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The Minnesota Golden Gophers appear to be headed towards a running back by committee approach for their backfield in 2012. Minnesota coach Jerry Kill indicated that "there are some combinations we'll use" in regards to the running back situation.
Sophomore running back Donnell Kirkwood indicated that the touches have been split up during team practices and added "I don't think they would practice it that way and then not do it." Kirkwood figures to split time with Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College transfer James Gillum, sophomore Devon Wright and freshman K.J. Maye.
Kirkwood, who ran for 229 yards last season, will likely have the title of starting running back but said that the committee approach keeps all of the running backs fresh and all of the RBs must be prepared to have their number called at any time.
MarQueis Gray remains the starting quarterback for the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers, but the team will look to find playing time for backup Max Shortell, according to Marcus R. Fuller of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
Shortell, who won the backup job over freshman Philip Nelson and Mitch Leidner, gained valuable experience filling in for Gray on occasion throughout the course of last season, and, with Gray being a senior, offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover would like the continue Shortell's maturation by finding him playing time. However, he isn't going to let that agenda get in the way of winning football games.
"We'd love to get another quarterback some additional experience," Limegrover said. "But at the same time MarQueis is pretty special, can be pretty special. If you're going to take him out just to give another guy some experience, they'll probably run me out on a rail."
The Gophers open their season on the road this Saturday against the UNLV Rebels.
Minnesota Golden Gophers head coach Jerry Kill will not redshirt six true freshman, and they will travel to the season opener against UNLV, according to Marcus R. Fuller of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
The six freshman -- wide receivers Jamel Harbison and Andre McDonald, running back K.J. Maye, safeties Antonio Johnson and Damarius Travis and cornerback Eric Murray -- are not expected to start for the Gophers, but could see time on special teams. On the decision, Kill stated that these players' availability is necessary given the current state of their depth chart.
"I'd redshirt them all if we were in the situation to do it," Kill said about his true freshmen. "Right now, if you've seen us since spring, (we) felt we needed some playmakers."
While some true freshman will play this season, not all will be able to avoid the redshirt, as Kill has expressed his intentions to redshirt all of his freshman offensive lineman.
Minnesota finished last season in last place of the Big Ten Legends division with a record of 3-9. They open their 2012 campaign Aug. 30 at UNLV.
With less than a week until the Gophers' season-opener against UNLV, the starting 22 needs to be solidified as soon as possible.
Minnesota's game at UNLV is on Thursday, so Saturday is being treated as the start of game week. While most of the starters are set, figuring out the rotation can be just as important. So battles for backup spots have been heated. But come Saturday, those questions will be answered.
"We're still repping a lot of kids and take the full speed reps against our offense about 30 minutes each day. They are still being evaluated," defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys said. "When they come back Saturday we'll try to have everything situated."
Minnesota's game at UNLV will take place at 10 p.m. CT and be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.
With games just a week away, teams are wrapping up fall camps this week. For the Gophers, Friday was the start of preparation for the opener against UNLV with meetings and tape.
With what head coach Jerry Kill described as perhaps is second-youngest team in his career, Thursday's practice was changed to a walk-through to give the Gophers basically two days of rest before Saturday's practice, according to the Star Tribune.
"I felt it was critical. Mentally, we got some work done, but I didn't want to run them," Kill said. "So this allows them to get their legs back, and gives (the coaches) time to make sure we can finalize everything," including the depth chart and game plan. "You sometimes have a tendency to keep pushing, but you can't play with a team that's not going to play fast."
The Minnesota Golden plan to release their depth chart for the season opener on Saturday. There won't be anyone penciled in as the starting kicker, however, because that job is still too close to call.
Chris Hawthorne and Jordan Wettstein have been in an intense battle in camp after splitting duties latest season. Hawthorne was originally the starter, but a torn quadriceps allowed Wettstein -- a walk-on -- to play the final six games of the season.
They both played pretty well last year and it's apparently carried over into this fall as head coach Jerry Kill said he won't be ready to decide who should start until next Tuesday.
"We put (Hawthorne and Wettstein) in two pressure situations the other day," Kill said. "They both succeeded, which is a good problem. They both have good strengths. If we have one that's a better kickoff guy and one's a better field goal (guy), you can do that also."
The starting kicker obviously isn't the most important position, but it's never a bad thing when there are two players that can contribute at a starting level.
The Minnesota Golden Gophers are about one week from opening the new college football season and, despite not having released their depth chart quite yet, it sounds as though Donnell Kirkwood has been penciled in as the starting running back.
Kirkwood isn't guaranteed anything yet, of course, but the redshirt sophomore continues to be spoken about positively when head coach Jerry Kill is asked about his position. The latest example came Friday -- as transcribed by the Pioneer Press.
"Donnell Kirkwood has had an excellent camp because he's stayed healthy through camp," Kill said Thursday, Aug. 23. "He's worked tremendously hard in the weight room to prepare himself. This is the first time Donnell has been healthy since I've been here. So I think he is certainly worthy of a guy who has stepped forward and that's been here that I'm very excited about."
There are a slew of running backs in line for touches out of the backfield including James Gillum, David Cobb, Devon Wright and K.J. Maye, but it sounds as though Kirkwood is in the driver's seat as of right now.
The Minnesota Gophers football team is exactly one week away from its 2012 season opener against UNLV, but head coach Jerry Kill can't help but warn at just how young the core of his roster actually is heading into the year.
The second-year coach spoke with the Star Tribune's Sid Hartman about the challenges facing his squad heading into the new season, and hopes that his team's sheer athleticism can help erase some of that inexperience when the time comes.
"We're a young team -- and that's a good thing when you're building a program," Kill said.
"I do believe we have some talent, we have some kids that can run well, but there are a lot of them that are freshmen, redshirt freshmen, sophomores and redshirt juniors."
The Gophers went 3-9 in Kill's debut season, but the 50-year-old coach definitely had a number of good things to take from last year's inaugural trip through a Big Ten schedule. And because of that, a number of players, none more important than quarterback MarQueis Gray, are expected to take the next step in their development in 2012. Whether that translates into an improvement in the win column is a different story entirely, but it's apparent that Kill is doing an admirable job of rebuilding the program.
The Minnesota Golden Gophers are a mere eight days away from their season opening game vs. the UNLV Rebels, and now the team has its first team offensive line all but set. The one spot that is still up for grabs is the center position, but the two tackles and two guard spots are accounted for.
At the tackles are junior Ed Olson and redshirt freshman Josh Campion. Olson started 10 games at left tackle for the Gophers last season, so his inclusion is far short of a surprise. Campion, meanwhile, sat out 2011 due to concussion issues, but impressed coaches in camp and took the job over a bevy of more experienced linemen. The guards will be Zac Epping and Tommy Olson, brother of Ed. The sophomore Epping started eight games last year at right guard, while the sophomore Olson started three at left guard.
The center spot will be won by either Zach Mottla or John Christenson. Christenson is a freshman, while Mottla appeared in six games in 2011. Ohio State transfer Brian Bobek -- a center and one-time four-star prospect -- will not be eligible to play until 2013.
Coach Jerry Kill is likely to use three running backs in his offense, and Kirkwood has made significant strides to elevate himself above the other five running backs competing for playing time. Last season, Kirkwood suffered from hamstring problems but still had 63 carries for 229 yards and three TDs.
Junior college transfer James Gillum was placed on the top of the depth chart in spring camp, but Kirkwood has risen above Gillum through strong preseason practices. Sophomores David Cobb and Devon Wright, along with freshmen K.J. Maye and Rodrick Williams are all competing for carries and playing time as well.
Brock Vereen, the junior safety from the University of Minnesota, has always had a driving force in his life: his older brother and New England Patriot running back Shane Vereen. In a feature written by Marcus Fuller of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Brock explains how the motivation to compete with his older brother began at a very young age.
"Whenever you have a goal or a dream, to have someone so close to you accomplish it, it's just all the motivation in the world," Brock said. "The biggest thing he did was push me. From video games to actual sports, his competitive drive was really something I tried to model."
His focus on achieving the success of his older brother helped Brock overcome the adversity he has faced in the past few years. First, after an impressive high school career at Valencia High School in Los Angeles, he was overlooked as a recruit, drawing only two scholarship offers from major conference schools, Stanford and Minnesota. He then faced the challenges of offseason knee surgery this year and necessarily gaining 25 lbs in order to adapt to his positional change from cornerback to safety.
Vereen has taken every obstacle in stride and with his eyes still on the prize of reaching his brother's level of success, saying, "He's where I want to be".
Minnesota Gophers junior James Manuel is impressing team coaches in his switch from safety to linebacker this season.
In just its third season of football at its new on-campus stadium, Minnesota football is struggling to sell student tickets. According to a report from the Star-Tribune, fans have purchased just 2000 of the 10,000 allotted student seats with just three weeks left until the Gopher home opener. It marks a steep decrease from 2009, when the Gophers opened TCF Bank Stadium by selling the full 10,000-seat section. Minnesota sold approximately 7800 student tickets in 2010.
University leaders have blamed everything from poor marketing to the lack of wins to Metrodome hangover for the reduction in student ticket purchases, but assistant athletic director Jason LaFrenz may have the most reasonable explanation for the recent downturn in sales: The customers aren't back yet.
Jason LaFrenz [...] said the school still hopes to sell 8,000 student season tickets this year, believing the current total will rise when students return to class.
"Other than that first year in TCF Bank Stadium, we've traditionally sold the majority of our students tickets in the 10 days before the first home game," he said. "That's when we sell all of our tickets."
Minnesota opens up its 2012 season at UNLV on Thursday, August 30.
Minnesota Golden Gophers offensive lineman Jimmy Gjere has quit playing football due to nagging concussion symptoms.