By Randy Johnson Star Tribune AUGUST 5, 2023 — 11:53PM
The Gophers held their first open practice of training camp on Saturday night at Huntington Bank Stadium, giving fans a first glimpse of the team that will open the season with an Aug. 31 home game against Nebraska.
Here are five takeaways from the practice and coach P.J. Fleck's news conference afterward:
1. Quarterbacks take command
While the Gophers' top two quarterbacks — presumptive starter Athan Kaliakmanis and backup Cole Kramer — weren't necessarily in midseason in the fifth practice of training camp, they made enough plays to show coach P.J. Fleck that they're progressing. "The control of the team — not just the offense, but the true control of the team — that was my one worry: Can those guys control and lead the whole team? … They've made that even better in the last few weeks."
2. Running back position not settled
Fleck doesn't have to name a starting running back yet, and Saturday's practice showed that he has several options he's sorting through. Western Michigan transfer Sean Tyler, senior Bryce Williams, redshirt freshman Zach Evans and true freshman Darius Taylor each received reps on the first team. "There's a lot more competition to go," Fleck said. "There's a lot of guys that are worthy of having reps and competing for that spot. I think you saw that tonight."
3. The defensive line was impressive
The Gophers depth along the defensive line was apparent Saturday, with sophomore Jalen Logan-Redding and redshirt freshman Anthony Smith standing out. "That guy has taken huge leaps and bounds," Fleck said of Logan-Redding. "… Just his confidence in his play. He plays a really tough position. You've got to be able to rush the passer, you've got to be able to stop the run." Of the 6-6, 285-pound Smith, Fleck said, "He plays all over the field."
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4. Cornerback battle begins
Two-year starter Justin Walley has one cornerback spot locked down, but the other starting spot still is to be determined. Transfers Tre'Von Jones (Elon) and Tyler Bride (Georgia Southern) are getting long looks, along with Tariq Watson and Rhyland Kelly. "That was one of the biggest question marks, and I'm not saying we filled that yet," Fleck said. "But I'm pleasantly surprised by how far the corners have come and how caught up they are."
5. The more, the merrier in the Big Ten
The Big Ten on Friday announced the additions of Oregon and Washington, who'll join USC and UCLA in beginning play in the traditional Midwest league in the 2024 season. When news broke last year that the Trojans and Bruins were moving to the Big Ten, Fleck applauded the change. He had a similar view of the Ducks and Huskies joining to form an 18-game conference.
"It's exciting. Change is inevitable," he said. "There's movement college football all the time, and I think we get caught up and think that this is the only time there's ever been movement. It's really drastic movement — in a good way."

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