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Tracy Claeys: 'I think this is our best football team since we've been here'

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It's Big Ten Media Day in Chicago as the college football season draws near.

Minnesota Gophers football coach Tracy Claeys was the fifth coach to speak at the event Monday, and Claeys didn't hide that he has big expectations for his club this season.

"We're going to enter the football season with what I think is our best football team since we've been here," Claeys said. "We have five years invested in the program and the group of kids that we've got, like most teams, have had a great summer and competed extremely hard to make themselves better."

The Gophers finished last season 6-7, but they finished the year on a high note winning the Quick Lane Bowl by beating Central Michigan, 21-14.

"It was great to win a bowl game for the first time in [11] years, but that's not our goal," said Claeys. "We have two goals at the University of Minnesota, that's to win the Big Ten and graduate all of our players."

Big Ten media members have picked the Gophers to finish fifth in the Big Ten West Division. Ohio State was picked to win the Big Ten, and Iowa was picked to win the West.

That doesn't seem to deter Claeys, who says the guys are excited to get out there too. "They expect better themselves also."

Gophers look to Leidner

One of the reasons for optimism around the Gophers is senior quarterback Mitch Leidner. He has received some recognition nationally as a player to watch for the Davey O'Brien Award and potential first-round pick in next spring's NFL Draft.

Leidner comes into his senior season near the top of most Gophers passing records. He is currently seventh in career passing yards (5,118), sixth in career completions (407) and eighth in career touchdown passes (28).

Additionally, he completed more passes and threw for more yards last season than any other junior in school history.

"The way that kid competed last year with the injuries that he had makes it easy for our players to follow him," said Claeys Monday. "We truly are lucky to have him back for another season."

The real good news on Leidner, according to ESPN, is that he's 100 percent after offseason foot surgery.

The Gophers open the season Sept. 1 at home against Oregon State.

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