April 26, 2007

Part 2 of Brewster interview

Click HERE

April 24, 2007

Football Tid Bits

After 3 months on the job, gophersports.com sat down to interview Coach Brewster. HERE is part 1 of the interview with part 2 coming in Wednesday. This deals with him settling in here, reaching out to the rich history of gopher football and more detail on his assistants. All in all it is a pretty good interview.

Recruiting Update...

  • Minnesota kids are staying home so far. Every MN kid that has received an offer from the gophers and made a decision is coming to the U. There are 2 outstanding offers to MN kids who have yet to make a decision, and they are probably the top 2 kids in the state.
    • Willie Mobley - 79, DE - Eden Prairie - 1. Minnesota 2. Ohio State 3. Iowa
    • Mike Floyd - 88, WR - Cretin Derham Hall - 1. Minnesota 2. Notre Dame 3. Ohio State. Floyd is THE GUY Brewster has to land. One of the best WRs in the country, we run a pass happy offense and a statement recruit that we are keeping our best!
Notice that we are in the recruiting mix with Ohio State and Notre Dame, they are of course from here so we SHOULD be in the conversation but in past years we would just say "well who could blame them for going to (insert big time program here)." Hopefully that attitude is in the past and we can keep our best and steal some guys from other states.
  • Based on ESPN's recruiting Insider here is a breakdown of previous Minnesota recruting classes...
    • 2006 - 16 High School Srs. signed and 2 JUCOs - highest rated player was 75
    • 2007 - 18 High School Srs. signed and 5 JUCOs - highest rated player was 82 (Clint Brewster), nobody over 80 from Coach Mason.
  • 2008? As of April 24th we have signed 7 kids (yet to be rated by ESPN) and have interest from 36 more! From those rated here is the list of interested kids rated 79 or higher...
    • Keanan Cooper - 82, OLB - 1. Texas Tech 2. Mississippi 3. Wisconsin 5. Minnesota
    • Jonas Grey - 82, RB - 1. Florida 2. Michgan State 3. Colorado 5. Minnesota
    • Joe Adams - 81, ATH - 1. Texas Tech 2. Okalahoma 3. Minnesota
    • Quiten Williams - 81, TE - 1. West Virginia 2. Wisconsin 3. Minnesota
    • Jewhan Edwards - 80, DT - 1. Syracuse 2. Minnesota 3. Penn State
    • Kapron Lewis-Moore - 79, DE - 1. Texas A&M 2. Oklahoma 3. Notre Dame 4. Minnesota
    • Brandon Green - 79, WR - 1. Illinois 2. Wisconsin 3. Minnesota
    • Again notice the schools we are in the top 5 with. Notre Dame, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Florida, Oklahoma, Penn State. We haven't actually signed any of these kids yet but I look forward to tracking these guys and seeing what kind of magic Brewster can work here.
Gopher Nation wants to inspire you and help facilitate a new era of passionate Golden Gopher fans, but THIS IS FREAKING INSANE! I understand being passionate about your team and I know that MANY other NCAA football teams have a fanbase unlike anything Gopher Nation has yet to experience, but this is just plain nuts. 2% of the entire state was at this football game and people were turned away! Was this the Auburn game? Was it homecoming? NO!!! It was their spring scrimmage!

Gopher Baseball Bandwagon

I'm officially on the bandwagon and calling all citizens of Gopher Nation to jump on!

Baseball in midwest and northern schools is very often ignored and treated like the red-head step children of the southern and western schools. National attention to a Big Ten school or the conference is very rare, but HERE is a blog post by Aaron Fitt on Baseball America concerning the Golden Gophers and HERE is a link talking about the Big Ten as the IT conference from Eric Sorenson of CSTV.com.

One of (in not THE) biggest challenges to midwest and northern schools is of course the weather. While southern schools have been able to practice and play outside for months we have been experienceing predictable-unpredictable and usually cold/rainy weather during that time. This makes it tough to get better and more importantly it makes it tough to recruit. So of course teams from up here always spend the early part of their schedules heading south and west.

Anyway, back to the gophers. They too made a trip south and a trip west. And they did very well beating some very good teams in Virginia Tech, The Citadel, Pepperdine and UC Santa Barbara. They also hosted 2 ranked teams at home and split with both Arkansas and Mississippi. All of this adds up to a 26-7 season and a few people around the nation starting to notice the always good but rarely great Golden Gopher program.

Only 4 weekend series left, a favorable schedule, a chance to win the Big Ten and a chance to get an at large berth in the NCAA tournament should they not capture the Big Ten Tourney.

Calling on Gopher Nation to take notice!

April 23, 2007

Gopher Baseball

Since basketball is in it's lull season and football is in a down time for a couple months I am going to focus a little bit on baseball as the golden gophers are having a very nice season. After a 4 game sweep of Michigan State the gophers are 26-7 (9-2) and have won 16 of their last 18 games. Most of us know very little about the baseball team or that they even exist until the end of May and Sid tells us how they too need a new stadium and by the way they won the Big Ten tourney again. I too know very little about this team so here is a little bit of info that you should know...

  • Minnesota is currently 2nd in the Big Ten behind Michigan (11-1). Prior to this weekend's games Michigan ranked 1st in conference in hitting, pitching and fielding % so on paper they appear to be a very good team. Minnesota ranked 6th, 2nd and 3rd respectively in hitting, pitching and fielding.
  • Michigan and Minnesota did not play yet this season because their series was cancelled due to inclimate weather. I do not know if any of those games will be made up or if they won't see each other until the Big Ten tourney.
  • They have wins so far this year over 3 ranked teams currently #4-Arkansas, #16-Pepperdine and #23-Mississippi.
  • Most respected (and not respected) publications/blogs picked the Gophers to finish 3rd (and as low as 6th) in the Big Ten behing Michigan and Ohio State. Official season preview here and Big Ten Hardball's preview here.
The golden gophers seem to have a nice mix of veterans (12 seniors) and youth in their lineup. Just from looking at box scores here is what I think would be their typical lineup...

1. CF - Matt Nohelty (Soph) - batting .367, 14 Stolen bases and a .444 OB%
2. SS - Dan Lyons (Sr) - JUCO transfer who is solid and leads team in HRs
3. LF - Mike Mee (Sr) - currently batting .448 with .608 slugggin%!! Candidate for Big10 POY
4. 3B - Nate Hanson (Soph) - had very good freshman season that was shortened due to injury, clean up and very good Soph!
5. RF - Kyle Baran (Sr) - hitting .284 with 1.00 fielding % as regular RF
6. 2B - Derrek McCallum (Fr) - hitting .351 as a true freshman, Twins 50th rnd draft pick out of high school
7. 1B - Bryan Jost (Soph) - .319 hitter and anchor at 1B, batted higher earlier in the season
8. C - Kevin Carlson (Sr) or Kyle Knutson (Fr) - Carlson is hitting .365
9. P / DH

Key Bench players
OF -Tijl Vanderweg (Sr) - .291
C - Jeff DeSmidt (Jr) - .259
OF - Sean Kommerstad (Sr) - .192
2B - Jeremy Chlan (Jr) - .152

Pitching - In conference play the teams play 1 game on Friday, a double-header on Saturday then game 4 on Sunday. So you have a basic 4 man rotation. I "think" that teams usually put their best pitcher on Friday, but I don't know if they set it up as their best to their 4th best or if teams mix it up a little in the 2,3,4 spots. Anybody with knowledge of this is welcome to let me know how it actually works.
Friday. Tom Buske (Soph) - 2.63 ERA, 2-0, the last 2 series have seen Buske as the Friday Starter
Sat Gm 1. Gary Perinar (Jr) - 2-3 and 3.95 ERA
Sat Gm 2. Marcus McKenzie (Sr, transfer) - 6-0 with 5.05 ERA
Sunday. Dustin Brabender (Jr) - 4-1 and 3.54 ERA, pro prospect

SP/RP - Ethan Vogt (Jr) - 1.91 ERA with 2-1 record for the occasional starter
RP - Kyle Carr (Soph) - 6'5" LHP, 4 saves, 3-1 record and 4.57 ERA
Closer - Josh Oslin (Sr) - 0.68 ERA with 9 saves

The pitching staff has been very good this year and returns most of they innings eaters from this season. So we can expect to have an even better pitching staff in the 2008 season, but let's see how far they can take us this year.

Remaining Big Ten series over the next 4 weekends...

@ Illinois - .500 team overall and in Big Ten, big road series if you want to win the league, this is pretty huge.

Northwestern - last in Big Ten a sweep should be expected

Ohio State - preseason favorite to compete with Michigan for title, being at home should help, but this is a big one. Buy your tickets now and take your kid to watch some good outdoor baseball!

@ Indiana - 2nd to last in Big Ten, should be a sweep if you want to win the league.

So far a season of greater success than 2006 and one that surpassed expectations. We are very close and stealing a Big Ten title would be sweet.

April 21, 2007

Basketball Recruiting

Scout.com is reporting that Terrence Roderick has committed to UAB. Minnesota was a late player in his courting and I was hopeful that Tubby would persuade Roderick to become a Golden Gopher. But it looks like Terrence wanted to play for Mike Davis. Good luck and we'll move on.

I have no other recruiting updates at this point, I'll keep my ears open though.

April 20, 2007

Gopher Nation quick hitters

Hockey - last year's #1 overall NHL draft pick has decided to leave the gophers and sign with St. Louis for $850,000 in base salary. Erik Johnson is a great defenseman and will be missed as the Gophers try to repeat in the WCHA and get back to the Frozen Four. Keep an eye on GopherPuck for better insight and analysis.

Baseball - 3 tid bits

  • The Golden Gopher baseball team has won 12 of their last 14 games are 22-7 overall. We are sitting behind Michigan in the conference standings and our weekend series with the Wolverines was wiped out due to weather last month. Ohio State was considered one of the teams to beat in the Big 10 this year but they are currently struggling to 4-6 in conference play.
  • Former head coach and namesake of their on campus stadium, Dick Siebert was voted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame. I don't think many realize how big Siebert was. While coaching the golden gophers for 31 seasons he won 11 conference titles and 3 nation championships. Very impressive.
  • CSTV.com has ranked Minnesota as #6 in their MID-MAJOR poll. This might be the only sport where the Big-10 is considered a Mid-Major.
Basketball - 2 tid bits.
  • Our opponent for the Big Ten / ACC Challenge is a road game to Florida State. The Seminoles lose their best player this year but return basically the rest of their roster. In 2006-07 they finished with 22 wins, an NIT bid and notched wins over the likes of Duke and Florida. Should be a good challenge for what we hope is an improved Golden Gopher squad.
  • The Big Ten is officially adding 2 conference games to the schedule. All teams will now play an 18 game in conference schedule beginning next season. This should boost the strength of schedule for all Big 10 teams as they can drop a couple of the weak schools on their schedule. I am a fan of the 18 game schedule, but we'll evaluate this decision this time next year.

April 17, 2007

Coaching Dominoes

It is mildly interesting to note what kind of ripple effect Joel Maturi (and Tubby really) have had on schools across the country when he fired Dan Monson. Here is the domino effect to date...

1. Minnesota fires Dan Monson hires Tubby Smith.
- Monson lands at Long Beach State
2. Kentucky hires Billy Gilespie
3. Texas A&M hires Mark Turgeon
4. Wichita State - Gregg Marshall
5. Winthrop - promoted Ast. Coach Randy Peele

and the last domino falls, this is kind of like 6 degrees of Dan Monson.

So the final tally is 6 schools affected. The Big 10, SEC, Big 12, Missouri Valley and Big South also all affected.

April 12, 2007

Big Ten Rundown...

Michigan - After the hiring of Tubby Smith, Michigan hiring John Beilein away from West Virginia is probably the biggest news in weeks. Beilein has been very successful at WV after inheriting an 8-20 team. His run at WV was highlited by an Elite Eight apperance in the 2004-05 NCAA Tournament and winning the NIT this past season. Hiring a very successful coach away from another big time conference is a nice move by Michigan. We'll see if Beilein can overcome the challenges that face the basketball program in Michigan.

Iowa - lets stay with the basketball coaching theme here as Iowa watched the highly unpopular Steve Alford pull a Tubby and leave before he was tarred and feathered. The Hawkeyes replaced Alford with former Butler coach Todd Lickliter. Lickliter has been VERY successful at the Mid-Major level so his obvious challenge will be trying sustain that success in the Big Ten. I know my heart will break if he fails miserably.

Ohio State - the talk at this football school is all about the basketball team. After losing to Florida in the NCAA Championship game (which sport?) all speculation surrounds the NBA futures of Greg Oden and Mike Connely Jr. Common assumptions are that Oden is a lock to follow Kevin Durant from Texas to the NBA, but what about Connely? Some say he's leaving some think not. I don't know and I don't have an opinion on him leaving or not, but I do have a bold prediction. Should Connely stay he will be Big Ten Player of the Year and will battle with Tyler Hansboro for the Wooden Award.

The other big news out of Ohio is the newborn baby named Tressel Hayes! Sure to be a legend.

Illinois - This isn't new news but the Illini FB program recieved high marks for it's second straight outstanding recruiting class. Minnesota will be in direct competition with Illinois in their efforts to rise to the next level in the Big Ten.

Michigan State - The Spartans won their third hockey National Championship. That's great and we are happy for you but the problem is that they screwed up their streak of winning every 20 years. Champions in 1966 and 1986 they were 1 year tardy by winning in 2007 instead of 2006.

Indiana - I have not seen anything interesting coming out of Bloomington. Things should start to get crazy there next fall. Is their football team going to be any good? No, Eric Gordon will be on campus as the next great Hoosier, ready to team with DJ White as early favorites (along with Ohio State) to win the Big Ten. Gordon is one of the top 3 high school seniors out there, Indiana's Mr. Basketball and along with the rest of this stellar recruiting class should make for an exciting season at IU.

Purdue - the Boilermakers lose their top 2 scorers but will replace them with 2 positional top 10 players next season. They will be young but talented so that always makes for an interesting season.

Penn State - PSU is in the midst of spring practice and hopes are high as they return 15 starters and 33 letterwinners. Replacing Tony Hunt and improving O-line play will be a couple of the keys to Penn State getting into the BCS picture.

Northwestern - also had trouble finding much of anything noteworthy out of NU. Looking at basketball recruiting it looks as though NU is in the running for the #1 SG of the 2008 class. Of course I know nothing about this kid (Jarrett Mann, Middletown, DE) other than what I just typed, but it would be a coup for the Wildcats to land a kid of that caliber.

Wisconsin - I'm going to ignore the obvious greatness of their recently completed basketball season (and sudden THUD in the NCAA tourney). Football practice is underway and the story in Madison is the QB competition to replace John Stocco. Sr. Tyler Donovan is being pushed by Kansas State transfer Allan Evridge. Who will be the man? Who cares, Badgers suck :) !

Recruiting News

Basketball - ESPN has added a name to the 2007 recruit's considering MN! Getting a good (not great) player added to this freshman class would be a nice step for Tubby. I think with the Monson staff we would have seen a very average JUCO transfer. If Tubby can bring in 1 guy that he can develop that is a simple step in the right direction.

  • Terrence Roderick - SF/SG, Allentown, PA - Roderick is a 6'6" combo SG/SF. ESPN lists MN as #2 on his list behind UAB. UAB wouldn't seem like a destination that would be more desirable than a Big Ten school, but the Blazers are coached by Mike Davis who is a very good recruiter. Behind MN at #3 is Iowa. Roderick averaged just over 22 ppg.
  • Jai Lucas - PG - things are looking bleak on the Lucas front. Charlie Walters reports that Lucas has narrowed his search to Florida and Kentucky. I was hoping for at least a quick visit to the MN campus and a chance for Tubby to sell the program to Lucas. But that is looking less and less likely.
Hockey - I know very little about hockey but I'll give you what I see.
  • Stu Bickel - Defenseman - 6'4", 215 lbs. Stu played high school hockey at Minnetonka and Eden Prairie. After graduation he has played 2 seasons with Souix Falls of hte USHL. Here is the story.

Football Follies

It was a short honeymoon for Tim Brester as a little negative publicity surrounds the Gopher athletic program once again. I don't believe for a moment that the Gopher athletes and coaches are worse citizens than just about every other program in the country, but it seems that we stay in the headlines more often than not.

I realize that am a bit late on this "breaking" story, but that was kind of intentional. Stories of indiscretion and poor decisions make me cringe because what really occured is irrelevant and this will be swept under the rug. Why? Because they play football.

I try to separate off the field actions from on the field. Tying the 2 together is unfair and irresponsible in my opinion. We celebrate these young men based on their athletic ability and contribution, we treat them as though they are more important to society than normal citizens and we are surprised when they think they can get away with their actions.

Off the field we should expect them to act with as much responsibility as we expect of any citizen. If they choose to do otherwise they should be held to the same standard as anybody else. Their status as an athlete should hold no bearing on how we feel about them and should not affect their judicial judgement. Cheer them on as athletes nothing more, nothing less.

Now on to the actual story. In a nutshell 3 members of the football team were arrested for allegedly assaulting an 18-yr old female student. Eventually the players were released but it is an ongoing investigation.

Coach Brewster is saying all the right things (which he is getting good at). He is willing to fully cooperate with the investigation and he fully supports his players.

Are they innocent? Who knows. I would be equally "un-shocked" to hear that they were guilty as I would be to hear they did nothing. In the past I think presumed guilt would be the strong sentiment but the recent exoneration of the Duke la cross team make this closer to a coin flip.

From the perspective of a fan I don't care what the result is. If they are guilty they should be expelled and face their just punishment. If they are innocent I hope this does not stick with them. This should not be covered up or ignored but it also really should be allowed to play itself out and hopefully the actual truth will come out and justice will be served. This is an opportunity for Coach Brewster to make a statement to the rest of his team, will he do it? We'll find out.

April 5, 2007

Recruiting News

Basketball - Good news keeps coming for the 2008 recruiting class, good news is very indirect for the 2007 class.

  • Jai Lucas - no direct information, but the decision by Billy Donovan to stay in Florida is likely helpful. Speculation was that if Donovan were to become the UK coach then Nick Calathes would have jumped from Florida to Kentucky, Patrick Patterson would commit to UK and Lucas would then be inclined to join them at UK. That would have had the Wildcat fan's heads spinning. BUT Billy is staying at Florida and Kentucky will likely not land any of these recruits. Enter MN? I hope so.
  • 2008 Recruit LIST - this list is starting to add a couple significant names as kids considering Tubby Smith and the University of Minnesota
    • Draymond Green - PF, Saginaw, MI - Green was an early commit to UK and has now backed out of that committment and is considering the U accoring to Rivals.com.
    • Lewis Jackson - PG, Decature, GA - considering Purdue, Indiana, Minnesota
    • Angelo Johnson - PG, Encino, CA - considering Michigan, Cincinatti, Wisconsin, Georgetown and Minnesota
    • Jordan Taylor - SG, Benilde St. Margarets - committed to Wisconsin but don't be surprised if he reconsiders.
    • Jared Berggren - C, Princeton, MN - also committed to Wis but may reconsider
Football - Tim Brewster seems to be making an impact rather quickly on in state and out of state players. Brewster is living up to his committment to keeping MN players in state. He has received early committments from 5 MN kids already and seems to be on the right track with Michael Floyd and Willie Mobley at this point.
  • Sam Maresh - ILB, Champlin Park - Maresh is considered to be the best defensive recruit and one of the 3 big names in this year's Jr. class. Maresh had received offers from Michigan, Miami, Wisconsin and Iowa. He visited MN during spring practice, was driving home, had his dad turn the car around and informed Coach Brewster that he wanted to be a Gopher. And as icing on the cake he wants to make it his mission to convince the other top in state recruites (WR-Michael Floyd and DE-Willie Mobley) to join him in returning the U to competitivness.
  • Ryan Grant - QB, Eden Prairie - This is most notable because Ryan is the son of Mike Grant and grandson of Bud. He is the QB for Eden Prairie but likely will move to defense at the U. Name recognition within the state and if his experience is positive that can only help in attaining future recruits from Eden Prairie.
  • Kevan Walker - WR, Arcadia, CA - This is the first out of state recruit that Brewster and staff have landed. I know very little about Walker, but Rivals.com is making this signing out to be a big deal. Walker is a talented WR and the U needs talented WRs to compliment their new spread offense.

April 4, 2007

Tubby's Coaching Staff

Well it appears that Tubby has compiled his coaching staff and it looks like this...

Jimmy Williams
Saul Smith
Ron Jirsa
Shawn Finney - Dir. of Basketball Operations (?)

Jimmy Williams appears to be the most experienced of the group and on paper brings the most to the table for a few reasons...

  1. Williams was an assistant with the Gophers for 15 years. Granted this was a long time ago with Musselman and Dutcher, but that is a long time to be in this area and it makes him familiar with the schools and MN basketball.
  2. Williams is a known recruiter. Twice been named as one of the top recruiters in the nation and has been credited with much of the recent success at Oklahoma State because of his recruiting abilities. Williams has been responsible for nationally ranked recruiting classes in the 70s, 80s, 90s and even as recent as 2001 when he recruited a consensus top 5 class to OK State.
  3. Williams has a lot of experience. Coach Williams has coached in the Big 10, Big 12, NBA as a coach and a scout, and has shown success at every stop (including Nebraska which isn't easy to do). In addition to his coaching stops he has also learned from top coaches such as Eddie Sutton, Flip Saunders and Musselman.
  4. Williams has ties to Jai Lucas. This is me making assumptions BUT I assume that Coach Williams was involved in the recruitment of John Lucas Jr. (Jai's older brother) to OK State. Even if he wasn't the primary recruiter he was surely there as a coach to John Jr. This can only help in the late efforts by this new MN staff to land a 5-star, McDonald's All-American for the gophers.
  5. Williams is known as a developer of big men. Pay attention Bryce Webster, you just might learn something and be a valuable Big 10 Big Man.
Saul Smith - Tubby's son, who was spent the last 3 years at Tennessee Tech. I haven't been able to find much more than that on Saul, but there isn't much more that you need to know. Assuming Tubby has a successful career in MN, I think it would be a safe bet that Saul might be groomed as his replacement down the road. That is a long ways off, but a strong possiblity.

Ron Jirsa - Coach Jirsa has a history with Tubby going back to Viginia Commonwealth, Tulsa and Georgia. Jirsa has a broad range of experience learning under Tubby and Oliver Purnell as well as 4 seasons as head coach at Marshall (also should be noted he was not retained at Marshall).

Shawn Finney - 5 years as head coach at Tulane and also goes back with Tubby to Tulsa, Georgia and Kentucky. Like Jirsa, Finney was also not retained as head coach.

April 2, 2007

My Thoughts on College Basketball

Dear Commissioner Stern - I'd like to thank you for the 2006-07 NCAA Basketball season. I know you are primarily an NBA guy, but I think you are responsible for this year's college season. Just wanted to thank you.
This has been a great year in college basketball in my opinion and I would largely attribute this season's success to the NBA rule requiring kids to play at least 1 season of college hoops before becoming eligible for the NBA draft. Tonight's championship game features the 2 best teams in the country for most of the 06-07 season.

Ohio State - The Buckeyes are a unique mix of super talented Freshmen and veterans who contribute greatly to the success of this team. Greg Oden is the best Center in the country and a LOCK to be one of the top 2 pick in the NBA draft. Had Oden been 1 year older, we never would have seen him at the college level as he would surely have gone straight to the NBA. Mike Conley Jr. is another super freshman for the Buckeyes who is a blast to watch and I think will be in the conversation for player of the year in 2007-08.

- The Gators are a team of super talented Juniors. Defending national champs who returned their top 7 players. Florida's top 5 players all will likely be drafted with a couple of them expected to be impact players in the NBA.

I cannot attribute Florida's talent to Commissioner Stern, but without the NBA's 19 yr old eligibility rule the Gator's opponent would likely be someone like UCLA who they dismantled on Saturday by 10 (and the game was not nearly that close).

You can argue all day long that this rule is unfair, kids who are that talented should be allowed to earn money while they are able. I won't disagree with you from an economic standpoint, but from the fan's perspective I think this is great for all involved. The overall talent at the college level is much better (AP player of the year was freshman Kevin Durrant) and this NBA draft looks to be one of the best in years. Hopefully NBA teams won't be required to spend 3 years on a high school player before he becomes a contributor to their team.

Ultimately I am a fan of increased overall talent at the college level (Durrant, Oden, Conley Jr, Brendan Wright, Chase Budinger, etc.). Most if not all of the players mentioned would never have stepped foot on a college campus were it not for this rule. I think their NBA careers will develop quicker by taking the transitional step of college basketball rather than the leap from high school to the NBA.

This has been one of the best overall seasons of NCAA basketball in recent memory. Now if we could just make the Gopher men's hoops relevant again!