duane Bennett, quarterback MarQueis Gray and defensive back Kim Royston with him for some of that time as well.

For the meet of today's blog we wrap up our position previews. Last, but certainly not least (hey, the head coach works with the kickers himself), is a look at the specialists. 

When Jerry Kill became the head coach at the University of Minnesota, one of the first things he mentioned as needing improvement was the kicking game and specifically in the area of punting. In fact, the new head man said he was personally going to oversee the kickers and punters.

With just one week remaining until the 2011 season kicks off, Kill has lived up to his word. He is on the field early every day working with the punters and kickers. He often stays after practice talking to or working with them. He even holds position-group meetings with them, much like the running backs coach does with those players.

While Kill has personally overseen the development of the kickers and punters, secondary coach Jay Sawvel also holds the title of Special Teams Coordinator and has the responsibility for all the special teams units.

We won't know what the results will be until they see live action in games. But Sawvel thinks the punters have done a nice job through camp.

""Dan (Orseske) is a good punter. (David) Schwerman's a good punter," Sawvel said. "We've got guys who can punt the ball. What you've got to do is get them to where they feel comfortable. That's protection, that's getting people down the field coverage-wise."

But just the ability of a punter to kick the ball a country mile doesn't ensure good punting. Sawvel said the entire unit has to function well.

"You've got to be good in all the moving parts," Sawvel said. "It's not just about the punter. There are so many other things that go with it. That's always a work in progress. We're continuing that each and every day. It's improving. But it's obviously a major area of need. That was one of our first things we felt we needed to address as a team. You can't be 120th out of 120 in net punting and have a successful football team."

Meanwhile, the placekicking game seems to be in good hands right now as well. Transfer Chris Hawthorne comes to Minnesota from North Carolina State. But he has battled with walk-on Jordan Wettstein throughout camp.

Sawvel had many positive things to say about that duo.

"(The kickers) have had a good camp," he said. "They've been accurate on field goals, had good timing on field goals. We feel good about the fact that we can put them in a game situation and they'll be ready. Both of our guys who are kicking, for the most part, have done very well. Kickoffs have been in good locations and had good distance. Right now, we're optimistic that kicker-wise, we're going to be pretty solid."

Of course, the timing Sawvel mentioned on field goals and point-after-touchdowns wouldn't happen without the long snapper and the holder. Jake Filkins returns after gaining good experience as a long snapper last season. Red-shirt freshman Dave Ramlet has also had a nice camp at that position. Backup quarterback Adam Lueck should once again be the holder, after "holding" down that role in 2010.

One area the Gophers shouldn't need to worry about when it comes to special teams is the return game. Senior cornerback Troy Stoudermire has been one of the most prolific kick returners in the nation for the past few years. In fact, he has a chance to finish his Gopher career with a couple NCAA records, if everything falls into place correctly. Stoudermire has also been working on returning punts, along with a number of his teammates.

Camp Blog Day 3: The Traditional Badminton Tournament

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By: John Simons-Juinor

Day three of Cross Country Camp began with an early wake up to a brisk temperature of 47 degrees!  Everyone had warm clothing on when we met up for our morning run.  It was a shock to everyone's system to wake up to such cool temps, but in a few months we will be begging for 47 degrees.  After a quick meeting we hopped into the mini vans and headed to the Karmel Forest/ATV, but before we reached our running destination we passed through "The Biggest Little Town in the World" Emmaville.  Everyone went on an easy run through the rock and sand filled trails of the ATV trails and followed it up with a couple of strides.

Took the minivan back with Coach Rombough and had to survive through one Carrie Underwood hit after another.  When we arrived back at the Belle Shores Resort everyone started wackin the shuttlecocks around for the beginning of the Badminton Tournament.  From about 10:30AM until dusk there was always a game going on.  Notable performances included the unstoppable duo of the masseuse Greg and Freshmen Aaron Bartnik extending their undefeated winning streak to 13 games, Coach Rombough emulsifying a defenseless butterfly after a missed point, and Erik "Trudy" Trudeson's unforeseen upset of Captain Hassan Mead followed by and elimination dive off the pier.

There were other activities besides badminton including a return to the bridge for more diving, a delicious lunch from Bunch, tanning... and burning, a second run for the upperclassmen, and Coach Plaz demonstrating his angling skills with Captain Mead and Bobby Nicolls.  After a great taco dinner from Bunch a group of guys went into a cabin for the viewing of "Inglorious Basterds", while others played the Domino game Mexican Train.  Everyone got together one more time to have a bowl of ice cream before calling it a day.

By: Kathryn Ritter, Senior Cross Country Captain

Today was an excellent day in the Northwoods for our team. We had an easy recovery run in the morning. Then the rest of the day was filled with Ely activities. Some people spent the afternoon soaking up the sun on the docks. There were a few groups that went canoeing, and some of our teammates even went rock-climbing.

The freshmen had meetings with either the captains or the coaches for most of the day. They have been learning the ropes of Minnesota Cross Country and are quickly assimilating into the team. They were not shy about busting their moves in the team dance party that broke out in the mess hall last night.

Coach Bingle, our head track coach, came up to Ely with his family today to visit us at camp. His daughters even provided some great after-dinner entertainment by singing some Justin Bieber jams. We also enjoyed the annual performance of "Shoop" by Coach Hesser. It has become a great Ely tradition, and this year's show did not disappoint!


Countdown to USC, Day 7: Like Father, Like Sons

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For the final 10 days before Golden Gopher Football opens the 2011 season against the USC Trojans at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Sept. 3, GopherSports.com will feature a new video vignette highlighting the matchup between these two storied programs.

Ed Olson Sr.'s sons Ed Jr. and Tommy have already done a lot to follow in their father's footsteps; both chose to attend the University of Minnesota and play offensive line for the Gophers. Interestingly enough, the Olson brothers will bridge another generation gap on Sept. 3 when they step on the field at the LA Coliseum to take on the USC Trojans -- Olson Sr.'s 1980 Gopher team was also the last one to play at the Coliseum.

Exactly one week to go -- that's Day 7 in our Countdown to USC. Check back tomorrow for number 6 on our list. Saturday's Coming!

Camp Blog Day 2: Another Great Day to Be a Gopher!

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Slideshow Day 2

By: Adam Zutz-Freshman 

After great nights worth of sleep, my day began bright and early at 7 am. With a few other freshmen, I headed over to Cabin 1 to fuel up with a light breakfast before our run. Once my stomach was happily filled up with a banana and cereal, we headed back to our cabin to continue the difficult process of waking up. At 8am, the team met outside for our run. Coach Rombough was a tad late, as he had woken up at 8:01. Hopefully tomorrow Rombough will have gotten enough beauty sleep, and wake up on time.

Once we had all piled into the mini-vans, we embarked on a short drive to the "Q" loop for our run. The weather was great for running with a clear sky, and cool temps. It was great to get out on the dirt road's and go over a few hills. When we were done with our run, we hopped back in the vans and drove back to Belle Shores. By the time we got back to camp, we had noticed that Greg (our massage therapist) had arrived. He received a warm and enthusiastic welcome by all members of the team. Even more important, Greg arrived with the flag, which Coach Rombough had unfortunately left back in the locker room.

Soon enough, it was already time for lunch. On the menu today were sandwiches and sloppy joes. After lunch we had free time until our second workout at 4:30. Many members of the team filled this time with the usual horseshoes, swimming, napping, and playing some rousing games of catch. At 4:30 the veterans of the team went out for another run. Meanwhile, the freshman stayed back for a few drills and some intense aqua-jogging.  Plaz showed all the young guys how it was done during the jogging, and Alex Brend had quite the kick in kayak races.

Now that the workouts were done for the day, it was time for the start of a dynasty in badminton by Greg and Aaron Bartnik. The super duo of Greg and Bartnik impressively faced eight different teams, and defeated all of them. With the net up, excitement for the badminton tournament is in the air. Next, it was yet another delicious dinner by Bunch. Stuffed peppers, potatoes, beans, rice, and salad was enjoyed by everyone.

After dinner, the night developed into some serious relaxing time and even more badminton. Some of the older guys started a strategic game of Risk. Once the sun started to slip away, it was easy to see the sunburn some of the guys had acquired.  Coach Rombough looks like he could use a healthy dose of sunscreen tomorrow.  Before long, it was time to hit the sack and rest up for tomorrow. Another great day being a gopher!

Captain's Blog Day 1: Forming a Team Bond

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By: Danielle LeBreck, Senior Captain

Seven hours the women's cross country team has been in the great northern town of Ely, Minnesota, and we have already experienced our fair share of adventures. For the first time, we all made the five-hour drive together on a bus at full-capacity, seating our 56 team members as opposed to the 15 passenger vans we've used in the past. Already we have gotten to know our fantastic freshmen who sang karaoke for the team on the ride. This helped us put the names to the faces, and also clued us in on who possesses promising music abilities.

After finishing our first workout of the year at the local park, we closed with our traditional team cheer--the first of many to come for this 2011 squad. Everyone is in high spirits and ready for the season! We continued on to be further spoiled by enjoying the culinary masterpieces of Camp Voyager, eating our first scrumptious team dinner of the week.

Though Ely is a peaceful northern getaway contrasting with the familiar noises and hustle-bustle nature of Minneapolis, us city girls aren't quite used to the wildlife here. Wolf spiders lurk in the shadowy corners of our cabins, bears have been known to wander the paths, and I even pulled a leech off of my foot today, a traumatic experience I still shudder to think of. In all seriousness, everyone is excited to be here, get to know new team members, and reconnect after the summer months. Only fun awaits as we embark on our annual Ely adventures!


Camp Blog Day 19: Looking at the Linebackers

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Coming into the season, one area of the Gopher defense that seemed to be the most solid was the linebacking corps. With numerous experienced players returning and the addition of a much-heralded transfer, linebacker was to be the strength of the defense.

It might still be, once the Gophers get healthy at that position. Two penciled-in starters - Mike Rallis and Keanon Cooper - have missed practice time over the last week. Rallis has an undisclosed illness and Cooper has been nursing a wrist injury. In addition, Aaron Hill has a hamstring issue that leaves him as questionable for the season-opener at USC on Sept. 3.

Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys has been happy with the progress of this group, despite the nicks the unit has taken in the past few days.

"Besides the injury part, they have been very consistent," Claeys said. "If we get them all back, we'll be healthy and have a lot of depth. There's a good group there. Gary (Tinsley) has done well. (Brendan) Beal has done well ... (Mike) Rallis, (Keanon) Cooper. Aaron Hill has come a long way. We have a nice group there to work with. So, I'm very pleased with their progress since spring ball and through fall camp."

Head coach Jerry Kill said Thursday that he fully expects Rallis and Cooper to be back at practice on Monday, when preparations for USC begin in earnest.

Tinsley has been running with the first unit through much of fall camp at the middle linebacker position. He said Claeys and linebackers coach Bill Miller have been doing a good job of preparing everyone at the position.

"We're all in the film room, learning," Tinsley said. "The coaches are breaking it down for everybody. So when they come out, everybody is confident and we're making sure we communicate with each other. I think we'll be good."

Countdown to USC, Day 8: "The Play" in '68

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For the final 10 days before Golden Gopher Football opens the 2011 season against the USC Trojans at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Sept. 3, GopherSports.com will feature a new video vignette highlighting the matchup between these two storied programs.

With eight days to go until Sept. 3, we have another blast from the past: The Sept. 21, 1968 game at Memorial Stadium between the No. 16 Gophers and the second-ranked Trojans. Receiving a kickoff while trailing 16-13 with 7:56 remaining in the second half, the Gophers George Kemp toss a cross-field lateral to senior John Wintermute, who scrambled 83 yard for the score to give Minnesota a 20-16 lead.

"It was a perfect storm moment," Kemp said later. "The play only took a few seconds. But, sometimes to me, it feels like it took 20.''

Running back O.J. Simpson, who would go on to win the Heisman Trophy that year, would soon take over, scoring the final two of his four touchdowns on the day to give USC an eventual 29-20 win. But Wintermute's return is one of the more memorable plays in the storied history of the two programs.

That's Day 8 in our Countdown to USC -- check back tomorrow for number 7 on our list. Saturday's Coming!

In-game Blog: Minnesota at San Diego State

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Coming of a home opener where the University of Minnesota women's soccer team controlled nearly all facets of the game, head coach Mikki Denney Wright and her squad hop back on the road for a pair of matches in California. The Golden Gophers open up their West Coast road trip Friday night against San Diego State at 6 p.m. (CST) at the SDSU Sports Deck.

Camp Blog Day 1: The Start of Something Special

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Gopher MensCC Camp Blog 8/25/11

By: Sophomore Drew Paradis

     August 25th, 2011, all the compliance meetings, physicals, and preparations are a thing of the past. Today Gopher Cross Country 2011 began as we headed off to the northland of Nevis at Belle Shores Resort on Lake Belle Taine. For a few of us guys, we headed out at 7 a.m. for a short morning run on campus before finishing packing our gear up. Then at 9 a.m., our 5 car caravan headed out of the city on I-94. After making a short pit stop at Bohunks Sandwiches in Little Falls, we continued on to Nevis and arrived a little after 1 p.m.. The vans were unpacked, cabin assignments handed out, and after our homes for the next week were inspected and rooms claimed, we gathered on the beach for instructions and greetings from the owners, Wayne and Erna Johnson.

     For the next hour and half or so the front lawn was full of Frisbee and football action along with an intense horseshoe competition between the team of Pieter Gagnon and Paul Hilsen, and Hassan Mead and me. Unfortunately, Hassy and I were unable to match the fantastic play of Mr. Gadgets (Gagnon) and Mr. Katy Perry (Hilsen)...both engineer majors. We believe their engineering background was a reason for their remarkable tosses and bounces. Bunch (Coach Plaz's sister) prepared a delicious light lunch for everyone, which then led everyone to retreat to their respective cabins for a short nap before our run at 4:30.

     At 4:30, we drove to Paul Bunyan State Forest where we ran on a forest road for a comfortable 55 to 65 minutes depending on how each person was feeling. After completing some strides, we headed back to Belle Shores where we had some group core and the freshman learned what CC Abs all entailed. The lake was the place to go next to cool off and shower up out at the raft. 

     Dinner time arrived as Bunch prepared a Beef Stew along with rice, salad, dinner rolls, and milk...perfect after a good day of training and fun. For the next hour and a half, another round of Frisbee, football, horseshoes, and even a little whiffle ball occurred before we headed to the grocery store for individual snacks. Most of the guys hit the sack once arriving back to the resort to get some good rest before our 8 a.m. run. Day 1 Complete!

Photos from Day 1 of camp

Camp Blog Day 18: The Good Hands People

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Slideshow - Day 18

Today, in the Gopher Preseason Camp Blog we take a look at who quarterback MarQueis Gray will be throwing the ball to this season.

Everyone involved with Gopher football - coaches, players, fans, opponents - they all know who senior wide receiver Da'Jon McKnight is. But what many people in those groups may not know is who else the Gophers will be able to target at wide receiver when they put the ball in the air.

Answering that question has been a real focus throughout preseason camp, according to offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover.

"One of the great things about camp is that we've been able to find a few guys that there were some question marks on, guys that we feel like have really done a nice job and stepped up," Limegrover said.

McKnight, a member of the Biletnikoff Award watch list, is a proven quantity. Brandon Green has had some time off here and there with a sore knee. That has given a handful of receivers the opportunity to take advantage of some extra reps show their wares for the coaching staff.

"One guy that comes to mind is Victor Keise," Limegrover said. "Malcolm Moulton is a guy that has really done a great job learning a lot of different things at different positions. He gives us a lot of versatility. Marcus Jones continues to do all the little things from a guy we feel we can move around and get into some spots, get the football and make some plays."

But the wide receivers aren't the only weapons in the Gophers' aerial arsenal. Minnesota has a Mackey Award candidate in Eric Lair, who ranked No. 2 among Big Ten tight ends in receptions last season. He's one of four players at that position who Limegrover sees contributing this season.

Lair and Collin McGarry give the Gophers a real nice one-two punch from the tight end position.

Women Report for Fall Training

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The 2011 edition of Golden Gopher Women's Cross Country has arrived! Today the squad reported for a long day of activities gearing up for the start of the season. Head coach Gary Wilson welcomed 56 student-athletes on Thursday. 

The day consisted of physicals, equipment being issued, meetings with compliance officials, academics and rounded out the day with a team dinner.

Tomorrow the Gophers' travel will travel to Ely, MN to train for a week at Camp Voyageur. Through out the teams week of training, the captains will have blogs posted to Gophersports.com so that fans and family can be kept in the loop of things. 

Please check back each day for updates.

Nine days to USC: Going back home

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For the final 10 days before Golden Gopher Football opens the 2011 season against the USC Trojans at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Sept. 3, GopherSports.com will feature a new video vignette highlighting the matchup between these two storied programs.

On Day 9 of our countdown, we ask Los Angeles-area native and Gopher sophomore cornerback Brock Vereen on what it will be like to go back home and play the Trojans in front of family and friends.

That's Day 9 in our Countdown to USC -- check back tomorrow for number 8 on our list. Saturday's Coming!

Camp Blog Day 17: Happy Birthday to Coach Kill

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Head coach Jerry Kill got a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday To You" sung to him by his team bright and early Wednesday morning on the outdoor practice fields at the Gibson-Nagurski Complex. His 50th birthday was also celebrated in the office with plenty of decorations, plenty of sweetsand a nice bouquet of flowers and treats from his wife, Rebecca.

So, what were Coach Kill's big birthday plans for his evening after Wednesday's second practice?

"Well, I've got to go watch film here at 7:15," Kill said, noting that for as long as he can remember his birthday coincided with football practices and watching film.

I'm not sure what Coach Kill thought about his team's singing ability. But I do know he was pretty pleased with what he got out of his team after their a cappella effort.

"This morning went well," Kill said. "We shortened them up this morning and went 12 or 13 periods and then 16 (this afternoon). We were able to do some things. We started preparing for USC. I thought practice went well. We've got some tired bodies and so forth, but everybody does. We'll practice tomorrow and then give them some time to get their legs underneath them and get ready to play."

Senior defensive tackle Brandon Kirksey said more and more game preparation means less banging on each other and the pace slowing down just a bit during workouts.

Men's Cross Country Reports for Fall Training

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Slideshow Day 1

The 2011 edition of Golden Gopher Cross Country has arrived! Today the men's team reported for a long day of activities gearing up for the start of the season. Head coach Steve Plasencia welcomed 21 student-athletes on Wednesday. 

The day consisted of physicals, equipment being issued, meetings with compliance officials, academics and each member of the team got a picture taken for the media.

To finish up the day the group went through a light workout in the area.  Tomorrow the Gophers' travel to Nevis, MN to train for a week on Lake Belle Taine. The Maroon and Gold will be training twice a day for a week. While up in Nevis, members of the squad will have blogs posted to Gophersports.com. 

Please check back each day for updates.

Saturday's Coming: 10 Days to USC

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For the final 10 days before Golden Gopher Football opens the 2011 season against the USC Trojans at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Sept. 3, GopherSports.com will feature a new video vignette highlighting the matchup between these two storied programs. These might include insight from current and former players and coaches, highlights from previous battles and even insight from fans looking forward to the start of the Jerry Kill era.

Today's feature is a highlight from the Gophers 1955 25-19 win over the Trojans on Oct. 29, 1955.

1955 would be considered a down season for Golden Gopher football. A year removed from finishing 7-2 and ranked 20th in the nation's final poll, Murray Warmath's team opened the season 1-4 as they welcomed 10th-ranked USC into town.

Already up 12-6 in the third quarter, amid a snow/sleet mix and temperatures hovering in the mid-30s, Gopher quarterback Don Swanson called his own number and scampered 65 yards for the touchdown. You can read more about that game by clicking here.

That's Day 10 in our Countdown to USC -- check back tomorrow for #9 on our list. Saturday's Coming!

Camp Blog Day 16: Gophers "In the Grind"

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Tuesday afternoon's weather was the hottest, most humid day the Gophers have encountered during preseason camp. The Gophers have been working day in and day out for more than two weeks. They're in "the grind," according to head coach Jerry Kill.

With all of those factors working against them, tempers are getting short, minds and bodies are fatigued. So, why on earth would Coach Kill change Wednesday's schedule from one afternoon practice to a two-a-day, with one session in the morning and one in the afternoon? Surely the coach saw something he didn't like on Tuesday or feels the need to discipline them for something, right? Wrong.

He told the team afterward that they will be two shorter workouts than one longer one, so he can start working toward getting their legs fresh. He also believes it will allow them to get a few more looks at some of the players they need to make decisions about in regard to their ability to play in the season-opener Sept. 3 at USC.

"That's not punishment for the kids," Kill said of Wednesday's schedule change. "It's more repetition for some people that we need to see."

Following Wednesday, the Gophers will practice Thursday and then spend Friday morning at TCF Bank Stadium for a game preparation-type of walk through. The plan will then be to give them Saturday and Sunday to get off their feet and get fresh leading into game week.

"We've got to get their legs back and get some guys healthy," Kill said. "Then we'll go full-fledged into game plan on Monday. This time of year, when you're coming out of camp, you've got some kids that are banged and you want to try to get everybody healed up by Monday."

While Kill said the Gophers will be fully focused on the game plan for USC on Monday, the Gophers have already turned a bit of a corner in camp over the last two days. They started working on some of what they will see out of the Trojans Monday and Tuesday.

"We took the last 25 or 30 minutes and we strictly worked on what USC does on both sides of the ball," Kill said. "We did a little bit of that in the kicking game on Monday. So, we're starting to turn our way (toward USC)."

Notes:

>Wednesday is Coach Kill's 50th birthday. Or is it? "There's a lot of rumors about that," Kill told the media member who asked about his birthday. "I'm kind of like Sid (Hartman), I might be 60. I may be 40. Who knows? There are rumors I might have a birthday tomorrow, but they may be wrong. I try to forget those things."

>Kill spoke to a group of boosters who were being hosted by the Golden Gopher Fund after practice Tuesday evening.

>The exact kickoff time for next Saturday's game at USC has been set for 12:36 p.m. Pacific Time.

Camp Blog Day 15: Surveying the Secondary

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The 2011 Golden Gophers are not necessarily a senior-laden team. But the defensive backfield is one area of the team that will have good senior leadership.

Sixth-year senior Kim Royston has returned at safety after missing last season with a broken leg. Senior Shady Salamon, who started two games at running back as a true freshman, has emerged at safety as well. Meanwhile, one cornerback spot will most likely be held down by senior Troy Stoudermire.

That experience will come in handy when it comes to the mentality of being a defensive back, according to defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys.

"It's probably the toughest job (on the defense)," Claeys said. "You're having to cover some great athletes in space. They just gotta remember, not everybody has a great day back there. Usually the best ones have a short memory. So far, it seems like most of them handle the short memory pretty good. The play's over and they seem to let it go and come back. That's the important thing, because you're going to have a few bad plays back there with the people you have to cover."

The unquestioned leader of the defensive backfield is Royston. According to Claeys, the former Cretin-Derham Hall standout and former Gopher captain has grabbed hold of the leadership role.

"Kim (Royston) has done a great job of getting them on the straight and narrow," Claeys said. "That position takes a lot of experience, because they're the quarterbacks back there. They've got to get everybody lined up and make sure they communicate. (Kim's) age and maturity is a huge plus. Hopefully the other kids will learn from him, so when he's done playing they can continue those same things."

While Royston is the leader, Stoudermire may be the best athlete in the secondary. The converted wide receiver and record-setting kick returner knows there are expectations on him coming into his final year for the Gophers.

"Switching over to defense last year at the end of the season, I made some plays," Stoudermire said. "But this year, I've been going really hard and focusing really hard. I've got the defense down. (Secondary) coach (Jay) Sawvel has been doing a great job of getting me one-on-one focus on the playbook."

Claeys said Stoudermire is continuing to develop. Claeys said he has been impressed with Stoudermire's work ethic since the new coaching staff arrived at Minnesota. 

Camp Blog Day 14: Gophers Hear From Marine, Mentor

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Head football coach Jerry Kill has made many friends through his 29 years in the coaching profession. When one of those friends is a Marine who served in Force Recon, the opportunity to have that man speak to his team is one Coach Kill can't pass up.

During his time at Northern Illinois, Coach Kill got to know Lynn Lowder through a mutual friend. Lowder was a Marine for 16 years and was in Force Recon, which is the special operations arm of the Marines. As Lowder put it, his unit was the equivalent to the Navy SEALs and Army Special Forces. Lowder gives motivational/inspirational talks to football teams, Marines and others. He made the trip to the Twin Cities and spoke with the Gophers last Friday.

"I got into the special operations side of the United States Marine Corps, where you work in small teams and cohesion is critical," Lowder said. "So many of the lessons you learn in combat have direct applicability in life and so much of what you do in football has direct applicability to what you do in the military and in combat. There are a lot of parallels."

After spending time talking to groups of football players, Lowder said he determined that the message he can deliver is even more impactful on today's young man.

"Young men today, maybe more than other generations in the past, need male mentoring," Lowder said. "(They need) somebody who can accelerate that learning curve. It's a chance to draw on some experience ... football, the Marine Corps, combat and what that all means in terms of the importance of character on and off the football field and building a quality life. That's the focus of the talks I give to these young men, both in the Marine Corps and around the football world a little bit."

Lowder said he wasn't sure if his message sunk in with the Golden Gophers. But he did like what he saw in his short visit with the team.

In-game Blog: South Dakota State at No. 22 Minnesota

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After a tough loss to No. 5/6 Maryland on Friday night, the University of Minnesota women's soccer team returns to Elizabeth Lyle Robbie (ELR) Stadium on Sunday afternoon for its home opener versus South Dakota State.

Minnesota (0-1) is coming off a strong defensive effort against Maryland, which ended in a 1-0 defeat, but head coach Mikki Denney Wright and company look to bounce back against the Jackrabbits (0-1) and get one in the win column. Historically, the Gophers have been good at rebounding after losing the first match of the season by going 7-1-0 with five shutouts in those instances with the lone 0-2 start coming in 2007.

The Golden Gophers have been remarkable in home openers since 1993 when the program began. Minnesota hoists a home opener record of 13-3-2 for its now 19-year history while Denney Wright is 5-1-1 in her squad's first home matches of each season. In 13 of those 18 home openers, the Maroon and Gold have shutout their opponent.

The Gophers aren't just lethal in home openers, but they are a force to be reckoned with in all home matches. The Maroon and Gold have posted an impressive 27-5-2 record for all home matches in the past three seasons combined.

Scouting South Dakota State
The Jackrabbits come to the Twin Cities after losing a well fought 1-0 battle against Creighton on Friday.

SDSU returns seven starters to the pitch from a squad that finished third in The Summit League and posted an overall record of 11-3-5. This season the Jacks have been selected to finish second behind conference favorite North Dakota State.

South Dakota State is coached by Lang Wedemeyer, who has been with the Jackrabbits for the past 11 seasons. Wedemeyer began the soccer program in 2000 and has guided them to one NCAA Tournament appearance (2008).

The Jackrabbits are led on the field by senior Kayla Braffet, who tallied 13 points last season (five goals and three assists). Elisa Stamatakis, who recorded 60 saves last season and had a goal allowed average of 0.88, will start in goal for SDSU.

The Series
The cross-border foes have met six times in the past with the Golden Gophers leading the all-time series at 5-0-1. SDSU has only garnered two goals combined in all the contests while Minnesota has acquired 12. The last matchup between the two teams was August 21, 2009 when the Gophers pulled out a decisive 4-0 win at ELR Stadium.

Camp Blog Day 13: A Beautiful Day For Football

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Slideshow - 8/20 Scrimmage

On a beautiful morning in the Twin Cities, more than 1,000 fans filed into TCF Bank Stadium to watch their Golden Gophers scrimmage Saturday. The crowd was particularly impressive, considering this is one of the last couple weekends of the summer for people to take a vacation, head up to the cabin, etc. before school starts.

Head coach Jerry Kill was very appreciative of the fans who were there to support the team.

"I appreciate it," Kill said. "It's the people's team ... it's their team. I appreciate them coming out."

Kill said he is often so focused even during a practice session or scrimmage that he doesn't notice much with regard to the crowd, etc. But he said he did notice one particular loud ovation from the Gopher faithful today.

"I gotta be honest, I get locked in to what I'm doing and I don't hear anything," Kill said. "I don't know if that's good or bad. The only thing I did hear ... there was a roar when we punted the football. I don't know if that's good or bad either. I don't really want to punt if we didn't have to.

"The people of Minnesota have been really good to Coach Kill," the head coach added. "They've been great to the football program for a lot of years. We've got to get a football program that represents them. We're still trying to do that. We haven't gotten that done yet. But we're working on it and I think they appreciate us working on it."

Let's Play Soccer!!

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After a two-hour weather delay, the teams have now taken the field and will play! They will at 30 minutes to warm up, so we are looking at a kickoff around 7:07 CST. Here is a little information about tonight's match between the No. 22 Golden Gophers and the No. 5/6 Maryland Terrapins.

The wait for the 2011 season is over for head coach Mikki Denney Wright and her No. 22-ranked squad as they travel to College Park, Md. on Friday to face the No. 6-ranked Maryland for its season opener at Ludwig Field. The Golden Gophers begin its season on the road for the second-straight year after facing the 2010 National Champion Notre Dame on its home turf.

The Gophers are coming off one of its best seasons to date after they reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament for the second time in the program's now 19-year history. Denney Wright and company had its storybook season come to an end on its home field when Georgetown scored a late goal to win 1-0. Minnesota finished the 2010 season with a record of 14-6-3 and ranked 16th in the final national polls.

Maryland is coming off one of its program's best seasons where it finished ranked in the nation's Top 10 and reached the NCAA Tournament for the second-straight season. The Terrapins had its postseason run halted by Georgetown in the second round after losing on penalty kicks. Maryland returns eight starters from last year's battle-tested squad, and it enters the season ranked No. 6 in the NSCAA preseason poll, which is its highest preseason ranking the program has ever received.

The Terps are coached by Brian Pensley, who was honored last season as the Soccer America National Coach of the Year for posting an 18-2-3 record. Pensley and his team showcased one of the nation's top scoring offenses last season where the Terrapins averaged 2.30 goals per game, which ranked them 12th in the nation.

UPDATE: Weather Delay

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Right now, we are in a weather delay here in College Park, Md. due to an abundance of lightning in the area. The coaches are meeting with the refs right now to determine if we can get this game in before it gets too late. More updates to follow.



One day after reaching the halfway mark of the 2011 preseason camp, the University of Minnesota football team was back on the practice field for the fourth of five scheduled two-a-day sessions Friday.

The Gophers practiced in shells (helmets and shoulder pads) this morning and in shorts, jerseys and helmets this afternoon. Both sessions were heavy on learning. But that doesn't mean they were light on intensity. During the morning session, head coach Jerry Kill got after numerous players/position groups. Within a five-minute span this morning, Coach Kill got all over both the wide receivers and the quarterbacks for a lack of hustle.

But in true Coach Kill fashion, just as quickly he was praising the efforts of those two groups after his messages were received.

"This morning, we had a very fast-paced practice," Kill said. "We don't understand the little things right now. Right now, we'll get eight or nine guys doing the right thing and two or three maybe doing the wrong thing. Football is a team game and everybody needs to do their job. The only way you can do your job is to focus in on every play. Football comes down to 11 or 12 plays a game, whether you win or lose it, and it's usually a mental error. We really locked in. We need to get some of that cut down as you get closer. That's the emphasis we're trying to make."

Intensity on the practice field is nothing new for Coach Kill. But he told his team there was an extra sense of urgency Friday as the team heads into a Saturday scrimmage that Kill said will be pivotal for a number of Gophers in regard to where they fit in on the team at this point.

In-Game Blog: No. 22 Minnesota at No. 6 Maryland

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Golden Gopher women's soccerThe wait for the 2011 season is over for head coach Mikki Denney Wright and her No. 22-ranked squad as they travel to College Park, Md. on Friday to face the No. 6-ranked Maryland for its season opener at Ludwig Field. The Golden Gophers begin its season on the road for the second-straight year after facing the 2010 National Champion Notre Dame on its home turf.

The Gophers are coming off one of its best seasons to date after they reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament for the second time in the program's now 19-year history. Denney Wright and company had its storybook season come to an end on its home field when Georgetown scored a late goal to win 1-0. Minnesota finished the 2010 season with a record of 14-6-3 and ranked 16th in the final national polls.

Maryland is coming off one of its program's best seasons where it finished ranked in the nation's Top 10 and reached the NCAA Tournament for the second-straight season. The Terrapins had its postseason run halted by Georgetown in the second round after losing on penalty kicks. Maryland returns eight starters from last year's battle-tested squad, and it enters the season ranked No. 6 in the NSCAA preseason poll, which is its highest preseason ranking the program has ever received.

The Terps are coached by Brian Pensley, who was honored last season as the Soccer America National Coach of the Year for posting an 18-2-3 record. Pensley and his team showcased one of the nation's top scoring offenses last season where the Terrapins averaged 2.30 goals per game, which ranked them 12th in the nation.


Experience will most likely win out when it comes to a starting running back for the Golden Gophers this season. After all, of the five running backs on the roster, there is one senior and four freshmen.

Duane Bennett is that lone senior and he's in his fifth year in the program. He has 360 career carries for 1,487 yards and 14 rushing touchdowns. Bennett has added 79 career receptions for 783 yards and five scores. Of the remainder of the running backs, there are three red-shirt freshmen and a true freshmen.

In addition to all that experience, Bennett has become a team leader. Even better than his leadership, says offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover, is Bennett's willingness to mentor the youngsters in his position group.

"Duane is practically an assistant coach out there," Limegrover said. "He's been here for about 15 years, I think. You've got to love his energy ... it's well-placed, it's well-timed. He's  a positive kid. He's becoming that voice of the offense. He's not going to accept anything less from his teammates. He's going to get after somebody. He's going to make sure everybody's towing the line. With those young running backs ... it's him and a bunch of babies. He's done a great job of really bringing those guys along."

Red-shirt freshmen Donnell Kirkwood, Lamonte Edwards and Devon Wright, along with true freshman David Cobb, are all benefitting from Bennett's knowledge. Bennett said he enjoys working with the youngsters. His goal is to leave the running back position better for his being here.

"Being able to get those guys to really learn the offense, learn how to work, learn how to do things the right way ... it has been an honor to be able to have these guys," Bennett said. "They have such tremendous talent. Being able to coach those guys on the little things to make them better in the long run, I've had a lot of fun. They are continuing to educate themselves every day. So when they come in next year, they are going to be 10 times better than what they were this year."

If coaching up the guys who are trying to take carries away from him isn't proof enough, Bennett makes it very clear that he is the ultimate team guy. He knows he will probably play a significant role on this team. But he hasn't let that go to his head. All he wants to do is win games.

Camp Blog Day 10: A Look At the Big Fellas Up Front

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It's a time-honored axiom in football. Games are won and lost in the trenches. We've covered the defensive line here in the camp blog, so today, we're going to take a look at the other side of the ball and focus on the big nasties on the offensive line.

The Golden Gophers ranked 86th in the nation in rushing offense last year, averaging just 135.3 yards per game. You can bet head coach Jerry Kill and offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Matt Limegrover aren't going to be happy with a number like that in 2011. After all, the Northern Illinois offense they led in 2010 racked up more than 260 yards per game and ranked No. 7 in the nation in that category. The Huskies were in the top 20 in rushing each of the past two seasons and were No. 37 the previous season. By comparison, Minnesota hasn't ranked better than No. 48 in the same span.

Team rushing offense and protecting the quarterback are two of the more simple ways to judge an offensive line. While the Gophers haven't had a wildly successful offensive line for a few years, they do have two things going for them coming into 2011, according to Limegrover - experience and depth.

The Gophers have two full complements of offensive linemen who Limegrover says he's comfortable with and three of those guys are five-year veterans of college football.

"The thing I'm most happy about is we're nine, 10, 11 strong with guys who could go out there and play for us against USC," Limegrover said. "Now, my job is to figure out which five and how those pieces fit. They've been great to work with. They love learning. They're good, football-smart kids. Any time you have that, you feel like 'OK, I can put something together as a coach that's going to be what we can win games with.'"

That depth has been important early in camp. A handful of offensive linemen have been in and out of the rotation with injuries. Coach Kill said he's been impressed with how the group has handled that adversity.

"We've got a lot of guys out," Kill said. "We've thrown whoever's in there and they just keep playing."

"Our three fifth-year seniors have all done a great job, not only on the field but leading the younger guys," Limegrover continued. "Ryan Wynn, Ryan Orton and Chris Bunders ... those guys have been great in the meeting room, great out here on the field. They have a good idea of what we're trying to accomplish overall, as far as effort and getting better every day."

It's a bit of a mutual admiration society from the offensive linemen as well, according to the aforementioned Bunders.

Camp Blog Day 9: Gophers Hold First Scrimmage

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Day 9 Photo Gallery on Flickr

Last week, Golden Gopher head coach Jerry Kill referenced preseason games in the NFL and the lack thereof in college football.

"Our preseason game is USC," Kill said.

While college football teams don't play preseason games, Tuesday morning's scrimmage at TCF Bank Stadium was the next-closest thing for the Gophers. Preseason games in the National Football League are used to help make personnel decisions and to clean up execution before the games start counting in the win-loss column. Much of the same could be said for the Gophers' scrimmages.

Tuesday's first scrimmage of fall camp had its share of mistakes. But that's what practice is for, according to Kill.

"I don't think I've tolerated mistakes very well," Kill said, referencing the first 10 practices of the fall and the 15 sessions back during the spring. "Nobody does. We're not playing with 25 juniors and seniors. We're playing with a lot of young people. They're going to make (mistakes). We've got to just make sure they don't continue to make them.

"And if we're going to make them, I'd rather do it on Tuesday afternoon on the 10th practice than on game day," Kill said. "So you train them. We'll show them what they did wrong and point it out to them. Hopefully they'll get it corrected. If they don't get it corrected and they keep making the same mistakes, it's hard to play that guy."

In addition to a handful of mistakes, there were a few injuries which put a bit of a damper on the enthusiasm of the first scrimmage of fall camp. But in typical Coach Kill fashion, he brought it all back to building the team.

"Our starting center (Ryan Wynn) got hurt right off the bat," Kill said. "So you're underneath somebody different and I think it took a little while (for the offense) to get into rhythm. But I've been doing this for 29 years and every time you have a first scrimmage ... that's pretty much how it goes.  

"We had a few guys get banged," Kill continued. "When you get a few key players hurt, it's probably good in camp for the next guy to have to step in. MarQueis (Gray) had to get underneath another center ... and it took a little while for him to get used to it. But that's going to happen. You've got to be ready for those kinds of things."

Camp Blog Day 8: Work Week Begins

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Day 8 Photo Gallery on Flickr

Following Monday morning's workout, Gopher Football head coach Jerry Kill reminded his players that this was a very important week. There are two scrimmages (Tuesday and Saturday) this week. Many thoughts about who will be playing and where they will play will begin to be formed this week.

Kill told the group that although they may get tired, they need to keep their mental focus this week.

Despite that, it was a good day of work with a good-natured attitude from the head coach on down through the players Monday.

Case in point ... it wasn't readily apparent whether Coach Kill knew one of his top linebackers was lurking in the background of Monday evening's post-practice interview session. But when the Star-Tribune's Phil Miller asked if Coach Kill would "agree that Sam linebacker is the weakness of the defense," someone nodded slightly toward the long-haired linebacker just a bit and tipped Kill off.

Coach Kill then looked at Rallis ... paused ever so slightly and then with a sly smile, he disagreed with Miller's question.

"Well, I gotta be honest with you ... at Sam linebacker, we're pretty darn good," Kill said. "I feel good about that. I don't say that very often. I think, not only does the guy standing back there need to get a haircut ... but the guys working with, behind him and so forth ... linebacking-wise, I think there are some guys doing some good things right now."

Camp Blog Day 7: Gopher Photo Day Unlike Any Other

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Well, that was the strangest team picture day I've ever attended. But it is most likely the wave of the future.

The Gophers hired Lifetouch to handle their team photos once again this year. It was the first year that the company has brought a new technology to the U of M campus for team and group photos. This new technology basically puts out a team and/or group photo without actually taking a photo of the entire group.

Here's how it works: High-tech cameras take head-to-toe digital images of each individual. Each individual's name is tagged in the software. An automated program then drops each person who belongs in each group or team photo in automatically. Some editing is done on the back end to make it look sharp... and voila! A team photo or a group photo of the coaching staff, the equipment staff, etc. is the finished product.

We're supposed to get the finished images back in about a week-and-a-half for use in the football game program. I'll be very interested to see the finished product.

All together, the process took less than two hours. The best thing for the coaches, players and staff is they didn't have to stand out in the hot sun in the stadium for 30 minutes while the photographers yell things like "Hey, number 8! Move to your left one step. No, back to the right a half step. OK, perfect!" Those who were involved in the shoot spent roughly one minute in front of the cameras indoors at the Gibson-Nagurski Complex indoor practice facility and then they were done.

In addition to the team/group photos, a few other things were taking place in conjunction with Photo Day. Public Service Announcements that air in the stadium on game days with student-athletes in them were being shot, as were some interviews for Coach Kill's television show. There was also some video work being done for the team introduction video to be used on the big screen on game days.

I was personally involved in something cool, too. Gopher defensive lineman Curran Delaney was taking part in a photo shoot for ESPN The Magazine. Delaney was in the Marines prior to attending the University of Minnesota and served as a sniper. ESPN The Magazine will be profiling him as part of a story focusing on athletes who have served in the military. The magazine sent a photographer to Minneapolis today to get images of Delaney for that story, which will tie into the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks .

Keep an eye out for that issue of ESPN The Magazine next month. I've seen the photos and they are very cool! I have some shots of the setup for the photo shoot in the video above and the photo gallery below.

Notes:

>Sunday was a day off from practice for the Gophers.

>The team will be back at it with a two-a-day session Monday at the Gibson-Nagurski Complex. Those practices are slated for 8:50 a.m. and 4:50 p.m. and are once again open to the public.


Camp Blog Day 6: Gophers Put First Week Behind Them

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The Gophers wrapped up their first week of the 2011 Preseason Camp with a two-a-day session Saturday at the Gibson-Nagurski Complex. The second of the two practices was held in the late afternoon/early evening.

Head coach Jerry Kill's squad practiced for a little more than 1 1/2 hours in gorgeous weather. A little rain in the area even stayed off to the east and created a nice rainbow for more than 200 fans who were in attendance.

Those fans were treated to a good deal of live scrimmage work. There were some oooh's and aaah's from the crowd during the seven-on-seven drills, when quarterbacks MarQueis Gray and Max Shortell each hooked up with wide receivers for long gains. 

While the offense had the upper hand in the seven-on-seven's, it was the defense that shined in the scrimmage at the end of practice. 

"The defense made some great plays," Gray said. "The offense just had a lack of focus. That's all. Once we get that squared away, then everyone's on the same page and trusting each other and we'll be doing some great things."

Sunday will mark the Gophers' first day off from practice during this year's camp. They won't be completely away from football, however. The team will have meetings, before gathering in the early afternoon for a team photo. This session is closed to the public.

See below for a Flickr photo gallery of Saturday's practice.


Camp Blog Day 6: Gophers Meet SEALs

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First-year University of Minnesota head football coach Jerry Kill has a team to build. He wants his Golden Gophers to rely on each other, care about the man next to him more than he cares about himself, have a team-first attitude, be mentally tough.

What team fits the above descripton better than the United States Navy SEALs? So, Coach Kill and Director of Player Personnel Adam Clark recruited a pair of gentlemen from the Navy SEALs to speak with the Gophers after Friday night's team meal.

Dave Morrison was a Captain and Mark Courrier was a Special Warfare Operator Master Chief for the SEALS. Both are now based in Norfolk, Va. and are part of the Naval Special Warfare Recruiting Directorate. Clark contacted them, asked them to visit Minnesota and speak to the team. Both had powerful messages.

"I've got one question for you," Morrison asked the team. "What's the most important thing here today? The people that walk in and out of those glass doors every day. It doesn't matter the amount of equipment you have, the amount of practice you do, the amount of things you have, the gear. It doesn't matter.

"If you can't depend on the guy that's sitting or standing right next you on the line, or holding the snap ... if you can't depend on that guy, then you can't call yourselves a team," Morrison continued.

Camp Blog Day 5: First Day In Full Pads

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Photo Gallery Day 5


Full pads went on for the first time in the University of Minnesota football team's 2011 preseason camp Friday. So, surely the intensity was ratcheted up a notch and practice was much different than it has been for the first four days. Right?

Not so fast, said head coach Jerry Kill after Friday's workout.

"We haven't had full pads on, but we didn't practice any different than we did the last three days in shells," Kill said. "We've been in shells. The only thing we weren't in is pants. We practice exactly the same way. Except for the last 10 minutes, we didn't change one ounce of practice and what we do."

Kill mentioned that last 10 minutes being the one difference in the practice. That difference came in the form of the team actually getting some live scrimmage-type work in. Three different offensive units got to work against three different defensive units at the end of the workout.

During that scrimmage session, the offense faced a second-and-eight situation. If the offense recorded a first down, the offense won and the defense did up-downs. Conversely, if the defense held, it's unit was the winner of that go-round and the offense was doing up-downs.

Coach Kill never likes to make too many proclamations until after he has gone inside to watch the tape. But he did see enough to know that there were some positives and negatives on both sides of the ball.

Camp Blog Day 4: Delving Into the Defensive Line

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Camp Blog Day 4 Photo Gallery

As the camp blog looks at the Gophers by position groups throughout fall camp, we focus in on the defensive line today.

It's no secret to anyone involved with the Minnesota football program that rushing the passer was an issue in the 2010 season. With just nine sacks last season, the Gophers ranked last in the nation in that category.

Senior defensive tackle Anthony Jacobs says getting to the quarterback is always at the forefront of a defensive lineman's consciousness.

"(Sacks are) always on our mind," Jacobs said after Thursday's fourth practice of camp. "That's the one spot that we can get some glory is defensive sacks. There's a huge emphasis on that. The players in the NFL now, that's the one thing they were real good at is getting sacks, putting pressure on the quarterback. So, we're all working hard to do the same thing."

Claeys said Jacobs and senior fellow defensive tackle Brandon Kirksey have done everything asked of them so far.

"(Kirksey and Jacobs) are being great leaders right now," Claeys said. "They had a good summer with Coach Klein. They're in great shape. They have improved a lot since spring ball, just in what we've asked them to do. They've lost a little bit of weight, slimmed down and have played really hard so far."

While the defensive tackle position seems to be in good hands with the first unit, Claeys is looking for more constant production from the defensive end position.

Camp Blog Day 3: Looking at the Quarterback Position

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Camp Blog Day 3 Photo Gallery

Throughout the course of fall camp, the Camp Blog will endeavor to look at each position group on the Gopher squad. We'll kick off with the quarterbacks.

While it's only Day 3 of camp, head coach Jerry Kill has already identified quarterback as one of the question marks for the Gophers. It isn't hard to see who the clear-cut front-runner for the No. 1 signal-caller job is - junior Marqueis Gray is poised to take hold of the reins of Matt Limegrover's offense.

"(MarQueis) is an amazing story,"head coach Jerry Kill said after practice Wednesday. More of that quote in a moment.

But there are even a few question marks when it comes to Gray, according to his head coach. He hasn't been a full-time starting quarterback since high school and Kill wants to see how his guy handles live, game action in a hostile environment.

The rest of Kill's comment after he called Gray an amazing story came after a brief pause ... "if he continues to go through the growth spurt. You've got to play on Saturday's before you evaluate anybody. We don't get preseason games like the National Football League. Our preseason is ... we gotta go to USC. Until he gets game experience, he'll learn and he'll have to be patient. He's gotta continue to progress."

Where it sounds like Coach Kill may have to be patient is when it comes to figuring out who will play behind Gray.

Camp Blog Day 2: BTN Rolls Into Town

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Camp Blog Photo Gallery - Day 2

The Big Ten Network's studio team of Dave Revsine, Gerry Dinardo and Howard Griffith rolled into the Twin Cities Tuesday for their annual preseason tour of each Big Ten campus.

It was just the second day of practice for the Gophers. While head coach Jerry Kill would have liked to show the fans in attendance and the Big Ten Network folks a faster pace to practice, the Gophers just haven't progressed to that point in Kill's program yet.

"I don't think we can speed up because we've only had 17 practices with a group of kids," Kill said. "It isn't like we've had veterans for 20 years, 15 and10 years. We've had 17 practices with about 30 new faces out there. We've got every coach working. We've got every player working. We can't go fast right now, not as fast as we're going to two or three years down the road."

Speaking of speed, there was apparently some discussion amongst some of the Gophers as to which player was the fastest. A member of the media posed that question to Coach Kill. The head coach may as well have said, "Who's the fastest? Who cares?"

What he really said was: "I'm not worried about it. I don't care as long as they play on the field."

Camp Blog Day 2: Gopher Newsstand

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Monday's first day of the 2011 brought a large contingent of the Twin Cities media out to see the team practice and talk to the coaches and players after the workout. Below is a look at some of yesterday's media coverage of the Golden Gophers:

U Has That New Team Feel - Minneapolis Star-Tribune
Scoggins: Kill's Discipline Just What Gophers Need - Minneapolis Star-Tribune
On Day 1, Shortell Works With Gray, Parish - Minneapolis Star-Tribune
Quarterback Marqueis Gray Trying to Accentuate the Positive at Fall Camp - St. Paul Pioneer Press

Gophers Coach Jerry Kill Takes It Easy On His Players on First Day of Fall Camp - St. Paul Pioneer Press

Two Things: Jerry Kill - St. Paul Pioneer Press
Three Things: Marqueis Gray - St. Paul Pioneer Press
Questions With Bob Sansevere: Gophers Running Back Du'ane Bennett - St. Paul Pioneer Press
All Eyes On Olson - Day 1 Recap - KFAN.com
Gophers Have Only A Few Experienced Offensive Linemen - foxsportsnorth.com
Differences On Display At Kill's First Fall Practice - foxsportsnorth.com
Fresh Faces: Minnesota - ESPN.com

Don't forget Tuesday's practice is slated for 3:45 p.m. at the Gibson-Nagurski Complex and is open to the public. The Gophers will practice in helmets, jerseys and shorts once again today.
-By Andy Seeley, Associate Director of Athletic Communications

Camp Blog Day 1: Kill Gets to "Be a Ball Coach"

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Camp Blog Photo Gallery Day 1

Day 1 of fall camp for the University of Minnesota football team is in the books. It was the first-ever fall practice for head coach Jerry Kill, who is preparing his first Gopher team for its season-opener Sept. 3 at USC.

Kill said Monday's practice session went well. But he also made sure to mention that the pace still wasn't what he wants it to eventually be.

Despite that, the Gophers felt it was a productive practice with two and three huddles working at a time.

"You get a lot of rep(etition)s," junior linebacker Mike Rallis said of the way Kill and his staff run practice. "That's really the key to football. You've got to get the repetitions down. Overall, I think it was an extremely productive practice."

While Coach Kill saw some good things also, he cautioned that it was just the first day.

"I thought it went pretty good," Kill said following the practice session. "We had a lot of people out there working. We had a bunch of kids that I've never had a chance to see and another group that we've only seen for 15 days. So there's a lot of learning processes to be made.

"I thought some guys looked quicker and faster," Kill continued. "But you always do on the first day. This is one day. Anybody can do something in one day. You've got to do it over a period of time."

Kill said he was just happy to have an opportunity to actually do some coaching.

"I got to be out there and be a ball coach, which I enjoy doing," Kill said. "I don't get a chance to do it very often. Going out there and working with kids, I enjoy doing that. Seeing kids get better and see how they respond ... that's a good thing. I enjoy that process."

Photo Gallery - Day 0 (Orientation)

The Golden Gophers held an orientation session as a precursor preseason camp Sunday afternoon at TCF Bank Stadium and the Gibson-Nagurski Complex. As with any meeting of this sort, lots of talking heads were in front of the Gophers Sunday.

 Chief among those speakers was new University of Minnesota President Dr. Eric Kaler, who explained to the Gophers how important they are to the school.

"You are critically important to the image we put forth to the community," Kaler told them. "We're invested in your success. I'm here to tell you that academically, there's nothing more important to me than you being able to make progress toward a degree and toward being a successful human being."

Kaler also had good things to say about Coach Kill.

"You are blessed because of the addition of Coach Kill and his staff at the University of Minnesota," Kaler said. "Most of you are returning from a season last year that was not all that we would want to have in Gopher Football. I'm convinced that Coach Kill and his team are going to be able to move this program forward in every way that matters. I'm going to be your biggest fan."

There is a famous story about legendary basketball coach John Wooden and the first thing he did with new players. He taught them how to put their socks and shoes on and how to tie their shoes.

Former Bruin and NBA great Bill Walton said doing that properly would be "everything we would need to know for the rest of our lives." It was important for Wooden to not only tell his players what he expected of them and how he expected them to handle themselves, down to the smallest detail of tying their shoes.

"Today's an educational system," Kill said. "Not so much talking at them, but talking with them to teach them what it is to be a college football player. It's not anything new. It's just how you do it and what you do to make sure they take something from it and learn."

Golden Gopher football players got head coach Jerry Kill's version of that shoes/socks talk Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium. The Gophers took part in an eight-hour orientation session and unlike many other orientation sessions, this one included some hands-on demonstrations. Those demonstrations included how to keep and maintain their lockers, as well as where to be and what to do during practice sessions.