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.
Fruechte: "We feel good about what we've got going on."
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.
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
Weber won Floyd of Rosedale in his last collegiate game.
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 Buccaneers' practice squad.
- 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
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)
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.
Boddy-Calhoun has impressed during fall camp.
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."
listen to 'AUDIO: Kill meets the media after today's final two-a-day practice of fall camp. #Gophers #YEAR3' on Audioboo
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.
- ESPN tabbed Dungy the 20th-best coach in NFL history
- Dungy visited the Gophers' practice in spring 2012
In our last day of double digits in the countdown, we take a look at former No. 10 Paul Giel. The College Football Hall of Famer is one of the most decorated Gophers in program history.
During each of his three football seasons (1951-53), Giel led the team in passing and rushing. He threw for 1,922 career yards and rushed for 2,188 yards, 11th in school history. Giel still ranks in the top 10 in rushing touchdowns (20), carries (551) and 100-yard rushing games (9).
Giel was a two-time All-American and Big Ten MVP.
Giel was a two-time All-American halfback. He finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1952 and a close second in 1953. Giel was also the first two-time Big Ten MVP. He was drafted by the Chicago Bears in 1954, but chose to pursue his other sport: baseball.
For Dick Siebert's Gopher baseball team, Giel was an All-Big Ten pitcher from 1952 to 1954. He earned All-America honors twice. Giel still ranks second in Minnesota history in career strikeouts with 243. His 21 complete games rank fifth and his 2.16 ERA ranks seventh.
Giel played baseball in the pros for six years, broken up by two years of military service. He also worked in sports broadcasting before returning to his alma mater for a long tenure as athletic director.
Giel was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1975. In 1991, the U of M inducted him into the M Club Hall of Fame and retired his No. 10. The Gophers also put Giel's name on their team award for unselfishness and most concern about the U of M. Giel died in 2002, but his legacy lives on.
Minnesota building a program Brick by Brick (GopherSports)
Ra'Shede Hageman checks in at No. 11 (BTN.com)
AUDIO: Coach Kill spoke after Saturday's mock game at TCF
Saturday scrimmage notes on Marcus Jones and Chris Streveler (Pioneer Press)
Who do people tell Donnell Kirkwood that he looks like? (BTN.com)
Two of Coach Kill's former players - and current staff members - talk about turning around a program (Star Tribune)
Each Gopher takes a different approach to social media (Pioneer Press)
Season preview (Chicago Tribune)
QB play will be critical for Minnesota (WDAY)
Breaking down the Gophers (Quad City Times)
Former Gopher Walter Bowser wore No. 11, and seemingly played that many positions during his time in the Maroon and Gold. The winner of 16 varsity letters during high school in Virginia, Bowser continued to display all-around athleticism when he arrived in Minnesota.
Bowser came to Minnesota as a quarterback, but played several other positions, too.
Bowser, a 1968-70 letterwinner, spent some time on the Gopher basketball team before focusing on football. But cutting down to one sport did not mean cutting out all variety. Bowser saw action on both sides of the ball and on special teams.
He came to the U as a quarterback, but alternated between QB and flanker as a sophomore. During his junior year, he switched to defense and starred at safety for the rest of his career. Bowser not only returned kicks and punts, but also did some punting himself.
In 1969, Bowser made his first start at quarterback. In one game, he played both QB and flanker and returned kicks. He punted 33 times that season with an average of 39.9 yards. Bowser made the switch to safety during the year and tied a school record with three interceptions in his second game at the position.
Bowser was a Second Team All-Big Ten safety in 1970. When the Gophers played Michigan State that season, he picked off two passes and returned a fumble 82 yards for a touchdown. Despite not having even two full seasons as a safety, Bowser is tied for third on the Gophers' all-time list with 11 career interceptions. He was also the team's leading kick returner in 1969 and 1970, and the leading punt returner in 1970.
Bowser went on to become a lawyer and a judge.