Three things to watch for in Minnesota's spring game
Where: TCF Bank Stadium
When: Saturday, 1 p.m. CT
TV: Big Ten Network
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
-Damarius Travis’ return
It was a crushing blow when Travis went down in the season-opener with a hamstring injury. Minnesota’s loaded secondary still was one of the B1G’s best, but it could’ve been elite with Travis on the field.
Now back, but without Eric Murray and Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Travis will get a chance to be on the field for the first time since that TCU game. He and Jalen Myrick will have a chance to lead the Gopher defense against some young quarterbacks on Saturday.
Tracy Claeys already said that he’ll be limited, but it’ll still be nice to see Travis leading the Gopher secondary again. The guy many expect to be Minnesota’s best defensive player in 2016 will be welcomed back with open arms.
With Mitch Leidner still recovering from foot surgery, it’ll be an ideal opportunity for the backup signal-callers to get some work in. Demry Croft will have a chance to win the job and show even more in Jay Johnson’s offense. The second-year quarterback should get plenty of opportunities to air it out and show off the downfield ability the Gophers lacked in 2015. But Croft will have competition to earn the backup job.
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Fan favorite Seth Green will also have plenty of eyes on him. The hometown kid enrolled early after flipping his commitment from Oregon to Minnesota. Many expect him to be the future at the position, and a solid showing on Saturday will only accelerate that chatter.
He’ll split snaps with junior Conor Rhoda, who is the only Gopher quarterback on the field with spring game experience. All three know what’s at stake without Leidner suiting up, which should make for a competitive battle.
-Depth at receiver
Replacing K.J. Maye will be one of the toughest replacement jobs in the B1G. The leader of that unit on and off the field, Maye developed into a versatile, dynamic weapon on the outside that will be greatly missed in 2016.
We’ll get a look at his possible successors on Saturday. Eric Carter is the most likely candidate to take over in the slot. He could see the biggest uptick in production of any Gopher receiver. Drew Wolitarsky showed flashes of being a go-to wideout, but he still has to show consistency against better secondaries. Against Minnesota’s talented group, we’ll get to see what kind of impact he can make.
And 6-6 Rashad Still might have the most potential of all of them. He could be the best bet to make a highlight reel play or two on Saturday. Brandon Lingen won’t play, which should open the door for the Gopher wideouts to get even more looks.
The gameplan on Saturday will still likely feature the Gopher running backs more than the wideouts, especially with backup quarterbacks. But Claeys will still feature the passing game more than Kill did. At the very least, that should make Saturday’s spring game an entertaining one.