#21 Days Until Gopher Football

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Go Gophers! 21 Marion Barber III
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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
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Barber in the 2004 Music City Bowl
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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.

What They're Saying - Aug. 7

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Full pads, almost full go (GopherSports.com)

AUDIO: Kill l Christenson

Damien Wilson looking to earn that spot at middle linebacker (Star Tribune)

Ra'Shede Hageman ranked the 15th best player in the Big Ten (ESPN.com)

Buy tickets! (MyGopherSports.com)

One word keeps coming up to describe the secondary and it is "athletic" (Minnesota Daily)

Josh Campion's journey to becoming a Gopher (Pioneer Press)

Gophers to keep an eye on (CBSSports.com)

Harbison working his way back (1500ESPN.com)

Wideouts do not have a lot of experience, but there is a lot of competition (FSN)

#22 Days Until Gopher Football

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Go Gophers! Tyrone Carter and Laurence Maroney
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No. 22 has been one of the best numbers in Minnesota football history, as Tyrone Carter and Laurence Maroney are among those to have worn it. With 22 days remaining before the season opener, we look back on the careers of a pair of Gopher greats.

Carter, a safety for the Gophers from 1996 to 1999, has collected a lot of hardware over the years. He won the 1999 Jim Thorpe Award as the best defensive back in the country, and was a First Team All-American as a junior and senior.

An M Club Hall of Famer, Carter holds the school record for career tackles with 528. His junior (158), senior (144) and sophomore (143) seasons rank third, tied for sixth and eighth, respectively. Carter set a record with two fumble returns for touchdowns in his third college game, against Syracuse in 1996.

After his senior season, during which he was a team captain, Carter was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the fourth round. He went on to win two Super Bowl rings with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2005 and 2008. Carter is now retired from the NFL and remains connected to the Gopher football program.

A few years after Carter's departure from the U, Maroney arrived and took on No. 22. Like Carter, Maroney made an immediate impact. Sharing carries with Marion Barber III, the running back set a Minnesota freshman record with 10 rushing touchdowns in 2003.

Maroney's season rushing totals increased each year, and he ranks second all-time with 3,933 career yards in three seasons. His 2005 total of 1,464 yards as a junior is a season record. He rushed for 100-plus yards 21 times. His three games of 200 yards or more put him in a tie for a school record. Maroney rattled off a record-setting streak of seven consecutive 100-yard games from 2003 to 2004.

Maroney and Barber rushed for 100 yards in the same game eight times during their two seasons together. They helped run the Gophers into bowl appearances in both 2003 and 2004, and Maroney also played in a bowl game in 2005. Against Wisconsin in 2005, Maroney rattled off a 93-yard run, the second-longest in school history.

A two-time All-Big Ten First Team selection, Maroney was also named a First Team All-American by Rivals.com in 2005. He left for the NFL Draft after his junior year, and went to the New England Patriots in the first round. Maroney spent four seasons in New England, and played for the Denver Broncos in 2010.

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
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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
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Barber as a senior in 2007
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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
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Johnson played 10 games before his injury in 2012.
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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
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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
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Sherels returns a punt for a touchdown for the Vikings.
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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.


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