This season, Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill is looking for offensive lineman with “some lead in their tail end.”
Speaking at a press conference Tuesday, Kill said the Gophers center and guard spots gave up too much push up the middle last season in pass protection, and now he wants players that can push back.
“I want to be stronger, more physical up front, and if we're going to throw the ball better…we've got to protect [the quarterback] better and give him a chance to throw it,” Kill said.
The Gophers moved left tackle Josh Campion to the interior of the line in the spring to help shore up their protection, and the line will also get a boost with the return of redshirt senior Jon Christenson.
Christenson played with a metal rod in his leg last season after breaking his leg against Indiana his sophomore year. But the rod was removed in the spring, and Kill said Christenson will be full-go for the start of camp at Big Ten media days and will have a starting role on the line.
“Big Jon’s got to be on the field somewhere, because of his strength,” Kill said at Big Ten media days. “I don’t want anyone playing for us that’s not physically strong.”
If he had his way, Kill would not have the Gophers playing No. 2 TCU to open the season.
Horned Frogs’ head coach Gary Patterson is a close friend of Kill’s, and the home-and-home series was scheduled before Kill had any control of the Gophers’ schedule.
“He calls me, he goes ‘hey, is your [athletic director] talking to our guy about scheduling,’ and I said ‘no, I ain’t playing you,’” Kill said at Big Ten media days. “And he says well I’m not playing you either. And all of a sudden, we both get told we’re playing, and…it’s been a tough thing.”
Kill called the Gophers 30-7 loss on the road to TCU last year the team’s worst of the season at Big Ten media days. Now, his team will likely have to play at their best to win at home against the No. 2 Horned Frogs September 3.
“It is what it is, and you go play and respect each other,” Kill said at Big Ten media days. “It’s like having a brother. You don’t want to beat your brother.”
Jones to start at wide receiver
Highly touted redshirt freshman Jeff Jones will start fall camp as a wide receiver, Kill said Tuesday, after being recruited to campus as a running back.
Jones lined up as a receiver often during spring practice, and Kill said Jones can still move back to the backfield if needed.
“Overall, he’s been doing a good job,” starting quarterback Mitch Leidner said at Big Ten media days. “He’s got to be able to step in and play a big role for us this year and we’re hoping he can do that for us. He’s a great football player. Great athlete, and to be able to put him out at receiver and catch passes is huge for us offensively.”
- Defensive tackle Scott Ekpe, who started the Gophers season opener last year against Eastern Illinois but suffered a season-ending injury, will be full-go for the start of fall camp, Kill said at Big Ten media days
- Kill was unsure at Big Ten media days whether tight ends Lincoln Plsek (back) and Duke Anyanwu (hamstring) would be ready for the start of fall camp
- Kill said at media days and again on Tuesday that he thinks this year’s defense is his best at Minnesota
- Backup quarterback Chris Streveler may practice a little at wide receiver in camp Kill said, but it doesn’t mean he will end up playing there
- Former NFL linebacker Bart Scott, who played for Kill at Southern Illinois, will speak to the Gophers this season, according to Kill. Virginia Tech head basketball coach Buzz Williams will also speak to the team.