Fall Camp: Let's Talk Linebackers

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Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys said after the Gophers' second day of practice that linebacker is the key position to sort out during fall camp. He feels good about the depth on the line and in the secondary, so the linebacker slots currently have the most question marks.

Go Gophers! Aaron Hill
Go Gophers!
Hill is one of the Gophers' team leaders.
Go Gophers!
One name that is sure to appear on the depth chart is Aaron Hill.  In his pre-camp press conference on Tuesday, head coach Jerry Kill called the redshirt senior "probably our strongest leader on the defensive side of the football." 

Hill has played in 34 career games, and started 11 of 13 last season. He recorded 74 tackles, two interceptions and a team-leading three forced fumbles as a junior. As a veteran of the program, Hill is well aware of parts of the Gophers' game that they would like to correct this season.

"I think the big thing for us is just alignment and assignment," he said. "We had a couple critical errors that cost us some big runs. But I think coming into this year, it's going to be all about alignment and assignment. ...If you're there, you have the best chance to be successful."

Veterans like Hill will be important in making those adjustments, but the Gophers also have a handful of new players who will be part of the solution. At middle linebacker, Kill said that junior college transfer Damien Wilson and redshirt freshman Jack Lynn are in a close battle for the starting spot.

At Jones County CC, Wilson played for former NFL player and coach, Ray Perkins, who played for Bear Bryant at Alabama. Besides the toughness instilled by Perkins, Wilson also had a few years to grow and gain experience before moving on to Minnesota, where he participated in practice this spring.

"Damien has a little bit of an edge in size," Claeys said. "The other is, those kids in junior college, they played against some pretty good athletes."

Lynn is one year behind Wilson, but his redshirt season helped him to learn the system and put on some weight. The position battle from spring will continue in fall camp.

Also of note, Kill said he has been impressed with sophomore linebacker De'Vondre Campbell, another junior college transfer.

Note: Sunday's practice is open to the public and begins at 10:25 a.m.

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