What They're Saying - Aug. 24

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Botticelli an unsung hero for the defensive line (Star Tribune)

Coach Kill's changing attitude toward epilepsy (Pioneer Press)

In case you missed it....

Rick Reilly's piece on Coach Kill from Thursday (ESPN)

The debut of the GopherSports "Brick by Brick" web series:

What They're Saying - Aug. 23

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Football luncheon next Wednesday. Sign up today! (GopherSports)

Commissioner Delany was in town (GopherSports) and had praise for Coach Kill (Pioneer Press)

Kill's track record of developing NFL Players (Star Tribune)

Extended Delany thoughts (1500ESPN) and an injury update (1500ESPN)

More Delany (Star Tribune)

Nice feature story on Brock Vereen (Star Tribune)

Kicking competition heats up (FSN)

Bold predictions (Gold and Gopher)

Rick Reilly on Jerry Kill: "I didn't have time for cancer," Kill says. "I was coaching." (ESPN.com)

The responses have been tremendous....

#6 Days Until Gopher Football

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Go Gophers! 6 Da'Jon McKnight
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Gophers vs. UNLV (Aug. 29): Buy Tickets

With six days to go until Gopher football, No. 6 Da'Jon McKnight brings us today's countdown post. McKnight (2008-11) battled knee problems to become Minnesota's go-to receiver his last two seasons.

As a junior in 2010, McKnight led the team with 46 receptions for 705 yards and 10 touchdowns -- the third-most touchdowns ever in a Minnesota season. He caught 51 passes for 766 yards and four touchdowns the next year. McKnight ranks seventh all-time with 1,859 yards. Not bad for someone who didn't start playing football until his senior year of high school.

McKnight accomplished a feat no other Gopher has done. He recorded two games with at least three receiving touchdowns. The first was against Penn State in 2010, and the second was against Michigan State the following season:

In all, McKnight hauled in 15 career touchdown passes, good for a tie for fifth in school history. Despite his nagging knee problems, he started every game of his last two seasons.

Bonus reading: McKnight's journey

#7 Days Until Gopher Football

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Go Gophers! 7 Eric Decker
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Gophers vs. UNLV (Aug. 29): Buy Tickets

We are just one week away from kickoff. Former No. 7 Eric Decker, the Gophers' all-time leading receiver, represents the seven days left until Gophers vs. UNLV.

The Cold Spring, Minn., native broke Ron Johnson's record with 3,119 receiving yards from 2006 to 2009. His school-record 227 catches included 24 touchdowns (third all-time). Decker tied a school record with 11 100-plus-yard receiving games.

He tied a single-game record with 13 receptions against Indiana in 2008. Decker posted Minnesota's top two reception totals his sophomore (67) and junior (84) seasons. His 1,074-yard total in 2008 ranks second all-time.

Decker is a tough player, as you can see in the U of M physics video below. He got hit pretty hard in the Gophers' 2009 game against Cal, but still held onto the ball for this touchdown:

A foot injury ended Decker's senior season after eight games. The Biletnikoff and Campbell Award semifinalist did not get a chance to see what could have happened had he stayed healthy. But Decker did still earn All-Big Ten acclaim for the second straight year, along with high academic honors. He was both a National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete Award and a Lowe's Senior CLASS Second Team All-American.

A good baseball player for John Anderson's Gophers, Decker opted not to play his senior season in order to focus on football. He was an All-Big Ten Tournament selection as a junior outfielder. He was picked in two MLB drafts, but ultimately chose football.

The Denver Broncos drafted Decker in the third round in 2010. He has hauled in 22 receiving touchdowns in his first three pro seasons, the most in franchise history for a player that far into his career. Decker was second in the league with 13 TD catches in 2012. In 2011, he made the highlight reels with a 90-yard punt return. This summer, he was one of a handful of Broncos featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Bonus reading: 2008 game program feature on Decker playing two sports

What They're Saying - Aug. 22

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AUDIO: Kill | Nelson

Maye expects to contribute (Pioneer Press)

Watch for these new faces this season (Star Tribune)

Quick notes from practice (Star Tribune)

Wide receivers progressing (GopherSports), but still a question (ESPN1500.com)

Nelson focused and ready (FSN)

Receiving Corps Shaping Up

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There have been a lot of questions surrounding the wide receiver positions during Minnesota's fall camp, but the receiving corps believes it has the tools to be effective. While battling some injuries this August, the group is working to piece together some depth.

"We feel good about what we've got going on," Isaac Fruechte said.

Go Gophers! Isaac Fruechte
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Fruechte: "We feel good about what we've got going on."
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Fruechte and Derrick Engel, both transfers who played last season, are the team's most experienced receivers. KJ Maye played both running back and wide receiver last year, but will focus on receiver in 2013. Veterans Victor Keise and Logan Hutton have seen limited game action, but head coach Jerry Kill praised them for their work and leadership during fall camp.

The Gophers have Jamel Harbison back from last year's injury. They also have true freshmen Drew Wolitarsky and Donovahn Jones. Jones started out mostly doing quarterback work, but has begun taking more reps as a receiver.

Fruechte made his Minnesota debut at UNLV last year, making one catch. He foresees this year's opener being a lot different than last year's.

"I think we've changed so much since last year, since our first game," Fruechte said. "We're a different team now. We're bigger. We're faster. We're stronger. I think our offense will look different because of that. I think certain people's roles will be expanded."

Maye has shifted between different roles throughout camp. He has spent time in the slot and on the outside.

"I'm not intimidated at all," he said about lining up on the outside.

That is the attitude the Gopher receivers have taken about the season. Even though they have dealt with injuries, and even though they do not have a lot of combined experience, they feel they have what it takes to be a valuable part of the offense.

#8 Days Until Gopher Football

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Go Gophers! 8 Adam Weber and Asad Abdul-Khaliq
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Gophers vs. UNLV (Aug. 29): Buy Tickets

Asad Abdul-Khaliq and Adam Weber both quarterbacked the Gophers during the 2000s. With eight days left until the Gophers take on UNLV, these former wearers of No. 8 do the honors of helping with the countdown.

Abdul-Khaliq (2000-03) ended his career as Minnesota's all-time No. 2 passer. His 6,660 yards still put him fourth on the list. As a senior in 2003, he set three Minnesota season records: pass efficiency (a Big Ten-leading 162.3), completion percentage (.632) and touchdown-to-interception ratio (3.40).

Abdul-Khaliq's toss to Jared Ellerson against Northwestern that season went for 96 yards, the longest passing play in school history. In 2003, he also threw for a career-high 388 yards against Iowa. For a time, he held the career records for touchdown passes (55) and total offense (7,818 yards). He ranks fifth in career QB rushing.

It was not an easy path for Abdul-Khaliq, as he attended a year of military school and then redshirted a year before seeing the field. He started a few games for the Gophers as a redshirt freshman, but did not start during the conference season or the bowl game in 2000.

Abdul-Khaliq regained the starting spot during the 2001 season, and then helped lead the Gophers to bowl wins in 2002 (Music City Bowl against Arkansas) and 2003 (Sun Bowl against Oregon). The Gophers' 2003 team MVP spent some time in the Arena Football League after his collegiate career was over. He was back on campus this spring for an alumni flag football game.

A few years after Abdul-Khaliq left, Weber came along and broke some of his records. Weber's school career records include:
- passing yards: 10,917 (third in the Big Ten)
- career total offense: 11,790 (second in the Big Ten behind only Drew Brees)
- total offense plays: 1,992 (Big Ten record)
- touchdown passes: 72
- completions and attempts: 909-1,594 (No. 2 in completion percentage: .570)
- starts at quarterback: 50

Go Gophers! Adam Weber
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Weber won Floyd of Rosedale in his last collegiate game.
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Weber redshirted 2006, then won the starting spot as a redshirt freshman. The 2007 season saw him set single-season records of 258 completions for 2,895 yards and 24 touchdowns. In each of the next two seasons, Minnesota made it to the Insight Bowl.

The duo of Weber and current Denver Broncos wide receiver Eric Decker provided many highlights during the pair's years together. But one of Weber's career moments came in the year after Decker's departure. In his final start in 2010, the veteran QB led a late-game drive that resulted in a touchdown as the Gophers beat Iowa 27-24 to win Floyd of Rosedale.

Weber signed with the Broncos after college, and is now a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneerspractice squad.

Bonus reading:
- 2003 article: a week in the life of Abdul-Khaliq
- "Asad Abdul-Khaliq teaches life after sports" (Minnesota Daily 2012)
- 2010 blog: Weber wins Floyd of Rosedale

What They're Saying - Aug. 21

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AUDIO: Kill l Claeys

Depth at linebacker is always a good thing (Pioneer Press) even when it is raw talent (FSN)

Maxx Williams following in his family's footsteps (Star Tribune)

Boddy-Calhoun seizing the opportunity (1500ESPN) while improving the defensive backfield (GopherSports)

Goal Line Club host football luncheons (GopherSports)

Nelson gets the nod (Star Tribune)

Gopher Football Weekly with Jerrk Kill schedule has been announced (GopherSports)

Minnesota season preview (The Sports Network)

All it takes is one win (GoldAndGopher)

Boddy-Calhoun Part of a Deep Secondary

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Briean Boddy-Calhoun excelled at both football and basketball in high school. One day, his football coach asked him how many recruiting letters he had received for football, and he said he couldn't count them. His coach then asked how many letters he had for basketball, and he said he had received one.

"Reality hit me right there that I'm going to be a football player," Boddy-Calhoun said.

A junior cornerback, Boddy-Calhoun said that he likes going in on blitzes, but would consider himself more of a "finesse" corner.

"I like to get the ball in my hands," he said, like the basketball player he still is when he has the chance. During fall camp, he has gotten his hands on the ball several times. In a scrimmage last week, he snared two interceptions.

Go Gophers! Briean Boddy Calhoun
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Boddy-Calhoun has impressed during fall camp.
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Boddy-Calhoun played in every game last season after transferring from junior college. With an added year of experience, he is part of the secondary's increased depth this year. Boddy-Calhoun said he thinks the Gophers now have 10 or 12 defensive backs who can truly play well, as opposed to four or five last fall. The secondary has been called the best group of Minnesota's defense, but Boddy-Calhoun doesn't want to put too much stock into that praise.

"Of course we like hearing that, but we're just out here trying to compete against each other every day," he said. "I think we have a lot of depth, and we have a lot of competition going on. I don't think we like to sit here and say...we're the best on the team. But we like to carry ourselves like that and we want to push the wide receivers and push the tight ends and linebackers to just compete."

Compared to last year, Boddy-Calhoun is pushing himself more now. As newcomer in 2012, he was happy just to be there on game days. But now he is happier to be in the competitive mix for more playing time.

"It's like night and day, how much I've progressed and how I feel," he said. "I'm taking a different mindset because I'm ready and I'm more comfortable in the defense."

#9 Days Until Gopher Football

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Go Gophers! 9 Tony Dungy
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Gophers vs. UNLV (Aug. 29): Buy Tickets

The countdown to Gopher football has reached single digits. One of the program's most famous alumni, Tony Dungy, represents the nine days left until kickoff. Long before he coached the Colts to a Super Bowl title, Dungy led the Minnesota offense as a quarterback.

At the end of his career in 1976, Dungy held Minnesota records for passing yardage (3,515) and total offense (4,680), and was fourth in Big Ten history in total offense. He now ranks ninth in Gopher history in both those categories, and eighth in touchdown passes (25). Dungy earned All-Big Ten Second Team and team MVP accolades both his junior and senior years. The 1976 team captain excelled on and off the field, twice earning Academic All-Big Ten honors and winning the Big Ten Medal of Honor as a senior.

Dungy went on to play defensive back in the NFL, for the Pittsburgh Steelers (1977-78) and San Francisco 49ers (1979). He won Super Bowl XIII with Pittsburgh. In 1980, he started his coaching career as an assistant coach for the Gophers. Dungy then assisted three different NFL teams.

His first NFL head coaching job came with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he started in 1996. In 2002, Dungy took over as the Indianapolis Colts' head coach. He became the first African-American coach to win an NFL title when the Colts won Super Bowl XLI. He is also the first NFL head coach to beat all 32 teams.

Dungy retired in 2008, but has remained involved in football and in the community. He has written books, appeared on air as a football analyst and given his time and resources to various causes. Dungy was awarded the NCAA's prestigious Theodore Roosevelt Award earlier this year.

Bonus reading: 
- Dungy visited the Gophers' practice in spring 2012