Tracy Claeys said he has three goals to accomplish when the Gophers begin spring practice Tuesday.
The head football coach said he wants to assess his offensive line, see how the team adjusts to new offensive coordinator Jay Johnson and determine the depth chart at quarterback.
The Gophers will return incumbent starter Mitch Leidner next season, but the Lakeville, Minn., native will mostly sit out the spring to recover from an offseason foot surgery.
“We’d like to know how the offensive line’s going to line up and play. … We want to make sure that everybody’s comfortable with the different communication and the calls offensively,” Claeys said. “If we get those two things, along with determining how the quarterback situation’s going to play out ... then we’ll have a good spring.”
Minnesota lost eight offensive linemen in the offseason, but junior transfer students Garrison Wright and Vincent Calhoun will be asked to make an immediate impact in Johnson’s offense.
Claeys estimated 75 percent of the Gophers offense will stay the same under Johnson, but the team’s terminology will change. The team will also use a verbal and signal-based play-calling system instead of using wristbands to communicate play calls.
With Leidner sidelined, sophomore Demry Croft and early enrollee Seth Green will take most of the snaps at quarterback as the team adjusts on offense.
Gophers have “bodies” at cornerback
On defense, the Gophers will adapt without 2015 starting cornerbacks Eric Murray and Briean Boddy-Calhoun.
Claeys said redshirt freshman Ray Buford and sophomores KiAnte Hardin and Antonio Shenault will compete to fill the void at corner.
“I think we have the bodies there,” Claeys said. “Defensively, if you ask me, that is the first thing on defense. It’s just getting the rotation in the secondary worked out. … So that will be our main goal on defense.”
Claeys hopes to separate kicking and punting duties
Rising redshirt junior kicker Ryan Santoso is the only Gophers player who has punted in a game before.
Santoso has primarily done field goals and kickoffs for Minnesota the last two years, and someone will need to replace graduating punter Peter Mortell.
Claeys said his initial plans are to continue to have separate players handle punting and kicking.
“We’ll try and find separate duties,” Claeys said. “But if that’s the best option ... then that’s what we’ll do.”
Former players work out at NFL Scouting Combine
Three former Minnesota players worked out for NFL teams at the scouting combine in Indianapolis Sunday and Monday.
Linebacker De’Vondre Campbell, Murray and Boddy-Calhoun each received an invitation to the event and competed.
Campbell posted the third-fastest 40-yard dash time among his position group at 4.58 seconds. His vertical jump of 34 inches tied for ninth among linebackers.
Boddy-Calhoun was 12th among cornerbacks in the 40 with a 4.47. Murray finished in 4.49 seconds and was third among cornerbacks in the vertical jump with a leap of 39.5 inches.
Murray is currently projected to go in the fourth round of the NFL Draft, according to CBSsports.com. Campbell and Boddy-Calhoun are expected to be taken in the fifth or sixth rounds.