Don’t Blame Gopher Football’s Offense for Struggles

Adam Weber

It seems like it’s something new every year for the Gophers. [Read more…]

When Will Joel Maturi Fire Tim Brewster?

Tim Brewster

Tim Brewster signed a contract extension this offseason that will keep him as the Gophers head coach through the 2013 season.

In a town that has been famous for terrible football coaches (Glen Mason, Mike Tice, Brad Childress), this should come as no surprise.

But only three days after the Gophers lost to USC in a game that had no business being as close as it was, it is becoming more painfully obvious that mediocrity is something not only accepted, but embraced around Minnesota’s campus.

When Minnesota Athletic Director Joel Maturi presented Tim Brewster with the two year extension, he expressed optimism about the future, saying that Brewster “deserves to coach his kids.”

[Read more…]

Gophers Football Has Long Road Ahead

longroad

By Mike Gallagher

When Tim Brewster took over the University of Minnesota’s football program three years ago, it was not a pretty sight.  That was reflected on the field in the 2007 season, when the Gophers went 1-11.

The idea from there was that the program would begin a rebuilding process that would have the team in the Big Ten’s contenders by at the earliest the third year of Brewster’s reign, but definitely the fourth.

What you have seen this year is what ultimately ruined that plan.

With the Gophers rapping up a regular season filled with hope, and then massive disappointment, things are looking as if they’ll get worse before they get better.

Looking into the stats shows nothing to inspire hope.  The offense ended the regular season 113th in the nation in yards/gm.  When an offense is this bad, you have to start at the head of the unit.  Adam Weber’s struggles have been chronicled, and were amplified this weekend vs. Iowa in which he failed to complete 50% of his passes for the fifth time in six games.  For only the second time all year, he didn’t throw an interception, but made up for it by fumbling twice.

Think he should be benched?  I did, and still don’t think it could hurt, but it’s painfully obvious that his backup, Marqueis Gray, is far from ready to captain an offense.  In limited but consistent duty this year, he completed only 38% of his passes.  He showed his football immaturity this past weekend, throwing an interception while scrambling out of the pocket.

Don’t expect much help from their targets next year, either.  The U will lose their top two receivers, Eric Decker and TE Nick Tow-Arnett, to graduation.  Aside from those two, no one else had more than 300 yards receiving, even with Decker being out the last month.

The run game isn’t exactly a beacon of light either, it ranked 108th in the nation this year.  No Gopher running back averaged more than 4.2 yards per carry this year.  You’d think over the entire season someone would break one that brought that average up a little bit, but in reality no Gopher had more than a 29-yard run on the year.

runninggame

The only good news here is that the, ahem, three headed monster, of running backs (Deleon Eskridge, Kevin Whaley, Duane Bennett) are all back next year.  Maybe with another year under their young belts, they will be able to be more of a factor in the offense.

But does is matter how good the backs are?  As we know from my other recent articles (my 4 loyal readers would know), it all starts up front and the biggest problem this year has been on the lines.  While having one of the worst run blocking teams in the nation, they have also allowed the most sacks in the Big Ten this year.  After losing center Jeff Tow-Arnett for the season with an injury, there was no hope left for this patchwork group.

The bright side for the O-line is that only Tow-Arnett is graduating, leaving four of five starters on the line.  At this point, the Gophers top recruit is an offensive lineman, Jimmy Gjere.  With Seantrel Henderson still considering the U, this is a group that could be much improved.  But even big improvement might only bring them to average after how this year went.

On the other side of the ball, it’s simple.  The defense kept the Gophers in a lot of games, including this past week vs. Iowa.  They rank smack dab in the middle of the national rankings in scoring defense, at 60th.  The bad part is that they’re graduating their entire front seven.  Nate Triplett and Lee Campbell will be sorely missed at linebacker, while they also graduate Kim Royston and Treye Simmons, key contributors in the secondary.  The defense will be gutted, leaving many to wonder how they’ll be in any games next year.

Looking at the very near future, they have a bowl-game to prepare for, what will likely be the Little Ceasers Pizza Bowl.  Obviously this game is of very little importance to this program, which is why I’m paying no attention at all to it.

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The big picture is what matters, and there’s virtually no shot that AD Joel Maturi will make a coaching change this offseason, so the Gophers are going to have to work with what they have, coach included.  What they have right now is not very much, especially heading into next year.  Brewster has gotten practically nothing from his recruits, and that will need to change in order for there to be some progress since they graduate a very productive group of 27 seniors.

This was a key year to see the direction of this team, and with the way they performed and all the talent they’re graduating, how can there be any excitement around not only this bowl game, but the years to come?

After this year, there is no light at the end of the mediocre tunnel anymore.  The tunnel just got a lot longer.  Tim Brewster needs to find a way to get more out of what he’s got, because if he doesn’t, he won’t be around to reach the end of that tunnel.

New blood infuses with old as Gophers set to begin season

By Anthony Zilis

The new word for the new year for Minnesota is just that – new.

The team opens a new, open-air TCF Bank Stadium this year, moving from the stuffy Metrodome.

Jedd Fisch takes over as the new offensive coordinator after serving as Broncos wide receivers coach in 2008, while former Nebraska defensive coordinator steps in as co-defensive coordinator for the Golden Gophers. Tim Davis steps in as offensive line coach after holding the same position at Alabama and USC.

“What we’re talking about is some very veteran, experienced coaches, and they’re proven coaches,” head coach Tim Brewster said. “I think Tim Davis is as fine an offensive line coach as there is … Kevin Cosgrove, he’s one of the outstanding defensive coordinators in college football.”

Notre Dame transfer Matt Carufel and tackle Jeff Willis will transform the right side of the offensive line, while top recruit MarQueis Gray should see time at quarterback.

Still, junior quarterback Adam Weber and senior receiver Eric Decker return to bolster an offense for a team that started off 2008 7-1.

“I think Adam is on outstanding player,” head coach Tim Brewster said. “He’s taken every snap for the past two years, and gives us tremendous leadership at the quarterback position.”

Of course, that team also lost its last five games. This Minnesota team has a history of disappointing fans, after finishing a disastrous 2007 1-11.

The Gophers know that they have to change this trend if they want to fill up that brand new stadium.

To turn things around, the Gophers plan on reverting to a power running game, bucking the popular trend of teams converting to spread offenses. The Gophers plan on using fullback Jon Hoese much more, and at 375 and 303 pounds, Willis and Carufel lend themselves to this type of offense.

“I certainly believe under Tim Davis’ guidance we’re going to have a much improved offensive line this season, and we’re going to obviously need to run the ball better,” Brewster said. “With those guys, I think we will.”

A strong offensive line will be important, with youth at the running back position. Sophomores Duane Bennet and DeLeon Eskridge and redshirt freshman Kevin Whaley are all expected to get time at the spot.

Brewster expects all three to contribute to an improved rushing attack

“I would like to play all three of those backs,” Brewster said. “We’ve got a plan for how we’re going to utilize all three, specific plays, that type of thing. Then we’ll see who is feeling it, who is playing the best as we move into the third and fourth quarter, seeing whether or not a guy is really picking up some steam and some confidence and playing well.”

The defense loses only three starters in ’09, but they were big ones. Willie VanDeSteeg was big in the pass rush in ’08 for the Gophers, while linebacker Deon Hightower and the safety Tramaine Brock each finished in the top four in tackles last season.

“It’s going to be tough to fill his shoes,” linebacker Lee Campbell said of VanDeSteeg. “I definitely think we have the guys to do it. We have some great defensive tackles and ends. Overall, I think we have a really good pass rush with our linebackers and defensive backs.“

Still, defensive end Cedric McKinley and tackle Eric Small bolster a defensive line that could be strong, but has very little depth.

The line was impressive in ’08, and could do the same in ’08 discounting injury.

Three seniors, Lee Campbell, Nate Triplett, and Simoni Lawrence make for a veteran starting corps at linebacker.

Seniors Traye Simmons and Marcus Sherels should start at cornerback, while juniors Kyle Theret and Kim Royston will start at safety.

All in all, the Gopher defense will be a very experienced unit when they take the field against Syracuse to open the 2008 season.

Of course, if 2009 is anything like last year, the Gophers’ play at the beginning of the season isn’t the question. What the Gophers need to prove is that they can finish out a season.

Otherwise, administrative heads may roll and the new stadium may be on the empty side.