Gophers Put on the Pads

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The Gophers are still only playing against themselves in practice, but they took another step closer to the real thing on Tuesday. The fifth practice of fall camp was their first wearing full pads.

Some Gophers said they felt a different atmosphere wearing full equipment. For others, it was not as much of a change.

"We've been in shells the last two days, so it's really not a huge difference," running back Donnell Kirkwood said. "We have pants on, but it's still 'thud.' We're not going full."

Kirkwood looks forward to the first practice when plays will be allowed to continue until an actual tackle.

"When that day comes, the level of excitement increases. It's more of a competition when you get to go full out."

#23 Days Until Gopher Football

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Go Gophers! 23 Dom Barber
Go Gophers!

With 23 days until the Gophers kick off against UNLV, Dom Barber represents today's countdown number. The safety continued a family tradition by lettering as a true freshman, and grew into one of the team's best players as his career progressed.

Go Gophers! 23 Dom Barber
Go Gophers!
Barber as a senior in 2007
Go Gophers!

Like his father, Marion Barber Jr., and his brother, Marion III, Dom Barber earned a varsity 'M' in his first year as a Golden Gopher. Unlike them, he played safety instead of running back. He played in 21 games his first two years, but did not start until 2006.

Barber then started 12 of 13 games and led the team with four interceptions as a junior. He made 74 tackles, broke up four passes, forced two fumbles and recovered one. Barber was named Honorable Mention All-Big Ten.

He stepped it up even more as a senior. A leader of the Gopher defense, Barber tallied a team-best 100 tackles (71 solo) and broke up eight passes in 2007. He added a 46-yard fumble return for a touchdown against Michigan.

Barber was named to the All-Big Ten Second Team, and received the team's Bronko Nagurski (MVP) and Carl Eller (outstanding defensive player) Awards. The Houston Texans drafted him in 2008, and he played in 25 games during the first two of his four years with the squad.

Hint: Look for Barber's older brother later in the countdown!

What They're Saying - Aug. 6

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Roland Johnson is back... (GopherSports.com)

...and he is 100 percent... (1500ESPN.com)

...which should boost the defensive line (Star Tribune)

Coach Kill was on with Judd and Dubay yesterday morning (1500ESPN)

A look at Minnesota's schedule (ESPN.com)

AUDIO from practice No. 4: Kill l Miller l Thompson

Will Minnesota play two QBs in 2013? (FSN)

Gophers bouncing back from injuries (Pioneer Press)


Roland Johnson Ready to Go

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Even though he technically came in off the bench, head coach Jerry Kill considered Roland Johnson a starter on the defensive line in 2012. Johnson most apparently showed his value to the team when he made a career-high seven tackles in the Gophers' win at Illinois last season. 

Unfortunately, he did not have a chance to carry that momentum into the last three games of the year. Johnson suffered a season-ending ACL tear in practice during the next week.

Go Gophers! Roland Johnson
Go Gophers!
Johnson played 10 games before his injury in 2012.
Go Gophers!
The defensive tackle, who transferred from Butler Community College for the 2012 season, is back out on the field and at full strength getting ready for his senior year. Johnson's recovery has come a long way since spring practice.

"It's a lot different," he said. "It was killing me to run in the spring. I just thank God, and thanks to the trainers and the strength coaches."

The physical difficulty of ACL rehab is one thing, but Johnson said the mental side is the toughest part.
"You really won't understand it unless you really get injured," he said.

After a major injury, it can be hard to practice and play with the same mindset as before the injury. Even nine months after tearing his ACL, the possibility of reinjury still lurks in the back of Johnson's mind. 

"You always think about it, but you've just got to fight through it."

Kill said the staff has not needed to ease Johnson back into the full swing of practice. He has liked what he's seen from No. 92 four days into camp.

"I think sometimes when you come off a knee surgery like that you're tentative, certainly in stuff like we're doing now," Kill said. "He's looked very good, very sharp, strong. I feel good about us up front on the defensive line. ...I feel good about his progress. He's worked hard. He's worked really hard with our training staff to get back after knee surgery. Hats of to his work."

With returning starters Ra'Shede Hageman and Cameron Botticelli, along with guys like sophomore Scott Ekpe and redshirt freshman Yoshoub Timms, Johnson is in good company in the defensive interior. After a long road back from surgery, the battle for a spot near the top of the depth chart is just beginning.

"I love competition, so that's a plus for me."

What They're Saying - Aug. 5

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Get to know Chris Streveler, who could play QB or WR (GopherSports.com)

#YEAR3 Sacrifice (GopherGridiron)

AUDIO from Practice No. 3: Kill l Streveler l T. Olson l Cobb l Engel

Gophers looking for a No. 3 QB, plus Harbison feels stronger (Star Tribune)

Tommy Olson has moved to center and is competing for the job (1500ESPN.com)

Practice No. 3 notebook (1500ESPN.com)

Three things about the UNLV game (Gold & Gopher)

A fans look at Practice No. 3 (The Daily Gopher)

Chatting with Matt Limegrover (1500ESPN.com)

Come for the dashing picture of Justin Gaard, stay for the Isaac Fruechte and Matt Limegrover interviews (KFAN)


#24 Days Until Gopher Football

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Go Gophers! 24 Marcus Sherels
Go Gophers!
There are Marcus Sherels (24) days left until the Golden Gophers' season begins. At Minnesota from 2006 to 2009, Sherels became one of the team's top defensive players as an upperclassman.

Go Gophers! Marcus Sherels
Go Gophers!
Sherels returns a punt for a touchdown for the Vikings.
Go Gophers!
He originally walked on to the team and played wide receiver before shifting to cornerback. An injury forced Sherels to miss three games as a senior in 2009, but he recorded 51 tackles, seven pass breakups and two interceptions. He added a school-record 88-yard fumble return for a touchdown against Wisconsin that season.

Sherels played on special teams throughout his four years. As a junior, Sherels ranked second in the Big Ten with a punt return average of 11.9 yards on 15 returns. He was second on the team with 11 pass breakups, ranking seventh all-time.

As he did in his college career, Sherels had to prove himself to make it in the NFL. He signed with the Vikings as a free agent in 2010. Sherels played in 16 games for his home state team during each of the past two seasons.

Just like he did for the Gophers, Sherels plays defensive back. And just like he did for the Gophers, he has provided some special teams highlights. In 2012 against the Lions, Sherels returned a punt 77 yards for a touchdown. With Vikings training camp under way, he will look to keep that role in the 2013 season.

Streveler "Going with the Flow"

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Since his arrival at Minnesota before spring semester, freshman Chris Streveler has drawn interest from the Gopher football community. Lauded as a talented dual-threat quarterback coming out of high school, it now looks like he might even have a three- or four-faceted game.
Go Gophers! Chris Streveler
Go Gophers!
Streveler will practice many roles during fall camp.
Go Gophers!

Wearing a gold jersey like the rest of the quarterbacks in camp, Streveler has spent most of his time during practice with them. But he has also been catching some punts, and after practice on Saturday he worked at wide receiver. 

Wherever Streveler ends up playing during the season, enrolling early and going through spring practice has helped him to learn the system and put on weight. He weighs about 220 pounds now after coming in at 205, and said he wants to continue gaining muscle as long as it doesn't slow him down.

"I've always taken pride in being a pretty good runner, but also trying to improve on my throwing game is obviously something I need to do," Streveler said.

Head coach Jerry Kill does not yet know at which position Streveler will get the most reps. That will depend on a lot of other personnel, including Streveler's fellow freshman Donovahn Jones. Jones, another quarterback/receiver/returner, did not get the head start of spring practice, but Kill has been pleased with his progress.

"You can't really find out about those guys until about three or four weeks," Kill said.

Streveler does not have a time table for when he might spend more time with the wide receivers. Right now he said he is just "going with the flow" wherever the coaches want or need him to be.

"Whatever helps the team I'm willing to do."

#25 Days Until Gopher Football

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Go Gophers! Dozier Lohmiller
Go Gophers!
With 25 days left until Minnesota's season opener against UNLV, today's countdown post is brought to you by former Gophers Chip Lohmiller and Ukee Dozier.

Lohmiller kicked for the Gophers from 1984-87. His field goal percentage of .760 is a school record, and he holds the second-best scoring total in school history after Dan Nystrom (No. 25 in the countdown) broke his record. Lohmiller, an All-Big Ten selection, made 97 extra points and 57 field goals for 268 points.

Go Gophers! Chip Lohmiller
Go Gophers!
Lohmiller traded in his 25 for an 8 with the Redskins.
Go Gophers!
Against No. 2 Michigan in 1986, Lohmiller made a game-winning field goal. The following week against Iowa, he booted a school-record 62-yard field goal. No one after him has come near that record, with Joel Monroe's 54-yarder in 2007 being the longest since.

The Washington Redskins selected Lohmiller in the second round of the 1988 NFL Draft. He won a Super Bowl with Washington in 1991. Lohmiller played in the pros for nine seasons, with a career field goal percentage of .718. He is currently the head football coach at Pequot Lakes High School.

Like Lohmiller, Dozier was an All-Big Ten player. The cornerback wore No. 25 from 2000 to 2004, redshirting the 2000 season. He shares the school record for career pass breakups with 31.

Dozier piled up nearly half of those 31 during his stellar senior campaign. His Big Ten-leading 15 breakups in 2004 helped him earn all-conference recognition. Dozier added 46 tackles and a team-leading three interceptions.

After graduation, Dozier was signed by a few NFL teams as a free agent. He has more recently played for the Chippewa Valley Predators of the NEFL.

Bonus reading: Lohmiller and Dozier were profiled in game program stories during their senior seasons.

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.