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.
"The biggest thing for tomorrow ... it's to see kids play," Kill said. "We may throw the ball five times in a row vertically to see if a corner can make a play on the ball or we may need to see a receiver make a play ... or a running back getting more reps. We know Duane Bennett plays pretty good. What are some of these other youngsters going to be able to do? We need to place the guys we don't know, the question marks ... somebody who's fighting for a position and see how they perform under pressure."
>Coach Kill had some special visitors speak to the team prior to Friday's afternoon practice. Lynn Lowder struck up a relationship with Coach Kill when he was coaching at Northern Illinois. Lowder was a Marine for 16 years as and was in Force Recon, which is a special operations unit. As Lowder put it, his unit would have been the equivalent to the Navy SEALs and Army Special Forces. Lowder gives motivational/inspirational talks to football teams and Marines. Due to his relationship with Coach Kill, he was in the Twin Cities Friday to speak with the Gophers. More about that talk in the Camp Blog over the weekend.
>Two of Kill's former Northern Illinois Huskies made the trip over from DeKalb with Lowder. Jake Coffman, himself a Marine - and a veteran of the war in Iraq - was in attendance at Friday's practice. Coffman was the player who led the Huskies onto the field with the United States Flag. Coach Kill plans to carry on the tradition of having someone carry the Stars and Stripes onto the field with the team here at Minnesota. Another former NIU Huskie, kicker Michael Cklamovski, came with Coffman and Lowder as well.
>Saturday's scrimmage is open to the public and will be held at TCF Bank Stadium. The scrimmage is slated to begin at roughly 9:45 a.m.
>The scrimmage is also the final practice of the preseason that will be open to the public. The Gophers will tighten up access to practice and will soon begin the process of installing the game plan for the season-opener at USC.
>I found out today that Carter Blackburn, Brock Huard and Shelley Smith will be the broadcast team for the aforementioned season-opener with the Trojans. The game will be broadcast on ABC, with kickoff set for 2:30 p.m. CT.
>There has been a great deal of discussion about college football trophy games today, with Iowa and Iowa State unveiling a new Cy-Hawk trophy for their annual matchup. That discussion got me thinking ... what's your favorite trophy of the Gophers' four they play for? Leave us a comment with your favorite trophy and why.