Gophers Scrimmage in Front of Fans

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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.

Go Gophers! Philip Nelson
Go Gophers!
Nelson looked sharp in Saturday's scrimmage.
Go Gophers!
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.

#19 Days Until Gopher Football

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Go Gophers! 19 Benji Kamrath
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Gophers vs. UNLV (Aug. 29): Buy Tickets

*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.

Go Gophers! Benji Kamrath
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Kamrath played the whole second half against Wisconsin.
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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.

What They're Saying - Aug. 10

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Saturday scrimmage open to the public (

Audio: Kill l Limegrover l Hageman l H. Ekpe

Scrimmage time (Star Tribune)

Gophers ready for first scrimmage (

Last chance to see the Gophers before the season starts (Pioneer Press)

A loot at the Gophers (

Minnesota searching for signature win (

Saturday Scrimmage Open To Public

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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.

What They're Saying - Aug. 9

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Coaching staff's loyalty tough to break (FSN)

D-line looking to prove people wrong (Pioneer Press), says to expect "pleasant surprises" (FSN)

Cockran grows into his frame (Pioneer Press)

Rodrick Williams feeling more comfortable (, working on blocking (

Three kickers competing for spots (Star Tribune)

Defense trumps offense in goal line drills (

#20 Days Until Gopher Football

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Go Gophers! 20 Justin Conzemius
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Gophers vs. UNLV (Aug. 29): Buy Tickets

There are 20 days left until the Gophers kick off the season against UNLV, so today we revisit the career of former No. 20 Justin Conzemius. He played for Minnesota from 1992 to 1995.

Conzemius ranks ninth in school history in career tackles with 317. He led the team with 113 tackles, including 70 solo, as a junior in 1994. Conzemius also ranks tied for 11th all-time with eight career interceptions.

One of his finest performances came against Purdue in 1993. "The Fargo Flash" intercepted two passes, recovered a fumble, recorded a sack and tallied 11 tackles. His 55-yard interception return for a touchdown gave the Gophers the lead, and they went on to win 59-56.

Conzemius was a true student-athlete for the Gophers, earning Academic All-America First Team honors once and Second Team honors twice. He also received the team's Butch Nash Award twice for being competitive both on the field and in the classroom.

Williams Making Progress

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In 2012 fall camp and in the early part of the season, Donnell Kirkwood emerged as the Gophers' No. 1 running back. But late in the season, freshman Rodrick Williams came on strong and showed that he could contribute, too.

"The last game made me more comfortable with the rest of the team," he said. "In the beginning of the year, I was kind of just running downhill, not watching. Last year it progressed."

Now a sophomore, Williams said he understands more about the importance of tempo and of working together with the offensive line. He is also expanding his game by learning the pass block.

"He's working at it," head coach Jerry Kill said. "Still got to get better, but he's working at it."

The running back group overall will continue to work on that skill--both newcomers and returners. Whiile Williams may still be learning himself, his year of experience does allow him to help freshman Berkley Edwards get used to Minnesota football.

"What's good is he listens a lot," Williams. "He actually tries to listen and learn the play instead of making excuses for other things."

Williams has been impressed with Edwards, and said that his speed could provide a game-changing contrast to Williams' and Kirkwood's pounding running style. Style differences--from those two to Edwards to David Cobb, Cole Banham and James Gillum--are Williams' favorite aspect of his group of teammates.

While these styles can complement each other effectively in game situations, some backs will still get more carries than others. Fall camp is a battle for playing time, and Williams is enjoying it.

"It's a competitive sport," he said. "Competition just makes the game fun.

What They're Saying - Aug. 8

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21 days away (

Audio: Kill l Murray l Cockran l Hawthorne

Sky's The Limit (The Gazette)

1,000-yard back? (FSN)

Camp news and notes (Star Tribune)

Hawthorne have a leg up on kicking competition? (Pioneer Press)

Hawthorne inspired by hoops assistant coach (Pioneer Press) and is kicking with confidence (

Reusse weighs in on #YEAR3 expectations (Star Tribune)

Rebecca Kill introduced Coach Kill yesterday at Dunkers (Pioneer Press)

Best case, worst case for the Gophers (

Pirsig cleared for contact (Pioneer Press)

Minnesota called a trap game for one Big Ten opponent (

#21 Days Until Gopher Football

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Go Gophers! 21 Marion Barber III
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Buy Tickets for Gophers-UNLV (8/29)

With Laurence Maroney representing No. 22 in the countdown to Gopher game day, it's only fitting that Marion Barber III follows directly after at No. 21. During his final two seasons, Barber combined with Maroney to form a potent rushing duo.

Go Gophers! Marion Barber III
Go Gophers!
Barber in the 2004 Music City Bowl
Go Gophers!
Barber, the son of Gopher great Marion Barber Jr. and older brother of Dom Barber (No. 23 on the countdown), played three full seasons in the Maroon and Gold (2001, 2003-04). He surpassed his father's career rushing total and ranks fourth in school history with 3,276 yards.

Barber missed most of the 2002 season with an injury, but came back with an All-Big Ten season in 2003. In the Gophers' game against Ohio, he tied a school record rushing for four touchdowns. No one has equaled it since then. His 17 rushing touchdowns that year put him second on the all-time season list.

Over his Minnesota career, Barber ran into the end zone 35 times, No. 2 in school history. His 2004 (1,269 yards) and 2003 (1,196 yards) season rushing totals rank ninth and 12th, respectively. He surpassed 100 yards in 14 games.

Barber went to the NFL Draft in 2005, when the Dallas Cowboys picked him in the fourth round. He played in the pros for six years, and was a 2007 Pro Bowl selection. That season, Barber rushed for 975 yards and 10 touchdowns, and caught 282 yards' worth of passes for two touchdowns.

Bonus reading: An August 2004 feature on Barber and Maroney, who ended up sharing team MVP honors that season

Kicking with Confidence

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Who will kick for the Gophers this fall? That has been one of the biggest questions for the program as the 2013 season approaches. Coaches and players continue to reiterate that the spot is wide open, but senior Chris Hawthorne currently has an edge as the only kicker with college game experience.

"Chris has kicked at another school as a young player," head coach Jerry Kill said. "He's kicked here. He's been through a lot in his career. He can be a great role model, a great teacher for the young guys who come in. I think that whole group in general has worked hard, and he's done a nice job."

Hawthorne, who transferred from N.C. State before the 2011 season, kicked in seven games that year before suffering an injury. In 2012, Jordan Wettstein took all but two kicks for the Gophers. But still, Hawthorne remembers how it feels to kick in pressure situations.

"Somebody's got to step up and prove that they're going to take that job," Kill said.

Freshmen Ryan Santoso and Andrew Harte are Hawthorne's challengers. At 6-5 and 260 pounds, Santoso does not look like the typical kicker, and he can get quite a bit of power into his kicks. While Santoso is a scholarship player and Harte is a walk-on, Harte has also proven so far in camp that he belongs in the mix.

More than one of the trio could see action this season. Kill said he would consider using different kickers for field goals and kickoffs.

For now, the position battle continues. Hawthorne said that one of the keys to practice is putting pressure on himself. It also helps when teammates stand in front of the kickers and yell during field goals.

"Coach always talks about treating every practice like it's a game," Hawthorne said. "It's not about the amount of reps. It's about making reps count."

Hawthorne went to a kicking camp this summer, and also worked with a specialist coach. At the camp, he was one of the top performers in a field goal contest.

"It felt good, but at the same time, there's no pads on out there," he said. "There's no people flying at your legs. So it doesn't really mean that much. But just from a confidence perspective, it meant a lot."

Hawthorne, Santoso and Harte are all kicking with confidence in practice right now. Any of the three could take that first kick against UNLV on Aug. 29.