Not one senior played on the Gopher offensive line in 2012. With no departing seniors, there are no automatically open spots to fill on the depth chart. This fall, a bigger pool of linemen are competing for the same number of spots as before.
"It's been a lot of good competition, which is great," right guard Caleb Bak said. "When you have competition, people below each other will help fuel people above each other. Competition is just naturally good."
Bak is a returning starter for Minnesota.
Although Bak started the Gophers' final 11 games last season, he must still take the competition from his teammates seriously. At the same time, the linemen know they are all on the same side.
"Everyone's really friendly with each other," Bak said. "It's a very friendly atmosphere."
Junior left tackle Marek Lenkiewicz, who is competing with senior Ed Olson for the starting spot, echoed that sentiment. He said the offensive line's motto is, "Five is one." The line must work as a single unit in order to be effective.
Lenkiewicz said that continuity within the group, being together with many of the same guys for the past few years, is important. Everyone from 2012 is back again with another year of experience.
"It's fantastic," Bak said. "It's something you don't get a lot. Most programs you're going to go into, you're going to have people who play only their junior or senior year. Here, we have a bunch of guys who played their freshman and sophomore years. We're coming in with a lot of experience, so it's looking to be a good year for the offensive line."
With 17 days left until Gopher football, today's countdown is brought to you by Cory Sauter. A quarterback for Minnesota from 1994 to 1997, Sauter held multiple school records at the end of his career.
Sauter still holds a record with seven 300-plus-yard games. He also has the sophomore record for touchdown passes (18) and the junior record for completions (200). Sauter's career total of 6,834 yards now ranks third in Gopher history. He is now second in attempts (945) and completions (539) behind Adam Weber, and fourth in touchdown passes (40).
Sauter is tied for second in completion percentage (.570). His 7-for-7 game against Ohio State in 1995 ties a game record for accuracy. The list of his top-10 statistical accomplishments goes on and on.
A few of Sauter's favorite targets were Ryan Thelwell and Tutu Atwell. Watch highlights of Sauter and that duo below.
Sauter was named co-Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week after passing 23-for-37 for 285 yards and two touchdowns against Illinois in 1996. Sauter completed a career-high 29 passes against Northwestern in 1995, and threw for 404 yards and four touchdowns against Michigan State that same season.
After his Gopher career, Sauter was on a few NFL rosters as well as playing in NFL Europe. He then started coaching and is currently the head coach at Southwest Minnesota State.
Bonus reading: 1997 game program feature on Sauter
Scrimmage recap (GopherSports.com)
Scrimmage audio: Kill l Zebrowski l Nelson l Leidner
Nelson composed in scrimmage (1500ESPN.com)
Talking QBs after the scrimmage (Pioneer Press) but remember they are still young (FSN)
Edwards dazzles with speed (Pioneer Press)
Nelson, new faces shine in scrimmage (Star Tribune)
Coach Kill tackles epilepsy (Star Tribune)
Kill opens up about epilepsy (Star Tribune)
Catching up with MarQueis Gray (Minnesota Daily)
Athletic Gophers noticeable at scrimmage (GoldAndGopher.com)
Antoine Burns wore No. 18 for the Golden Gophers from 2000 to 2002. The wide receiver transferred to Minnesota from Rochester Community College, where he was a junior college All-American.
Burns is in the Gophers' 1,000-yard receiving club.
An injury limited Burns to three games in 2000, but he played in every game for each of the next two seasons. In his 27 career games, Burns hauled in 75 receptions for 1,006 yards and seven touchdowns. He is one of 22 receivers in Gopher history to pass the 1,000-yard mark.
The career of the Gophers' No. 2 all-time receiver, Ron Johnson, overlapped with Burns' time at the U. Burns was the team's No. 2 receiver behind Johnson in 2001, catching 30 passes for 470 yards and three touchdowns. The next year, Burns was again among team leaders, with 44 receptions for 526 yards and four touchdowns.
Burns signed with the Seattle Seahawks as a free agent in 2003, and was picked up by a few different teams before moving on to his hometown AFL team in Milwaukee.
On a beautiful Saturday evening in Minneapolis, the Gophers scrimmaged at TCF Bank Stadium, the last practice open to fans. The team did not play a true game with special teams, but instead ran series of plays with different sets of personnel. A good turnout of Gopher fans lined the field to watch.
Nelson looked sharp in Saturday's scrimmage.
Philip Nelson and the first team opened the scrimmage with a touchdown on their first drive. Nelson went 4-for-4 passing for about 41 yards. Donnell Kirkwood also picked up some yards on the ground. Nelson connected with KJ Maye a few times, capping off the drive with a 3-yard touchdown pass.
On the first team's next series, Nelson completed both of his passes. His first incompletion came during his third series.
During Mitch Leidner's first few turns calling the shots, the Gophers ran more rushing plays than passing plays. Leidner tucked and ran several times himself throughout the scrimmage. He mixed in more passes as the night went on.
All five quarterbacks got into the rotation. Chris Streveler got around the edge for a long run that would have been a touchdown had the play not been whistled dead. Donovahn Jones played both quarterback and wide receiver, his first time lining up at receiver this fall. Fellow freshman Conor Rhoda connected with Jones on a long pass, but Jones was ruled out of bounds on the catch.
Another freshman turning heads was Berkley Edwards. On the first play of a series, he took a handoff from Streveler and blazed about 70 yards and into the end zone.
After two practices today, the Gophers will have Sunday off before doubling up again on Monday.
*Saturday's scrimmage is open to the public. It begins at 4:40 p.m. at TCF Bank Stadium. Doors open at 3:30 p.m. at the Lake of the Woods entrance.
With 19 days left until Gophers-UNLV, Benji Kamrath represents the countdown today. He was a backup quarterback, but he saw significant action in a few Gopher wins.
Kamrath played the whole second half against Wisconsin.
One of Kamrath's most notable games was against Wisconsin in 2003. Starter Asad Abdul-Khaliq left the game with an injury at the end of the first half and did not return. Kamrath took over for the second half, completing six of 10 passes for 93 yards. He helped the Gophers get down the field to set up Rhys Lloyd's game-winning field goal on the final drive.
Kamrath played in 11 games his senior season, accounting for two rushing touchdowns and a passing touchdown. Previously, in 2002, Kamrath started in place of an injured Abdul-Khaliq and led the Gophers to a win over Northwestern.
His playing career ended after graduation, but Kamrath has stayed involved in the sport he loves. He is currently the head football coach at Watertown High School in Wisconsin.
Saturday scrimmage open to the public (GopherSports.com)
Audio: Kill l Limegrover l Hageman l H. Ekpe
Scrimmage time (Star Tribune)
Gophers ready for first scrimmage (1500ESPN.com)
Last chance to see the Gophers before the season starts (Pioneer Press)
A loot at the Gophers (PennLive.com)
Minnesota searching for signature win (ESPN.com)
The University of Minnesota football team will hold its first scrimmage of fall camp on Aug. 10 at TCF Bank Stadium. The doors at the Lake of the Woods gate will open at 3:30 p.m. for fans and the scrimmage will begin at 4:40 p.m.
Saturday's scrimmage is the last open practice for the public and media before the season starts in earnest on Aug. 29 at home against UNLV.
Coaching staff's loyalty tough to break (FSN)
Cockran grows into his frame (Pioneer Press)
Three kickers competing for spots (Star Tribune)
Defense trumps offense in goal line drills (1500ESPN.com)