What They're Saying - Aug. 4

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Let's talk linebackers (GopherSports.com)

Practice No. 2 in photos (GopherGridiron.com)

AUDIO from Practice No. 2: Kill l Claeys l Murray l Hill l Botticelli l D. Wilson

You won't find QB Philip Nelson on Twitter (Shooter)

Nelson featured in hometown paper (Mankato Free Press)

Why does Donnell Kirkwood have such strong legs? Because at 11-years-old he pulled around a steel sled (Star Tribune)

Linebacker competition heating up (Pioneer Press)

Fall camp preview (WDAY)

Kill on LB Campbell "He doesn't mess around. He's focused. He's locked in and he's really done well." (1500 ESPN)

Claeys likes tall linebackers (Star Tribune)

Another Juco transfer looking to make an impact (FSN)

Kill not concerned about preseason predictions (Sid)

Practice in pictures (Pioneer Press)

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.

What They're Saying - Aug. 3

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Football season is here (GopherSports.com)

AUDIO: Kill l Nelson l Leidner

All eyes on the QBs (Star Tribune)

Day One of #YEAR3 in pictures (Star Tribune)

Gophers display more balance, more depth (FSN)

Kill: "We're looking more like a Big Ten team." (Pioneer Press)

Minnesota passes eye test on Day One (1500ESPN.com)

#26 Days Until Gopher Football

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Go Gophers! 26 Mike Rallis
Go Gophers!
One of the most recognizable Golden Gophers in recent memory, Mike Rallis, sported the No. 26 jersey between 2008 and 2012, missing one year due to injury. The linebacker's signature long hair often covered up that 26 until he had his head shaved last year as part of an effort to raise money for St. Baldrick's Foundation.
On the field, Rallis started in 48 games during his career, and he definitely had to fight for that spot. Walking on to the team as a freshman, he did not have a scholarship until he earned one during fall camp. The following year, Rallis broke his leg three games into the season but was back in the lineup for the 2010 season opener.

That year, Rallis led the team with three interceptions. He was third on the team in tackles in 2011 with 83, and second in 2012 with 80. As a senior, Rallis received the team's Neil Fredenburg Award for courage and love of the game.

Watch: Rallis' senior profile video from 2012 fall camp

Gophers Open Fall Camp

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The Golden Gopher football team opened season training camp with a Friday evening practice. Fans were welcome to come and watch, and many did on a beautiful day at the Gibson-Nagurski complex.

Head coach Jerry Kill and his players made it clear that they wanted to pick up right where they left off in the spring. Kill also emphasized the fact that every position is open for competition. All eyes were on the quarterbacks today, as sophomore Philip Nelson is working to retain the starting spot and redshirt freshman Mitch Leidner looks to earn some snaps this fall. Nelson and Leidner met with the media after practice.

#27 Days Until Gopher Football

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Go Gophers! 27 Kyle Theret
Go Gophers!
Kyle Theret is one of the most recent Golden Gophers to wear No. 27. The native of Murrieta, Calif., played for Minnesota from 2007 to 2010. Despite his comparatively short stature, the 5-10 safety was never afraid to mix it up with bigger guys.

Go Gophers! Kyle Theret
Go Gophers!
Theret after the Gophers' first TCF Bank Stadium win
Go Gophers!
Theret ranks sixth on the Gophers' all-time interceptions list. With 10 career picks, he ended his career just two behind the school record held by Sean Lumpkin and Jeff Wright. 

Theret led the team with three interceptions in both 2007 and 2009. Two of his 2009 interceptions came in the Insight Bowl, tying a Gopher bowl record. During that game, Theret also caught a 40-yard pass on a fake punt. 

In recognition of the way he practiced and played, Theret was awarded the team's Neil Fredenburg Award for courage and love of the game in 2008.

#28 Days Until Gopher Football

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Go Gophers! 29
Go Gophers!

Third in our countdown and first in the record books is kicker Dan Nystrom. The wearer of No. 28 from 1999 to 2002 is the Gophers' all-time leading scorer. His 367-point career total is 99 points ahead of the next person on the list.

Nystrom's best known moment, immortalized in a Sports Illustrated photo, was when he booted a game-winning field goal at Penn State in 1999. The freshman kicker secured a 24-23 Gopher upset victory with a 32-yarder as time expired.

Nystrom led the team in scoring each of his four years in the Maroon and Gold. He scored a career-best 109 points as a sophomore, when he made the All-Big Ten Second Team. He holds Minnesota records for field goals in a bowl game (5 in the 2002 Music City Bowl) and career bowl game field goals (8). His 367 points, 71 field goals and 154 extra points were all Big Ten records at the time.

Bonus reading: Check out this 2002 game program feature to find out how Nystrom proposed to his wife.

#29 Days Until Gopher Football

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Go Gophers! 29 Amir Pinnix
Go Gophers!

Amir Pinnix spent the first few years of his University of Minnesota football career overshadowed by future NFL running backs Marion Barber III and Laurence Maroney. But when his turn in the spotlight finally came, he did not disappoint.

Go Gophers! Amir Pinnix
Go Gophers!
Amir Pinnix
Go Gophers!

Pinnix, who wore No. 29 from 2004 to 2007, is the most recent Golden Gopher to reach 1,000 yards rushing in a season. He piled up 1,272 yards on the ground in 2006, the eighth consecutive year Minnesota could boast a 1,000-yard rusher. His season total ranks eighth all-time in the school record books.

He ran for 10 touchdowns and passed the 100-yard mark in five different games in 2006, including a 179-yard performance against Texas Tech in the Insight Bowl. Pinnix ended his career with 2,439 total rushing yards, eighth-best in Gopher history.

#30 Days Until Gopher Football

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Go Gophers! 30
Go Gophers!

As the Minnesota football season opener against UNLV (Aug. 29) approaches, we acknowledge former Golden Gophers who wore the jersey number corresponding with how many days remain until kickoff. Noel Jenke and Lee Campbell, both of whom wore No. 30, start the countdown.

Jenke was a rare three-sport letterwinner, and was drafted in all three. On the gridiron (1966-68), Jenke played linebacker. He intercepted three passes in a 21-14 win against Wisconsin in 1967, tied for the school single-game record. Jenke captained the team and earned All-Big Ten honors as a senior in 1968.

Go Gophers! Noel Jenke
Go Gophers!
Noel Jenke, three-sport letterwinner
Go Gophers!

He lettered for the hockey team 1967-69. In his one season with Gopher baseball (1969), Jenke earned All-America acclaim. He went on to play minor league baseball and NFL football, and is a member of the Gophers' M Club Hall of Fame.

Campbell wore the Maroon and Golf more recently, lettering in 2006-09. Like Jenke, he was a linebacker and a team captain. Campbell led the team in tackles as a junior (80) and a senior (total). As a senior in 2009, he also led the way in tackles for a loss (11.5 for 29 yards).

Campbell started his senior season with a stellar performance that earned him Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors. He tallied 13 tackles, 11 solo, providing key stops in an overtime win against Syracuse. At the end of the year, Campbell earned the team's Carl Eller Award for most outstanding defensive player, and shared the Neil Fredenburg Award for courage and love of the game.

Gophers Wrap Up Big Ten Media Days

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Photo Gallery | Wednesday's Blog

Most of the activity for Big Ten Media Days happened on Wednesday, but Thursday held one final media session, an autograph session and the annual Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon.

Head coach Jerry Kill, Brock Vereen, Ra'Shede Hageman and Donnell Kirkwood had their own tables for a two-hour media round table. Media could roam among the various tables and interview any player or coach they wished.

A few tweets from Thursday:

Up next was an autograph session. Coach Kill and the Gophers signed various items at a team table in the ballroom where Kill gave his opening press conference remarks on Wednesday. Minnesota's booth included a "Gopher Sports Experience," where fans could put on a football helmet with speakers that allowed them to hear the video playing on a TV screen. A few of the Gophers tested it out. 

After a group photo, the annual Big Ten Luncheon closed the week's activities.