Camp Blog Day 4: Delving Into the Defensive Line

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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.

"(Defensive end) is where we've got a little bit of inconsistency and it's still got to fold out and see what happens," Claeys said. "But they're giving us great effort and trying."

As for the head coach, Jerry Kill is used to having a solid defensive front. He is looking forward to seeing how that position group develops throughout camp and the 2010 season.

"You've got to be good up front," Kill said. "Where I've been before, we've been good up front and it starts there. We've got a ways to go. Part of that is just playing and getting used to having pads on. But there are definitely some kids up there with some talent. It's a team defense. You have to play well as a team and it all starts up front in the defensive line. They've got to control the line of scrimmage."

Jacobs says the way Claeys asks the defensive line to play could help the veterans and younger players to perform this season.

"(This defense) is freeing us up to play ball, to be more free, play fast and just fly to the ball," Jacobs said. "I have an opportunity to play real fast, at the pace I like to play and also have the younger guys follow. They're stepping up quick. They're learning fast and they're just as ready as I am."

The old axiom in football is that games are won and lost at the line of scrimmage. Claeys echoed those sentiments, at least as much as it pertains to the Gophers' defense.

"We have some good kids coming back. I think they run well. We're trying to find the ones who will attack the line of scrimmage on every snap. All of them do it every now and then. We've got to get consistent," Claeys said. "The better we get (on the line), the better we'll be as a defense."

Notes:
> The Gophers worked for a little more than two hours in shells as the fourth day of the five-day NCAA-mandated acclimation period. The squad will be allowed to don full pads for the first time Friday.
> Fans in attendance were treated to another round of board drills early in Thursday's workout.
> Friday's workout will begin at 3:45 p.m. at the Gibson-Nagurski Complex and is scheduled to last about two hours. It will be open to the public once again.
> Minnesota and Gopher Sports Properties announced the broadcast team for Gopher football for the 2011 season. Mike Grimm, who has already been calling Gopher basketball for the past few years, will take over the play-by-play duties. Darrell Thompson will retain his role as an analyst in the booth. KFAN personality Justin Gaard will report from the sidelines. Corbu Stathes, who serves as the voice of Gopher women's basketball, will handle the halftime and post-game shows. Minnesota Wild studio host Kevin Falness will handle the pre-game show.

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