MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota coach Jerry Kill liked the way starting quarterback Mitch Leidner and his two backups performed during the Gophers’ spring game on Saturday.
Some of the young receivers need to find a way to hold onto the ball.
“They need to help the quarterbacks out, make plays,” Kill said. “I’d rather have them drop balls now than later on.”
Leidner got the fewest reps, completing 5 of 11 for 53 yards. Chris Streveler and Conor Rhoda combined to complete 13 of 39 passes, with Rhoda throwing the only scoring pass of the day.
The Gophers are in need of a receiver to step forward after the early departure of tight end Maxx Williams.
Running back Rodrick Williams led a dominating first drive of the day, punctuated by a 12-yard touchdown run while dragging three defenders into the end zone.
Looking to step in at tight end is Nate Wozniak, who stood head and shoulders above the rest at 6-foot-10. He played in five games last season as a freshman but didn’t record any statistics. Wozniak got some extra reps with Drew Wolitarsky out because of an illness.
Defensive lineman Hank Ekpe, who recorded two sacks and a tackle for loss, credits his increased speed to a new diet that helped him drop ten pounds to 245. The diet includes lots of fruit, especially strawberries and grapes, in addition to chicken. It’s quite a change from how he ate when first arriving on campus. “I just ate everything,” he said.
Returning place kicker Ryan Santoso drew some oohs and ahhs from the crowd with a 56-yard field goal that could have been good from further out. The kick was hammered straight on through a swirling wind that was giving the quarterbacks problems on long passes.
Quick whistles are the norm during spring games when quarterbacks take off out of the pocket, but Streveler had a little leeway on one play. He burst down the left sideline for a 64-yard touchdown run. “They’ve been letting it go a little bit,” Streveler said about the referees allowing him to extend the play. “It’s good to get out in the open and run a little bit.”
The catch of the day came when Brian Smith one-handed a fade from Streveler on the right sideline. He came down in bounds despite being sandwiched by defensive backs Jalen Myrick and Ace Rogers.
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