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.
"They form a nice combo," Limegrover said. "(Collin is) an on-the-line guy. Eric's more of a move-him-around, get-him-in-space (guy). He's a little too fast for linebackers and a little too big for safeties, so we like that."
Meanwhile, there are two newcomers who will be expected to contribute at that position this season, as well. John Rabe is a junior college transfer from Ellsworth Community College, while freshman Drew Goodger has shown promise, as well.
"John Rabe has done a nice job," Limegrover said. He's kind of a hybrid of both (Lair and McGarry). So, we feel comfortable with him. Drew Goodger, a true freshman, has really come on. He's going to be an on-the-line guy."
As if that weren't enough weapons, the Gophers will also employ an h-back at times. The leading candidate for that versatile, fullback-tight end hybrid position is sophomore Mike Henry.
>For all intents and purposes, Thursday marked the end of preseason camp. The team will go through some game-day preparations on Friday (more on that later). But the physical hay is in the barn, so to speak. The next time the Gophers don the pads and hit the Gibson-Nagurski Complex practice fields, it will be game week.
>The Gophers went through a two-hour workout Thursday afternoon at the practice facility. The practice was more mental than physical. The team did not bust out shoulder pads and just went with helmets. "Now, it's a mental thing. We spent a lot of time on different situations and installing things that will work against USC," head coach Jerry Kill said.
>With it being mostly a mental practice, the Gophers turned even more attention toward looking at what they expect to see from USC and how they plan to combat those things. "We felt this was a good afternoon to slow the pace down. We worked a lot of stuff on USC and putting in game plan and preparation. We slowed it down and taught some things on what we're going to see. Hopefully that benefits us."
>Kill said the team has "hit the wall" with their physical preparation, which is why he will have them off their feet for nearly all of Friday and the rest of the weekend. "You can always tell by veteran players. They've communicated with me well. I think we're where we need to be. We've got to let them get away from it Saturday and Sunday and get their feet back underneath them and be ready to go Monday."
>Friday morning, the team will go to TCF Bank Stadium and work on items such as how they will warm up before a game, how to get different personnel groupings on and off the field, etc. The Gophers will be through with their day by mid-afternoon and will then have the rest of the weekend off.