Minnesota starts season vs. Eastern Illinois 28 Aug 14

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Cameron Botticelli has become the leader of Minnesota’s defensive line, a fifth-year senior who originally joined the Gophers as a walk-on.

By losing tackle Ra’Shede Hageman to the NFL, the Gophers have a big hole to fill. But with plenty of experience and depth around Botticelli at the other tackle spot, this position group should remain viable after being a big part of last season’s success.

Minnesota’s opener is Thursday against Eastern Illinois. The Panthers went 12-2 and reached the FCS quarterfinals last year.

The Gophers are trying to build off the four wins they had in Big Ten play last season, the most by the program since 2005.