What can we define as success (in the short term)? - Football
The NEW Golden Gopher Era - Part 2 of 8
Part 1 - What can we expect in 2007?
This was partially addressed in Part 1, but there is more to it than previously discusses. There are a number of ways to define success in 2007 both on and off the field. First and foremost I don't think that the team's final record will be a true indicator or a fair assesment of Coach Brewster's success this season. This is his honeymoon season. If he overachieves to a 9-3 or 8-4 record then they'll start erecting a bronze statue to be ready in 2009 (Brewster Field at TCF Stadium). If he stumbles by losing to one of their less talented non-conference foes or only win 1 or 2 Big Ten games then it is because he has Mason's recruits. I can already see Sid explaining that you can't run the spread offense with Mason's "pound the rock" kids.
So if record can't define success what does? Unfortunately I don't think there are many tangible benchmarks that would clearly define success in 2007. I see 3 things that will mark a "successful" season...
1. RECRUITING - This is a tangible measure and one that started months ago. Brewster needs to upgrade the talent on his roster. He needs to bring in more talented players than we've previously seen with M's on their helmets. Mason had his moments but it was a simple formula...
great RB + very good OL - average QB - terrible defense = MEDIOCRITY
If Mason lacked a RB and a couple OL that were some of the best in the country he struggled to achieve that mediocrity he strived for.
Brewster has to show everyone that he can bring in more talent. This 2008 recruiting class doesn't have to be top 10 nationally but it should be good enough to garner some respect and open some eyes that Minnesota is a program you'll have to fight with for some top notch talent.
Most importantly is keeping the best kids in the state of Minnesota. So far every MN kid who they deemed worthy of a scholarship offer has accepted with the exception of WR-Mike Floyd who has yet to commit. Floyd is the best in the state, has offers from Ohio State and Notre Dame, and this is a statement recruit that Brewster has to keep at home. Keep Floyd and keeping the top MN talent in the future becomes a little bit easier. Then add some 4-star recruits from around the country and things start to look up for Gopher Nation.
2. Learn to snatch victory from defeat (not the other way around) - this one is pretty simple. Don't blow a 28 point, 4th qtr lead at home (and you have 424 rushing yards), don't blow a 10 point lead with the ball and under 3:00 left (also at home), and don't blow a 35-7 half time lead in a bowl game. I don't need to link these games or even tell you the opponent cause if you are a member of Gopher Nation you are well aware of these debacles.
These games were certain wins that Mason's teams lost on a regular basis. I haven't even touched on the games we lost in OTs cause we were screwed on a pass interference (Penn State) or the ref didn't know what the end zone out of bounds line was (Purdue). In other words I hope Brewster teams have better mental toughness and discipline to overcome bad calls and learn how to finish teams off.
3. Play with some toughness - this is clearly not tangible but I would never characterize a Mason coached team as tough. We had guys in the trenches that opened holes and let our RBs run wild. BUT it's been 10+ years since we've seen a defense that could shut down an opponent when it counted. And I mean any opponent, Indiana and Northwestern have been just as unstoppable as Ohio State and Michigan.
In this category I also throw in some of the blow out losses. I know that we are lacking in talent but we need to have the toughness to compete with anybody in the Big Ten. 44-0 losses should not be acceptable. I don't expect victories over OSU and Mich this year but at least show that we want to be on the same field with them.
I think that if Brewster can demonstrate that his teams will compete with some desire, toughness and play till the final zeros, fans will be content for a year or 2. Eventually, like all in his profession, his success will be judged on his record. But this is looking only in the short term future. In 2007 and even into 2008 he will be shown grace from Gopher Nation and the U's administration. This is Mason's roster that has to be upgraded but show us something (anything) that Mason was unable to do.