Spring Game Attracts Loyalists
April 12, 2014

Precious little was learned about the 2014 University of Minnesota football team at the annual Spring Game at TCF Bank Stadium on April 12.

In fact, the Spring Game wasn’t a football game at all, merely a training exercise that pitted members of the team’s defensive unit against like numbers of the offense.

Even though the defense didn’t score, it’s safe to say that it won the contest over the sputtering offense that ran plays primarily inside the tackle spots. Only a smattering of onlookers gathered to watch a show that had little pre-game publicity. The low-key event paled in comparison to similar college contests held this time of year in places like Lincoln, Neb., and State College, Pa., where actual games take place and the score is kept. Tens of thousands of fans show up there, as well as on other major college campuses.

Perhaps head coach Jerry Kill prefers to fly under the radar with this year’s group of Gopher gridders. Certainly little new was put on display. Replacements (Mitch Leidner, Chris Streveler, and Conor Rhoda) for departed quarterback Philip Nelson floundered, perhaps due to the absence of capable receivers. Reliable tight ends Maxx Williams and Drew Goodger were sidelined by injuries and wide receivers Isaac Fruechte, Drew Wolitarsky, and Logan Hutton proved to be as erratic as they were in the last half of 2013. Because the quarterbacks were decked out it in green, it meant they could not be tackled, and this worked to their advantage when they chose to run with the ball, which happened too frequently in a scrimmage of this nature, thus adding to the farce.

The running back quartet of Roderick Williams, Donnell Kirkwood, David Cobb, and Berkley Edwards were solid, especially the latter who ran 33 yards for the only touchdown of the contest.

There were five field goals kicked, one an impressive 53-yarder by redshirt freshman Andrew Harte from Downers Grove, Ill., one of three placekickers on the squad. No punters were used.

The Gophers of 2014 appeared bigger than previous incarnations of the team with 300-pounders prevalent on the offensive line which figures to be the strength of a team that will face power houses Ohio State, Michigan, and Wisconsin this year, the latter two on the road.

As far as player size, a pair of 6-9 Gophers towered over their teammates on the sidelines. They were offensive lineman Jonah Pirsig from Blue Earth and redshirt freshman tight end Nate Wozniak of Greenwood, Ind. It appears that more out-of-state players are on the roster, especially defensive linemen who hail from such states as Texas, Florida, and Tennessee, always a good sign as homegrown talent dries up. However, the majority of tackles in this contest were made by linebackers. Chris Wipson and Mike Rallis had seven tackles each. Both are out of Minnesota’s Lake Conference.

Two of last season’s defensive line standouts, Theiren Cockran and Cameron Botticelli, were inactive. Botticelli has a broken foot. Both came to Minnesota from other states.

Perhaps the reason that a small cluster of fans turned out to view the scrimmage was to see in person coach Kill’s latest quarterback find, Dimonic Roden-McKinzy in action, and he did not disappoint. To be eligible for Spring practice, freshman Roden-McKinzy left early from Wyandotte High School in Kansas City to enroll at the U.

Kill saved the best for the end as his protégé entered the contest for the last series of downs and completed five of six passes for 46 yards and received hearty cheers from the fans. Perhaps the coach could sense that the Minnesota faithful are best content when a black quarterback is at the reins.

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