July 31, 2007

Big Ten Blogger Roudtable - Part 1

Well, Gopher Nation fans it is time to start thinking about Big Ten Football. Today begins the Big Ten Media so the Big Ten Bloggers is kicking off their roundtable to coincide. As an inagural member I am putting my fingers to the keyboard. At the bottom I will link the other Big Ten Bloggers responses to the very same questions...

Badger Sports - originator of the opening roundtable
Paging Jim Shikenjanski (MN)
Hoosier Report
Black Shoes Diaries (PSU)
Around the Oval (OSU)
Lake the Posts (NW)
Run up the Score (PSU)
There Is No Name On My Jersey (PSU)
Buckeye Lane
Maize n Brew (Mich)

1a. The press and the coaches will be predicting the Big Ten champ at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago on Wednesday. That's fine, but overdone. In lieu of boilerplate predictions of who will come out on top, which Big Ten team will be the most surprising? Remember, surprises can be good or bad; the underdog who comes out of nowhere to share the title is just as surprising as the favorite who winds up with five losses and no bowl bid.

I've thought about this for quite a while now. I toyed with Purdue or Indiana because they return a quality QB (which is a rarity in this year's Big 10) along with a high number of overall returning starters. And I wish I could tell you that I firmly believed Minnesota was going to have a 5-3 year, even 4-4 would be the surprise of the Big 10. My surprise team is Ohio State.

I know they are your classic "we don't rebuild, we reload" team. But they lost a LOT from last year and I think there will be a bigger let down than OSU fans are anticipating. My gut tells me that the next wave of talent is not a group that will work harder than anyone else to avenge the egg they laid vs. Florida. Instead they will feel entitled to playing time and expect wins because they are THE Ohio State University. There is a very fine line between confidence that carries you to victories and entitled-arogance that leads to poor execution, mental mistakes and let downs.

Would 6-2 in conference finishing tied for 2nd be surprising? No, not with as much as they lost and the strength of Michigan, Wisconsin and Penn State. Here is my bold prediction, OSU goes 5-3 in conference, 1-2 vs. the other big 3 (@Mich, Wis, @PSU) and drops one shocker (@MN, @Pur, NW, MSU or Ill). I think that a 5-3 record finishing tied for 4th would be a surprising finish, although exciting for many other Big Ten programs.

1b. Imagine it's December, and the consensus in the media is that your team's season was "surprising." Is this a Good Thing or a Bad Thing? What would have to happen for you to consider your team's season surprising?

Well since just about everyone is predicting a 10th or 11th place finish, anything over 2 wins would be surprising. But really for people to be talking about the Golden Gophers and their upstart program under first year head coach Tim Brewster, I think they have to put together a 5-3 conference season. 4-4 might do it, but since we are dreaming lets go with 5-3.

Is this realistic, NO. Is it in the relm of possibility? I think so. Home games with Purdue and Illinois are winable. Road games at Northwestern, Indiana and Iowa are also winable games.

But to truly be considered a surprise team I think the Gophers HAVE To stage a big time upset. That means a win over Ohio State, @Michigan or Wisconsin. Beating Ohio State would be huge because there are a number of important recruits in town that weekend. I don't hold out much hope for a road win to regain the Little Brown Jug. But most of all I'd love to take down the Badgers and bring Paul's Axe back home.

2. A preseason player of the year will also be dubbed in Chicago. For your team to succeed, which player or unit is going to have to put forth a "player of the year" performance? What's the one position that would take your team to the next level if it performs above expectations?

QB is the obvious answer. A new QB in a new offense is going to make things very difficult for this offense to get going. But I'm going to the other side of the ball. The Gopher pass defense (and I use defense loosely) has been putrid for several seasons. I'm looking for a DB to step up and be a big time playmaker for 12 games. The likely candidates are either CB-Jamal Harris or S-Dom Barber. My dream is for one of them to end up on an All-Big Ten team.

3. Which Big Ten team's out-of-conference schedule would you most want to have this year? Why? Do you think your team will have out-of-conference losses this year?

I like Michigan State's OOC schedule. I understand the need to schedule a couple wins and they have that in UAB and Bowling Green. But then I love taking on some decent teams from major conferences. Pittsburgh is solid and then I would LOVE to get Notre Dame on the schedule. I have never traveled to watch the Gophers on the road, but I would put my life on hold to make the trip to South Bend.

4. Here's a chance to look like a complete genius in a few months: pick the biggest in-conference upset that will happen this season. Justify your prediction!

I'm going to play "homer" here and pick Minnesota over Ohio State. As I mentioned above I think OSU will drop one shocker. Realistically, their next game @Purdue is the more likely candidate. There is more roster turnover with OSU than with anybody else in the Big Ten and taking them on early is the key. Minnesota will be adjusting to a new coach and system, but they should have had 3 non-conference wins and a home game vs. Purdue to build some confidence and rhythm heading into this game.

5. Say something nice about the Big Ten school whose name precedes yours alphabetically. Say something mean about the one that comes after.

Michigan State...hmmmm....I'm not very good at this saying something nice thing...well,

  • they aren't Michigan?
  • they have a good basketball program?
  • they make being green look easy?
  • Here we go...As a Minnesota fan I should appreciate, recognize and congratulate them on winning the NCAA Frozen Four (that's hockey). Really I am one of the few up here who cares very little about hockey, but I'll try to act like I do.
Northwestern. I'm much better at making fun of other teams. Northwestern is kind of easy. I'm thankful that NW is in the Big Ten because they are one of the few programs over the last decade who have been worse than MN in football and basketball. Thank you, it is always nice to know that we won't be the 11th team in the Big Ten.

For instance 2006-07 basketball?
  • Minnesota 3-13 (OUCH)
  • Northwestern? 2-14 (thank you, Wildcats)
Basketball since the Clem years has a 12 game lead over NW in total Big Ten Standings. Football hasn't been as nice, but a 3 game lead in the Mason years.

6. USC: great football program, or greatest football program? Also, how about that SEC? Damn, those guys are fast!

Hard to argue against them being the greatest. If they weren't on the west coast I don't think it would be much of a question. Unfortunately they play in the Pac 10 which is the most overrated of the BCS conferences in my mind. Ultimately I admire what Pete Carrol has done there and I'll grant them "greatest" status.

The SEC? Is Floriday Atlantic or North Dakota State in the SEC? See I'm a Gopher fan and I've seen 2 SEC teams over the past 20 years. And we are 2-0 so I don't see what the big deal is. We "rolled" all over the Tide in on 2004 and the mighty leg of Nystrom sliced up the Razorbacks in 2002. Overall we are 5-3 vs. the SEC (yes that is 8 total games in our 120+ year history), if we can help it won't don't play them tough schools.

Add them to the recruit list...

WARNING - this post may contain completely useless information.

So most of you know that the Gophers are heavily recruiting several kids from Dallas Skyline High School. Those players include...

LB - Spencer Reeves
S - Keanon Cooper
S - DaJon McKnight
Ath - Troy Stoudermire

I don't have any new information on these recruits, but what I do know is that if they all turn down Coach Brewster there just may be more talent in that school than we were previously aware of.

22 Skyline Cheerleaders were involved in a massive (pillow) fight at Cheer Camp in Dallas.

With Leather has the full report.

July 27, 2007

Gopher FB Previews...

Here are a collection of Gopher Football Previews...

Blog Predictions.

  • PagingJimShikenjanski gives a very good roundup of Gopher FB preveiws from around the world wide web (aka www.)
  • MGO Blog - "Bonus prediction: their recruiting class is no better than a typical Mason effort and Brewster is bounced after four years of Wacker ball."
    • Best Case 6-6
    • Worst Case 0-12
    • Actual prediction 4-8 (1-7 in Big 1o
  • Hawkeye State - actually written by PagingJimShikenjanski. Predicted 3-5 in conference to go 7-5 overall.
  • The Final Score (Big 10 Blogger) - 6 years of predictions and The Final Score has been within 1 game on the Gophers final record.
    • 5-7 (1-7 in Big 10)
  • Black Shoes Diaries - "Here we have a team learning a new system implemented by a coach with no head coaching experience. They are going to a spread offense while breaking in a new quarterback with only two legitimate wide receivers to throw to. Left tackle is a serious concern as is the entire defense."
    • 3-9
Major Publications
More to come...

July 23, 2007

Football Recruiting

It has been just over a month since my last recruiting update. That update was negative news concerning 2 recruits who appeared to be on their way to Gopher Nation. The 3-star OL from Cretin left us for Wisconsin and a certain California, 3-star QB picked Arizona over coach Brewster. Both were disappointing losses, but it's not as though Maturi should be calling Mason to bring him back (we all know he'll answer the phone). Since then 3 kids have said YES to Brewster and the commit list has grown to 10 guys.

New Commits...

  • K/P - Bradley Nortman - Looks like the Badgers are letting guys slip through their borders! Nortman is listed as the #13 overall kicker according to Rivals but will likely be a punter and may be the one of the top couple punters in the country. Although he is from Milwaukee he has always wanted to attend MN. In fact when called and offered a scholarship at 11:00 pm, he returned the call at 11:10 to accept. Current kickers Kucek (P) and Giannini (K) will be seniors for Nortman's freshman season and I would assume he'll then be the guy for 3 solid seasons.
  • TE - Eric Lair - This Houston TE is ranked by Rivals as the #3 TE in the state of Texas (80th overall in TX, would be #5 in MN). Lair is big (6'3", 210) fast (4.56 40) and should be a perfect fit for the spread offense. Some schools were recruiting Lair to play the big possession WR at the college level but his combo of size and speed should make for great mismatches from the TE position as a Gopher. Lair also had offers from Nebraska, OK State and other Big 12 programs.
  • DT - Padric Scott - Scott was not a highly recruited DT and chose MN over smaller D1 schools like South Florida. But I wouldn't dismiss this kid as a non-factor just yet. Scott is a very intelligent kid and has the kind of work ethic that will eventually earn him some playing time. And perhaps his biggest contribution will be his recruiting efforts on his high school teammates. Scott is trying to convince teammates TJ Bryant (5-star DB), Steven Robinson (3-star OL) and BJ Daniels (3-star QB) to join him in Minnesota. Go get 'em Padric.
Outside of those commitments the recruiting front there has seen very little happy news for Gopher Nation. There are persistent rumors that Cretin WR, Mike Floyd is leaning towards Notre Dame or Ohio State while taking a "wait and see" approach to the U. Eden Prairie LB, Will Mobley was considered more likely to attend the U than Floyd recent developments seem have him warming up to Ohio State. Both are important recruits for Brewster as stated here many times. Losing one would be bad, losing both will be worse than really bad (really, really bad maybe?).

ESPN's Recruiting Insider (which is not as accurate or comprehensive as Rivals) is updated and they have their official top 150 list published (subscription necessary). Mike Floyd is the the only MN kid on the list at #41. Here are some of the recruits interested in MN and where they stand overall...
  • #41 - WR - Mike Floyd - much as been discussed on Floyd and not much has changed recently. I get the feeling that he knows how to play the recruiting game and many of his comments being made in July are about as reliable as a GM's in the days leading up the draft. I really wouldn't blame him for attending Notre Dame or Ohio State next fall, especially if the Gophers put up a disappointing effort this fall. My gut tells me that if we have a better than expected season (4-4 in Big 10, 8-4 overall) then maybe Floyd thinks that things are looking up and he wants to be a part of the Gopher party in Pasadena. a 2-6 conference record might convince him that nothing is changing and he wants to play for a national championship elsewhere.
  • #18 - WR - Deion Walker - ESPN says that Walker "is a tall, lanky wide receiver with long arms and very smooth into and out of his cuts." And, "Overall, Walker is a playmaker, plain and simple. He has the measurables, the movement skills and a nice feel for the game. Outstanding prospect." Walker is on my top 15 list, but this guy is hot (45+ official offers) and I'd be shocked to see him in maroon and gold next season.
  • #24 - WR/RB/Ret - Joe Adams - ESPN lists MN as #3 on Adams' list while Rivals does not show MN as one of the 9 schools on his list. So that is interesting info, but I don't care who says we are in the running as long as we are truly in the running. Adams is a "a wonderful overall athlete" who "shows a little bit of a second gear when he hits daylight." In Dunbar's new offense Adams might be a perfect piece for the puzzle.
  • #28 - DT - Marcus Forston - ESPN's #2 DT who explosive and "is regularly one of the first people moving on the snap of the ball." We need to be stronger up the middle and Forston would greatly help our defense immediately. ESPN does not have MN in his top 5, but he is listed as a school he is considering. Rivals has MN as one of 10 schools who have offered. USC, ND and LSU are big name schools on the list but my guess is that this Florida kid will end up at Florida, Florida State or Miami as all have offered.
  • #64 - S -Keanon Cooper - Cooper has been on the MN radar for a while and I think this is our best shot at an ESPN top 100 kid. ESPN picks Cooper to be one of the sleepers on their top 150. In high school he has exceled at multiple positions but will likely play S or LB (provided he adds some pounds) at the college level. In a recent Rivals article when asked to name his top 5 Minnesota was the first school to come out of his mouth along with Michigan, Wisconsin, Alabama and Georgia Tech. Alabama seems to be moving up his list, but time will tell.
  • #74 RB - Jonas Gray - this Michigan back has always said MN is on his short list. But since offers have rolled in from Mich State and the Wolverines, my money is that we'll see Gray on Saturdays in East Lansing. Gray seems to really enjoy being the center of attention, I don't see him choosing to be a small fish in the Wolverine pond. He wanted badly to get an offer from them but he'll revel in "shocking the world" with his decision (which will likely result in a collective yawn from the rest of the country).
  • #109 - S/OLB - Nolan Brewster - Nolan has committed to Texas as we all know, but he hasn't signed that little piece of paper and until he does he'll remain on Gopher Nation's radar. I expect a successful season for Coach (dad) Brewster and Nolan will get caught up in the excitement. We'll see. Texas already has several recruits that will force Nolan to fight for his playing time, not nearly as likely in Minnesota.
  • #116 - QB - MarQueis Gray - 6'4" pocket passer who just happens to be very athletic and is often listed as a dual threat type of recruit. Gray would be a GREAT fit for Dunbar's spread offense. ESPN does not have MN is Gray's top 5, Rivals has MN as one of 9 schools to have offered Gray. I would be really happy to see Gray leading the offense when TCF Stadium opens up in 2009.
I don't think we'll be landing the majority of the kids listed above but if we can get 1 or 2 of the above names, then get 1 or 2 of the next tier guys (Mobley, Jewhan Edwards, Brandon Green, Harry Adams or Ryan Bass) then this moves from a good recruit class to a very good class and one to get excited about.

Official Gopher Nation Top 15 (16) wish list...
  1. Mike Floyd - WR
  2. Willie Mobley - LB
  3. Deion Walker - WR
  4. Brandon Green - WR
  5. Ryan Bass - RB
  6. Nolan Brewster - S
  7. MarQueis Gray - QB
  8. Keanon Cooper - S
  9. Spencer Reeves - LB
  10. Jonas Gray - RB
  11. Kapron Lewis-Moore - DE
  12. DJ Marshall - DT
  13. Prentiss Wagner - CB
  14. Darron Thomas - QB
  15. Harry Adams - WR
  16. Cordale Scott - WR
And that's all I've got to say about that.

July 16, 2007

the NEW Golden Gopher Era - Part 4

What are the long term expectations for success?

The NEW Golden Gopher Era - Part 4 of 8

Intro - Turning point for Gopher FB and BB
Part 1 - What can we expect in 2007? - FB
Part 2 - What can we define as success (short term) - FB
Part 3 - How quickly can we win a Big Ten title? - FB

Raise your hand if you remember the long and storied Lou Holtz era at the University of Minnesota! I'm not old enough to know anything about it except that as a kid I was well aware that he fell on the short list of people that we do not extend "Minnesota Nice" to. For the record that list looks something like...

1. Norm Green
2. Lou Holtz
3. Drew Pearson (that was a push-off, cheater)
4. anything Wisconsin
5. anything Iowa
Anyway, I digress. My point with bringing up Lou Holtz's cup of coffee at the U is that the long term success of the U hinges on the loyalty of Tim Brewster. Will Coach Brewster answer the phone when the "bigger" schools come calling? Is this a stepping stone for Brewster or does he truly want to turn this program into a dominant program with long term success?

I love the U and want nothing more than to see the football program return to success and competitiveness in the Big Ten on a yearly basis. I think that Brewster has what it takes to get us there, but I think that there are 3 possible scenarios for success and two-thirds of them end with Brewster leaving.

Lou Holtz Scenario - The Gophers experience success and we get to see that success quickly. If Brewster takes this mediocre program and takes us to a BCS Bowl in his first 3 years, he will have his pick of jobs that are open (and some that are not). At this point staying at the U is a lose-lose situation for him. He can get monster money at a school with a richer football program in a warmer climate, making recruiting that much easier and potential for a career of sustained success.

Can You Blame Him Scenario - Under this scenario Brewster does NOT take the Big Ten by storm in his first few years. This is the most likely path of success for Brewster and the gophers. Here the Gophers improve step by step and win the Big Ten after Brewster builds the talent base here with a handful of good recruiting classes. Here Coach Brew is here for 5-10 years giving us a few years of success BUT he leaves when the Texas job opens up and Mack Brown endorses TBrew to replace him.

Sky-U-Ma Scenario - This is the dream scenario for Gopher Nation. Brewster takes the program where we want it to go. We get to the Rose Bowl before his 5th season is complete, Brewster wants to stay in MN, the U pays him whatever he asks for and Brewster finishes his career here. Gopher Nation gets to experience a team that each and every year has a shot at winning the Big Ten and we regularly house the Traveling-Trophy-Trifecta. Floyd, Paul's Ax and the Jug have their permanent addresses changed to the Bierman Building.

Personally, I don't see scenario #3 happening. Best case we get Brewster here for about 6 seasons and get to make a trip to Pasadena. After he leaves for his "dream job" we can hope that he has groomed one of his assistants to take the reigns and keep Gopher Nation heading in the right direction.

At this point I prefer to enjoy the process. We are currently seeing Brewster and staff upgrade the talent here and hopefully we'll see some exciting football this season. Let's not dwell on when this ride comes to end.

Gopher Nation quick hitters

File under the NOT Good News folder - Dom Jones arrested this afternoon on probably cause of criminal sexual conduct. Dom Jones' name was not connected with the original charges so this is a curious turn of events. I generally hesitate to comment on off the field issues such as this. I enjoy the gopher football program for what they do on Saturday afternoons. I find it unfortunate that high profile athletes often are not held to the same standards that the rest of the general population his held to. That is frustrating but it is what we've come to expect. As far as the impact this will have on the gopher defense? Well Jones is a 2-year starter, excellent kick returner and someone this defense was counting on to improve on last year's team.

Basketball Ast. Coach Vince Taylor is interviewed on gophersports.com - "Our main goal is to be better than we were last year and to make an imprint in the Big Ten. Our goal is to win the Big Ten this year. I think it is very possible." Decent interview, coach Taylor talks about how hard the guys are working this offseason. I believe this class has talent and they are capable of winning, we'll see come November.

Nate Hanson, 3B for the Gopher Baseball team earned MVP honors of the Northwoods League All-Star Game. Nate hit a 2-run single to give his team a 3-1 lead which was enough to hold off the South team as the North won 3-2.

Former Gopher QB Mike Hohensee has had a LONG career in the AFL. As a Gopher Hohensee was the U's athlete of the year in 1981 and '82. He participated in the first AFL game 20 years ago and is currently the head coach of the Chicago Rush (defending AFL Champs).

July 12, 2007

"Brining Gopher Nation back to campus"

Coach Brewster wants to bring Gopher Nation back to campus. When I get to interview him I'll be sure to ask him where we are going first. Pasadena then back to campus or do we have to go to campus and then we can go to Pasadena. I don't really care as long as we get to go to both places.

So yesterday was groundbreaking of the new stadium. Should be very cool and I can't wait.

Pictoral construction timeline
Gophersports.com article on groundbreaking
Star Trib article on groundbreaking