The 2012 Gopher football team took to the practice field in shoulder pads for the first time Monday morning. With only 15 seniors on the roster, the kids are getting baptized quickly into head coach Jerry Kill's system.
"You can't replace experience in anything you do in life. We're a young, young, young football team so the older you get, you'd like to think the wiser and better you're going to get," said Kill. "I think that's true with some of those guys that had to play maybe before their time. They are more mature than they were a year ago and the young ones unfortunately you've got to make some of them grow up fast."
While the team won't don full pads until Wednesday, Kill likes the look of his team three practices into fall camp.
"Whether we're full pads of shells, we go at it pretty good," said Kill. "I think we get a pretty good indication today who is going to use their feet and hands and those kinds of things."
The talk all off-season has been the physical strides the players inside the program have made. The players are bigger and faster, but what remains to be seen is if that fact can equate to wins on game day.
"I think the kids got a good attitude," said Kill. "I think right now you worry about legs, but our speed is better, that's pretty evident. We're a little more athletic than we were a year ago and hopefully that will help us."
Starter MarQueis Gray put on five pounds of muscle in the off season and looked quick and accurate during drills.
Kill spent much of practice watching freshman quarterback Mitch Leidner. Following a nice senior season at Lakeville South, Leidner was considered by many to move positions potentially to Tight End.
Kill commented about the improvement of the group as a whole catching the ball. Sophomore Devin Crawford-Tufts will need to continue his rise from late last season.
Freshman Andre McDonald played solid on the outside. He made one nice catch along the sideline keeping his feet in bounds and maintaining possession.
The first team corners (Troy Stoudermire and Michael Carter) played the receivers physical. Martez Shabazz, Jeremy Baltazar and Briean Boddy all juco transfers appear to have fit in and are making plays early in camp.