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Updated: August 20th, 2013 11:36pm
Gophers fall camp Day 16: Preparations for opener against UNLV begin

Gophers fall camp Day 16: Preparations for opener against UNLV begin

by Nate Sandell
1500ESPN.com
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Notes and observations from Day 16 of fall camp (8/20)

• Installation of the game plan for the Gophers' Aug. 29 season opener against UNLV began on Tuesday. Coach Jerry Kill said specific preparations for UNLV will slowly be integrated in the next two days. The Gophers will have Friday off from practice before kicking off their typical game-week routine on Saturday.

"It's getting real now," safety Cedric Thompson said with a grin after practice Tuesday "Today we were getting excited. It's only nine days away now. We were all talking about it."

• Barring injuries, there is no doubting that sophomore Philip Nelson will enter the season as the Gophers' No. 1 quarterback, with redshirt freshman Mitch Leidner positioned as No. 2.

And although reassurance wasn't exactly needed, Kill gave it on Tuesday when he said Nelson is "certainly our starter."

The No. 1 and No. 2 spots aren't the only roles that look to be solidified.

After finally shifting true freshman quarterback Donovahn Jones into a wide receiver role, it has cleared any lingering debate over who the Gophers' third option under center is.

"A kid who has really come on here lately is (freshman) Chris Streveler," Kill said. "It seems like when he goes and plays in a scrimmage situation he just plays and the chains move and good things happen."

• Redshirt freshman defensive back John McKelvey has replaced wide receiver Andre McDonald on the 105-man roster. McDonald was removed from the camp roster recently for "violation of team rules. Kill has noted that McDonald's status will be reevaluated after the season opener.

McKelvey is expected to used on the Gophers' scout team defense

• Senior receiver Derrick Engel remains out with a groin injury. There doesn't seem to be much concern about his absence carrying over into the UNLV game, but it is critical to the "U" receiving corps that he is healthy and ready to go by the start of the season.

• Freshman linebacker De'Niro Laster returned to practice after being sidelined for more than a week with a knee injury. His return is slightly ahead of schedule, with it once projected that he wouldn't be back until next week.

Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys plans to give Laster a bump in reps the next several days in order to make a final evaluation about where he will fit into their game plan. The most likely destination for Laster is a spot on the special teams squad.

• Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, who has been on a tour this August of the conference's 12 football programs, is scheduled to be in Minnesota on Thursday.

Nate Sandell is a contributor to 1500ESPN.com.
Email Nate | @nsandell
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