October 30, 2008

Better Trades in sports

Are you keeping an eye on the Better Trades in sports .Read sports articles to know about different players.

Get your Vintage Gopher Calendar

I plugged these calendars a year ago and want to do so again. If you are a college football fan, these are a must have. Click on the image in the right sidebar or click HERE to order yours.

Are you keeping an eye on the Better Trades in sports .Read sports articles to know about different players.

August 11, 2008

Gopher Nation is Finished, Moving (change your bookmarks!)

It is with a tinge of nostalgic sadness I am announcing that this is the end of Gopher Nation. My tenure here has been slightly shorter than that of Coach Brewster's and a day longer than that of Mr. Orlando Tubby Smith. I started Gopher Nation in a humble attempt to fill a void for Gopher fans. I don't know whether or not that mission was successful but I had fun trying.

But with that said, I am tremendously optimistic to also announce that while Gopher Nation is finished, I am moving to a new host,new partner and new domain for Gopher fans. I have joined forces with the most outstanding blogger I know. Charlie from PagingJimShikenjanski, is a dynamic blogger who has truly owned his space and is one of the best bloggers in the country. I am really excited to combine our talents and provide Gopher fans with the best online experience we possibly can.

This joint venture has been in the works for a few months and was greatly sped along by the folks at SportsBlogNation. They were kind enough to invite into their fine family and we will be blogging for them at The Daily Gopher (www.thedailygopher.com). This truly is exciting and the tools SBN has should allow us to really bring Gopher fans into the community and be your daily read for Gopher News.

I encourage you to take a look at several SBN blogs (examples of my favorites below), check out the tools available and please comment below if there is anything in particular that you would love to see. We want to fill the void for Gopher fans and provide you with as much quality content as possible, so be sure to follow us to TDG and keep us in tune with what you want to see.

So after thousands of visitors, 334 posts and 18 months of throwing out my opinions, Gopher Nation is officially shutting down and in the next few days The Daily Gopher should be kicking off.

While we're looking forward to a new and improved Gopher blog, there are some aches and pains that come along with the move. Sometimes it doesn't seem fair, but then again what in life is? Getting access to your money when you need it would be a good start. That's why we have payday loans. It's a lot easier than a move to a new web address, that I assure you. But it'll be well worth it...just wait.

August 7, 2008

Big Ten Blogger Roundtable WRAP UP

Part of the fun of being a part of the Big Ten Bloggers community has been the roundtables. Someone posts a set of questions, everyone answers them on their own blog and then the original question asker gets to round up the answers in a wrap up post. I have never stepped up to host a roundtable until this one. Usually this exercise contains more pertinent and valuable information but this one is more for entertainment value than depth chart analysis.

The Rivalry Round winner of absolute MUST READ was the Only Game That Matters (link below). I strongly encourage you to read.

Participating blogs (I hope I didn't miss any)...

Unintentionally ommitted...


1. ESPN's Adam Rittenberg recently ranked the top 5 rivalries in the Big Ten and there were some controversial results (Illinois v Ohio State as #3?). Clearly Ohio State vs. Michigan is the #1 rivalry in the Big Ten, but give me your next three. Your school does not have to be included in this list, but regardless of who you choose defend your picks.
After the obvious Michigan vs. Ohio State rivalry there were two more that stood out. In no particular order...

Minnesota vs. Wisconsin - many appreciated this one because of it's longevity and the fact that the teams are playing for the fiercest traveling trophy in the country. Who else gets to play for a giant axe and then how many coaches let their players run around the field with it. Considering I was the only blogger participating who roots for either team it is impressive it received as many votes as it did.

Michigan vs. Michigan State - obviously received much attention from the Michigan and MSU blogs. But this rivalry was recognized by others as well as a fierce rivalry that has implications beyond the game itself.

Others mentioned were Pur/Ind, OSU/PSU, Minn/Iowa and Ill/NU

While it did not receive many votes much attention was paid to the uniquely designed Land Grant Trophy given to the winner of Penn St / Michigan St. It is a modern engineering marvel and dearly treasured by fans of both teams.
2. Obviously winning every game is important and beating really good teams sends a stronger message than beating Minnesota. Assume every team is .500 this year and the outcome of your next two games means nothing outside of pride and a year's worth of bragging rights. Give me the two schools you would want to beat (in order) and why. What makes beating School's A and B significant?
Ohio State was a rather popular choice. Not because the likes of NU, PSU, Mich, etc wanted to beat the best, but rather they just want to actually BEAT them. PSU and NU in particular come to mind because they just can't seem to beat the Buckeyes (ever).
3. Take the two teams from above that you claim are your biggest rivals and give me a new mascot for them.
Some classics include...

Illinois = Chief Bandwagoners
Michigan = GOB (from Arrested Development)
Ohio State = Sweater Vests
Michigan State = Failures
Ohio State = Convicts
Illinois = Illanoy Fighting Zookers
Minnesota = The Long Forgottens
Michigan = Cobra Kai
Indiana = Indiana University People from Indiana (my personal favorite)
Michigan = Yellow Bellies
Indiana = "a hillbilly with the sense kicked out of him"
Michigan = Tressel's Bitches
4. There are some new rules in college football this year. My favorite is the Big Ten experimental rule which states that after every win this year you get to pluck one player off their roster and bring them back to your campus. Looking at your schedule give me two players you would pluck (assuming a win), why you would take them and what would you do with them?
The BIG winner here was James Laurinaitis. Almost a unanimous pick, as everyone recognizes how talented he is and how much he would help any team in the Big Ten (damn you Mason for not keeping him in Minnesota).

After JL there obviously was
Beanie Wells, Arrelious Benn, Juice Williams (PUH-LEASE) and several others receiving one vote each.
5. Brian at MGO was kind enough to post a diary entry which gives us and new coach Rich Rodriguez a list of Michigan traditions that maybe we were not all aware of. This has inspired two final questions...

5A - are there any Michigan traditions that he missed? (here is your chance for some Michigan cheap shots)
This was pretty tame with a few pics of...

5B - Are there any traditions of your school's rival that we should all be aware of?
My personal favorite was the Indiana tradition of taking aerial pictures of a full football stadium when the Hoosiers were hosting Wisconsin or Ohio State. These photos were clearly then distributed as showing the passionate Hoosier fan base, but NOW we all know better (my team of fact checkers did not take the time to verify, we are just going with it as fact!).

That is it in a nutshell.

August 5, 2008

Who are you and what did you do with Coach Brewster?

After some morning reading here are some of thoughts and links following the Gophers first day of practice.

Did Tim transfer with Clint? - there are multiple reports of a "calmer" and "more relaxed" Coach Brewster. While this is hard for me to believe, it must be flabbergasting for others to comprehend. But it is true and I have the quotes below to prove it. Not only is the head coach more comfortable in his surroundings but rather than hyping everyone up with talk of what may or may not happen after Jan. 1st, 2009 he's preaching one play at a time.

There are more quotes below but Kent Youngblood summed it up best...

"In one year, Tim Brewster has gone from talking Pasadena to preaching one play at a time, from pie in the sky to feet on the ground."
Adam Weber - "There is a calmness about him."
Willie VanDeSteeg - "He's taken a little step back"

Personally, I like the willingness to admit winning more than the Sun Bowl is a goal worth striving for, but exuding some form of calm and in control demeanor is exactly what a young team needs to see from their head coach.

New Guys I'm Excited to Watch
  • Cedrick McKinley is getting more and more ink that he is a physical specimen who will help out that defensive line immediately.
  • Simoni Lawrence is currently listed at a starting LB and he should really add some speed and coverage skills to the mid level.
  • All defensive backs - pass defense was so bad last year that I'm really excited to see how Tramaine Brock, Traye Simmons and Keanon Cooper help us out in the backfield.
  • David Pittman did not make the initial 2-deep but I'm excited to see how he is utilized as a play maker in this offense.
Working Hard Enough? - The Gopher Athletic Communication Dept is putting out a daily blog of summer practice. Andy Seely (Associate Dir of Ath Comm) is the primary typer of information and it looks like John Romo (Dir of Internet Services) will also contribute. But the most interesting piece of info they provided us with from Day 1 was this...
Each player weighs in at the beginning and end of practice to keep track of hydration and other health measures. Nobody dropped double-digit pounds, but it was close. Two Gophers lost nine pounds, while a handful of others were in the seven- and eight-pound range.
One afternoon's practice led to the loss of 7-9 pounds?!? Of course that is water weight and most of it will be put back on after some hydration and a healthy meal, but I found it rather interesting.

How the athletic training staff takes care of the athlete's bodies is incredibly high tech and is vitally important to the success of the team, I truly believe that. They and the strength training staff are two of the most unheralded but critical elements of preparing the athlete to perform at the highest possible level.

Missing Some of that 2008 Class - When all was said and done Brewster delivered nearly all of his massive recruiting class. But a couple of the key guys are not going to be Gophers this fall.
  • Sam Maresh was our best defensive recruit and is not playing due to open heart surgery. Clearly not Brewster's fault, but I was looking forward to seeing him play in 2008.
  • Spencer Reeves is one of the Skyline 4, which currently is only the Skyline 3. The LB has not yet qualified and the staff is anticipating he'll be at the U in January.
  • Vincent Hill was expected to at the very least add depth to the WR position and possibly moved to DB to help out that thin area of need. Who knows how effective he would have been but he was a 4-star recruit and his inability to gain entrance is disappointing.
  • Tim McGee was going to be a defensive line addition and also did not qualify. This one doesn't concern me as we knew at least a couple kids were not going to make it and JUCO transfers are always a bigger risk, but I'm listing him as one that got away.

August 4, 2008

Official Gopher 2-Deep (FINALLY)

Practice has begun today and at Brewster's 1 pm news conference the official depth chart was revealed. What is remarkable is that only seven players on the first or second string are seniors. I'll help you out with the math. 7/44 = 15.9% of the relevant roster are seniors meaning 84.1% will be returning next year. I know we thought we were young last year and this year would see some improvement but we are a VERY inexperienced team. 10 are true or redshirted freshmen with more not listed who many think will contribute in 2008 (Tate and Jacobs come to mind)

First of all click HERE for a very quick clip of Brewster's press conference.

Let us remember that there has not been a practice yet so this will surely change over the next 3-4 weeks. There are plenty of young players and newcomers who will likely have a chance to move up the list.

First year players in maroon.

QB Adam Weber
DE Willie VanDeSteeg

Tony Mortenson

Derrick Onwuachi
RB Duane Bennett
DT Eric Small

Jay Thomas

Jewhan Edwards
WR Eric Decker
DT Garrett Brown

Xavier Brandon

Barrett Moen
WR Ralph Spry
DE Cedrick McKinley

Broderick Smith

Lee Campbell
WR Brandon Green
LB Simoni Lawrence

Ben Kuznia

Kevin Manion
TE Jack Simmons
LB Deon Hightower

Nick Tow-Arnett

Rex Sharpe
RT Chris Bunders (rFR)

LB Steve Davis

Ryan Ruckdashel

Nate Triplett
RG Ryan Wynn (rFR)

CB Marcus Sherels

Jason Meinke

Ryan Collado
C Jeff Tow-Arnett
FS Tramaine Brock

Trey Davis (rFR)

Tim Dandridge
LG DJ Burris
SS Kyle Theret

Ned Tevale

Keanon Cooper
LT Dominic Alford
CB Traye Simmons

Ryan Orton (rFR)

Troy Stoudermire


No David Pittman - but my assumption he is #3 at WR, CB, QB, C, LS, LT and DT (maybe I should have listed with / instead of ,)

Redshirted Freshmen missing - Anthony Jacobs and Andre Tate are not on the 2-deep and personally I was hopeful to see their names, time will tell if they contribute much this season.

Offensive Line - most notable was Ned Tevale backing up LG when many thought he'd be starting at RG. Looks like the entire right side of the line is up for grabs but currently has two freshmen starting while the left side and center are locked down.

Defensive Backfield - the big shocker is Marcus Sherels starting at CB over returning starter Ryan Collado. Sherels was hyped coming out of spring ball but I'll still be shocked to see him starting in week 1. Maybe he was made for corner and it just took some time for him to find a home. Of the top eight players in the defensive backfield 3 are new starters and 3 backups are new to the program. Looks like a wholesale effort to get that pass defense turned around.

Defensive Starters - FOUR starters who were not a part of the program in 2007 (five if you count Sherels who moved from WR to CB) and five back ups who are new to Gopher football. The battles will be fun to watch from a distance and be sure to have your roster handy for week 1 vs. Northern Illinois.

That, Gopher faithful, is your 2008 Golden Gopher initial depth chart.


BTB Roundtable - Rivalry Edition

Some of you may or may not know that there is a fairly large group of Big Ten Bloggers who collaborate on ideas and compliment each other on how awesome we all are. I have offered to host 2008's first roundtable and I have deemed it a Rivalry themed roundtable. If you are unfamiliar with how this works I post my answers, other bloggers post their answers on their blogs then I'll do a recap post near the end of this week highlighting the highlights. Here goes...

1. ESPN's Adam Rittenberg recently ranked the top 5 rivalries in the Big Ten and there were some controversial results (Illinois v Ohio State as #3?). Clearly Ohio State vs. Michigan is the #1 rivalry in the Big Ten, but give me your next three. Your school does not have to be included in this list, but regardless of who you choose defend your picks.

  1. Minnesota vs. Wisconsin - longest played rivalry in all of NCAA football. People with short memories will tell me that Wisconsin dominates this series and is meaningless, but Minnesota leads the all time series winning 59, losing 50 and tying 8 in the 117 total games played. It is true that in recent years this has not been very competitive but this is a passionate rivalry and both team's fan bases care very much about winning Paul Bunyan's Axe. It should also be noted that this is a key game for recruiting purposes as both teams fight for each other's players on a regular basis.

  2. Michigan vs. Michigan St. - In state rivalry that has some passion. This one, like the one above, has lacked competitiveness in recent years with Michigan going 15-5 in the last 20 meetings and leads 34-19-2. But also like the one above it is crucial for recruiting wars and is a game fans care about deeply.

  3. Purdue vs. Indiana - the battle for the Old Oaken Bucket is usually a meaningless game on the national and even conference level. But it is hard to ignore a series that has seen 110 games played. Dominated by Purdue this series beats out a few other considered rivalries but not by much. The in-state angle and the longevity of the rivalry make this the 4th best rivalry in the Big Ten.
Rivalries considered but didn't make my cut were Ohio State vs. Penn State (dominated by Ohio State AND has few games played), Wisconsin vs. Iowa (both teams might consider this game their 2nd rivalry) and Iowa vs. Minnesota.

2. Obviously winning every game is important and beating really good teams sends a stronger message than beating Minnesota. Assume every team is .500 this year and the outcome of your next two games means nothing outside of pride and a year's worth of bragging rights. Give me the two schools you would want to beat (in order) and why. What makes beating School's A and B significant?

Wisconsin - I put this ahead of Iowa because the largest population base in Minnesota cares more about this game than the Iowa game. Much of the disdain for Badger fans is carried over from NFL loyalties where Vikings and Packer fans also don't care for each other. Wisconsin in recent years has raided some quality football players from Minnesota so this game carries more recruiting weight than probably any other game on our schedule.

Iowa - the other significant rivalry game on our schedule. If you live south of the Twin Cities this is the game that matters to you. Gopher fans are tired of Hawkeye fans filling our stadium and stealing our goalposts. Fortunately for Gopher fans this is the one rivalry trophy that has resided in Minnesota more often than not.

3. Take the two teams from above that you claim are your biggest rivals and give me a new mascot for them.

Wisconsin Favres - there are probably as many green #4's in the stands at a Badger game as there are Ron Dayne jerseys.

Iowa Drunkards - is there anything else to do in Iowa?

4. There are some new rules in college football this year. My favorite is the Big Ten experimental rule which states that after every win this year you get to pluck one player off their roster and bring them back to your campus. Looking at your schedule give me two players you would pluck (assuming a win), why you would take them and what would you do with them?

James Laurinaitis - besides the fact that he is one of the best linebackers in the country and besides the fact that we are very weak at linebacker, Laurinaitis is from Minnesota and represents why we need to keep in state players in state. The current defense would look much different with an All-American LB in the middle (although who's wouldn't) and keeping kids in state like Willie Mobley, Michael Floyd and Bryce McNeal would be easier if there was a history of the best choosing Minnesota over Ohio State, Notre Dame or Michigan.

PJ Hill - I know that we need defense worse than Pres. Bush needs approval ratings, but we also do not have a running game to truly keep defenses honest. Give us someone who can carry the ball, get first downs and keep the clock moving and that will actually help out our beleaguered defense.

5. Brian at MGO was kind enough to post a diary entry which gives us and new coach Rich Rodriguez a list of Michigan traditions that maybe we were not all aware of. This has inspired two final questions...

5A - are there any Michigan tradition
s that he missed? (here is your chance for some Michigan cheap shots)

Dominating the Little Brown Jug series comes to mind, but I choose to ignore that one. I believe a new tradition was started in 2007 falling in one of the best upsets in recent memory.

5B - Are there any traditions of your school's rival that we should all be aware of?

Wisconsin's tradition of the student section leaving at halftime is a personal favorite of mine. Are they bored with the game or is it already in hand? No, 2 quarters away from the bar is too much to handle, they can watch the second half at the bar right?

That is all I've got for now, check back in a few days for the recap.


Gopher Football 2008 begins today

Can we please format our internal hard drives and forget 2007? Today we begin to see improvement and look forward to a new regular season.

This should be a pretty active week on the blog with previews, roundtables, 2-deeps and hopefully some special surprises. Stay tuned...

August 1, 2008

Clem Haskins article on ESPN

This is very good, I'm not finishes so I'll put my comments in at a later time (why does work have to get in the way of blogging?).

Clem Haskins at Home in Kentucky

I know this most recent Final Four was the first Clem has attended in almost a decade. Other than that he has remained off the radar completely.

July 30, 2008

Time for YOU to get involved

The commenting here at Gopher Nation is pretty light so the following request may fall on deaf ears but I want to know what you want for preseason football info.

As it stands I have no greater access to information than you do, but in all likelihood I spend considerably more time researching and compiling data to form my often brilliant opinions. So what would you like to read here?

Do you want to see another traditional analysis of Offense and Defense (maybe by position), schedule breakdown, opponent previews, depth chart guessing, etc?

Or is there something else, you'd rather see here to get yourself primed for Gopher Football 2008?

If you have an opinion or suggestion, please utilize the comment section or e-mail me your thoughts.

July 29, 2008

An optimistic Gopher preview (not from me)

If you are like me you have probably seen at least a dozen Big Ten preview and just about every one of them has the Gophers finishing 11th in the Big 10.

Big Ten Bloggers - 11th
NYT-Quad Blog - 11th (101st in NCAA)
Lindy's Sports - 10th
Athlon - 11th
Phil Steele - 10th
SureFireScouting.com - 10th
USA Today - 11th
The Sporting News - 11th
Game Plan - 11th
ESPN / Blue Ribbon - 11th

(HERE is a good link with the Big Ten Grid for all rankings above.)

Of course, who can blame them. Minnesota's defense was on the verge of setting some dubious records, a -15 turnover +/-, our worst non-conference record in recent memory and the fact that we actually finished 3 games out of 10th place in the Big Ten.

Gopher fans would like to believe that last year was the perfect storm of things going wrong and 2008 will be very different.

Well, the brilliant football minds over at Saturday Sound Off think the Gophers could conceivably go 7-5 this year.

THE OUTLOOK: I LOVE Minnesota this year. Are they this year's Kansas? Not in a sense that they'll go 11-1 and win a BCS bowl game in the process, but in terms of +/- wins from 2007 to 2008, they might have the largest overall improvement. Weber is a sophomore, the running game will take on more of a priority and they'll be fine there, the WRs are more than solid, the offensive line is decent, the defensive line isn't that great but should get marginally better, the LBs are solid, and incoming JUCO talent in the secondary will send the pass defense's production skyrocketing.
I know it sounds like you are reading a post on a Gopher message board that tends to ooze with optimism. Of course I tend to agree with the handsome, witty, clever and handsome folks at Saturday Sound Off.

Previews are a fuzzy formula of looking at

last year + (looking at the schedule + opponents last year)
+ looking at returning talent + incoming talent.

Looking back at 2007 there is no reason to believe that we should have any hope for this year. This is about where everyone stops with the Gophers. Most publications and blogs do more than their share of previews and Minnesota is an easy one to gloss over.

But if you ask me the schedule + Weber's added experience + a defensive talent upgrade makes us ripe for a win turnaround. I'm going to e-mail the SSO staff to find out exactly why the "LOVE Minnesota this year" but it is refreshing to see someone else who thinks they just might be more than a 1-11 team this year.

The only thing that bothers me is that people will be happy with a 7-5 season and a trip to the Poinsettia Bowl. How quickly we lower expectations and backslide to the Mason Mindset. 7-5 would be a massive improvement and is really the upper limit for this team, but I still yearn for the days of more. I'll be happy to take a big step forward this year but I really hope it would lead to more steps forward.

July 25, 2008

Nobody is talking about Adam Weber

Top 5 storylines surround the Golden Gophers heading into the 2008 football season.

1 - they were bad last year
2 - the defense was REALLY bad last year
3 - Tim Brewster uses the word tremendous a lot
4 - Tim Brewster had a tremendous recruiting class last year
5 - Eric Decker played baseball

I wonder why there is so little talk or coverage of Adam Weber's tremendous freshman season. Weber wasn't exactly on a Heisman list nor was he even under consideration for All Big Ten, but when you really look at things, he did have a very good season as a freshman starting in the Big Ten.

Just looking at the numbers alone Weber had a good year. Weber finished top 4 in the conference for Passing Yds and TDs. And don't give me the "product of a system" argument because more teams in the Big Ten run a spread or spread variation than teams that run a more traditional offense. So even if he is a product of a system it is a similar system employed by most of his peers.

The areas that were not as pretty were of course completion percentage an interceptions. This is where we break down the numbers to compare Weber to previous quarterbacks who started as freshmen in the Big Ten. Obviously 19 interceptions and completing only 57.5% of your passes are areas that need improvement but when you compare numbers to the following you realize it was pretty good "for a freshman."

PCT Yds TDs INT Rsh Yds
Juice Williams (Ill)
39.5 1489 9 9 576
Kellen Lewis (Ind)
54.9 2221 14 7 441
Chad Henne (Mich)
60.2 2743 25 12 0
Jeff Smoker (MSU)
52.3 1365 6 7
Brett Basanez (NW)
58.5 2204 7 7
Zach Mills (PSU)
55.2 1669 9 12
Adam Weber 57.5 2895 24 19 617

The interceptions stand out as bad no matter who you are comparing it to. That has to improve. But everything else looks very good.
  • 1st in yards
  • 2nd in TD
  • 3rd in completion %
  • 1st in rushing yards
All in all what a solid year for a freshman starting all 12 games for a Big Ten program. Juice Williams is a phenominal athlete who gets a lot of press but when you break it down Weber had a much better freshman season (more yards, more TDs, higher completion % and even more yards rushing).

What does this mean as he heads into his second season as QB1? That is hard to judge. I'd love to assume his good numbers will go up and his bad numbers will go down. I looked at Brett Basanez (ran Dunbar's spread), Juice and Kellen Lewis to see how they fared from their freshman to their sophomore seasons. Lewis and Williams saw all good numbers increase dramatically and INTs also increased slightly. Basanez's numbers actually decreased as he threw only 4 TDs to 12 INTs as a sophomore. I don't know what the reasoning was behind this dramatic drop in production but let's hope Dunbar does not let this mistake repeat.

What I wasn't looking for but was pleasantly surprised was the increase in their team's wins from freshman to sophomore seasons.

Win +/-
Juice Williams +7
Kellen Lewis +2
Chad Henne -2
Jeff Smoker +2
Brett Basanez +3

Last year was painfully bad for Golden Gopher fans. For this season to be considered a success we need more than a +2 turnaround. But I fully anticipate Weber will modestly increase completion % by 3-4 points, INTs will reduce by -4 while TDs and passing yards will remain about same (maybe down a little bit as defense improves and running game is more consistent). If this were to happen +3 in the win column is a very real possibility with hope of +4 or +5.

After a record breaking season as a freshman, Adam Weber is poised to put his name to the left of several more school records and potentially Big Ten records. It is simplistic math to take his freshman numbers x 4 and assume he'll throw for over 11,500 yards and 96 TDs. Both would be top 2 in Big Ten history, but history shows us that injuries and defenses often have a lot to say about how Weber's career shakes out. I don't care about Big Ten records at this point, what I care about is winning games. And I think Weber gives us a very good chance to do just that. Whether anybody else is talking about it or not.

Brewster at Big Ten Media Day

Here is the video of Brewster's Big Ten Media Day press conference...

In typical Brewster fashion he used the word tremendous within the first two sentences! In fact reading the transcript I was able to find usage of said word nine times. I'm a big fan of Brewster and his optimism but when I meet him, I am going to give him a thesaurus.

Main Entry: tremendous
Part of Speech: adjective
Synonyms: amazing, astounding, colossal, deafening, enormous, extraordinary, fabulous, fantastic, giant, gigantic, great, huge, immense, large, mammoth, marvelous, mighty, momentous, monstrous, overwhelming, powerful, stupendous, terrific, titanic, vast, whopping, wonderful
After his initial optimism and coach-speak about last season's competitive yet unsuccessful squad, Brewster pretty quickly got down to business...
"last year we were pretty solid on offense, did some pretty good things, scored some points and ran the ball fairly well. What we didn't do was stop anybody. We were a very poor defensive football team. From the head coach to the defensive staff to our team."

"And as you look through the years at the University of Minnesota, Minnesota has had good offensive football teams for a long time where we would come up short on the defensive side."
While I enjoy Brewster's optimism, the thing I most appreciate is that he isn't afraid to speak some of the truth. He wasn't afraid to say "Rose Bowl" when he first started and he isn't afraid to tell everyone that "yeah, we stunk on defense last year." While this fact is clear and anyone who paid attention knows this, most in the coaching world would pussy foot around this issue and say things like "we need to improve defensively" or "it is a total team effort" but Brewster wasn't afraid to call out his staff, the players and take some responsibility for not bing able to "stop ANYBODY."

Brewster also talked a little about our new defensive coordinator, Ted Roof (Roof received a double "tremendous")...
"Again, as I said, the key in our improvement without question is our development as a defense. I'm really excited about Ted Roof, our new defensive coordinator, comes to us with tremendous experience, not only as a defensive coordinator but a head coach. Tremendous calmness about him, understands, has been in the heat of battle, and his imprint on our defense was strong this spring. I thought that he came in and really got after those kids and let them know exactly the style of play that we want to play, and again, it just goes back to our commitment to playing great defense."
We really don't know a lot about Roof or what kind of style or personality he'll bring to the defense. But I like hearing that he got after kids a little bit. I'm sure as the season draws near we will hear more about how Roof wants to play an aggressive defense that flys around the field and swarms to the ball, but show me a defensive coordinator who doesn't want that and I'll give him directions to the unemployment center. The best thing that Roof can bring to this defense is his ability to teach. We have young guys who are going to have to contribute and they need to learn their responsibilities quickly.

Now on to the Q & A
Q. I know you. You mentioned about the emphasis on defense and trying to improve it and all that. How are you changing the defense in terms of style or scheme from last year?

COACH BREWSTER: You know what, I don't think it's at all about style. I don't think it's at all about scheme. I think it's about players, players having an attitude to swarm and attack. We talk about alignment, assignment and tackle, those basic premises which lead to playing good defense.
I know this is kind of a cop out answer, but for the Gophers this is completely true. If you have the tape, watch last year's Iowa game. The Hawkeye RBs would take a false step towards the Gopher sideline then cut back the other way in a designed counter play. Holes were massively huge because our linebackers would sprint three steps in the wrong direction before they realized the play was coming right at them. That is just bad defense of watching the ball and not reading the play. It doesn't matter how fast you are or whether or not you can tackle, if you take yourself out of the play you are a non-factor.

Then go and watch any other game on the schedule to see how awful we were at tackling. I thought Kyle Theret and Dom Barber were a solid tacklers but that was about it.
Q. Hearing from you and having just heard before from Mark Dantonio and Bill Lynch, a number of young coaches who are taking over programs who aren't traditionally the Ohio State do you feel like you and these younger coaches can continue to balance the power in the Big Ten?

COACH BREWSTER: You're a young guy, right? You don't realize that the University of Minnesota has won six national championships and 18 Big Ten Championships. University of Minnesota is truly one of the top schools in the Big Ten. Now it's been a long time since we've won a championship, but without question we believe that we can make an impact in the Big Ten, and that's why we're here.
I believe that HE believes he can make an impact on the Big Ten. Whether or not he can actually accomplish this is another question, but I still like the attitude and tremendous optimism.

July 24, 2008

Big Ten Alumni (non-athletics)

I really don't have an original thought in my head so I am stealing this from Brent's Big Blog's Blog over at the BTN. Brent came up with a handful of notable alumni from Big Ten Schools who are not athletes. I did minimal research and came up with a few different ones, but stole most of them from BBBB.

So lets play a little matching game.

A Ilinois
1. Lucy Liu
B Indiana
2. Charlton Heston
C Iowa
3. Orville Redenbacher
D Michigan
4. Dwight Yoalkam - country music
E Michigan State
5. Yanni - pianst/composer
F Minnesota
6. Mark Cuban
G Northwestern
7. Hugh Hefner
H Ohio State
8. Dick Cheney
I Penn State
9. James Hoffa - son of Jimmy
J Purdue
10. Tom Browkaw
K Wisconsin
11. Toby Flenderman - fictional character on The Office, didn't actually attend school

Answers to be posted in the comments. Pretty exciting game, huh?

July 22, 2008

Maresh to play in 2009 ???

Adam Rittenberg of ESPN posted yesterday that Sam Maresh believes he'll be practicing with the Gophers in the spring of 2009!

But when Maresh talks about returning to the football field for Minnesota, it's hard not to believe him. Most people, including doctors, will attach the word "if" to Maresh's football future, but the talented linebacker who headlined the Golden Gophers' highly touted 2008 recruiting class speaks with a tone of certainty.
Obviously Maresh is being a little optimistic, but he was fortunate that the doctors were able to do the procedure without a "full incision of his sternum." Not completely breaking the bone that protects the heart and holds your ribs together significantly reduces the recovery time. So maybe, just maybe Maresh's optimism has some validity.

Currently he is unable to do any sort of exercise, "lift anything heavier than the remote" and has lost 15 lbs. But he will be at camp in August watching from the sidelines.
"It's going to be pretty hard to sit on the sideline, but it will be good to be a part of the team," he said. "For me to sit back and watch and learn from other people, it's going to help me when I start playing again."
As fans it would be great to see Maresh come back strong to lead the 2009 Gopher defense, but most importantly it is incredible that he not only survived open heart surgery and encouraging that all signs point to Maresh being strong, happy and healthy. Playing D1 football for the Gophers is just icing on the cake.

July 19, 2008

Welcome to Gopher Nation Kid - Eric Stephens

The Gophers have landed their second 4-star running back from the state of Texas in the 2009 class. The other verbal came from Hasan Lipscomb who committed back in early May. The two backs will instantly upgrade our backfield as we head into the 2008 season with questions of depth and mediocrity surrounding the current core of RBs.

Eric Stephens
Size: 5-8, 177
High School: Mansfield, TX (Timberview)
Stars: 4 (rivals)
Rank: 196th, 25th in Texas
Notes: Fort Worth NIKE running back MVP, high school team is ranked #20 in preseason class 4A
Other Offers: Boise State, Duke, Vandy, Houston, Buffalo

More than just being a highly ranked offensive weapon landing that Stephens is a significant get because it continues a Texas pipeline that has been started by Brewster and staff. As we start to establish a presence in Texas, continuing to land recognized players is very important to future recruiting endeavors. If you have read quotes from southern kids considering MN you know that many of them believe it is winter here 11 months out of the year. This gives us seven Texas commits in two years with a presence in Dallas and Houston. I have no doubt in my mind that this does make a difference. Landing a handful of Texas kids every year will help kids to see that they CAN survive a winter in Minnesota and this is a viable institution to continue their careers.

Stephens has plenty of praise coming from Rivals and ESPN Insider, while Scout barely recognizes him giving him just 1 star and not ranking him in the top 200 running backs in his class. Rivals however has him ranked 196th overall, 5th among all purpose backs, 4th best RB "in space" and 25th overall in the state of Texas. At a recent Fort Worth Nike Camp, Stephens picked up an MVP award and caused "several linebackers to whiff completely during the one-on-ones."

According to ESPN, Stephen's skills are the perfect fit for a spread offense.
"Stephens lacks great size but is a very slippery, elusive back with the skills to shine in a spread offense. Shorter frame but has a sturdy, strong body. Attacks the line of scrimmage with great burst and is a very sudden, quick-footed runner through the initial traffic. Avoids defenders with excellent lateral quickness and loose hips. Slips through the small cutback creases showing good body control and vision."

"Overall, Stephens is a quick-twitched athlete with great initial burst as a running back prospect. Could be a potential sleeper if he lands in a spread or zone read type offense that utilizes his great quickness and skills in space. Not a high-carry runner but a kid that could develop in a great change of pace back."
From everything I have read Coaches Dunbar and Brewster want to feature a running game in their spread. We threw the ball a lot last year but we really lacked depth and quality at the RB position. The only thing that will change that this year is a little more experience for the likes of Bennett and Thomas , and how well incoming freshman Kevin Whaley recovers from getting shot in the thigh. All of this adds up to a great opportunity for Stephens in Hasan Lipscomb to come in and contribute immediately as the next great running back duo at Minnesota.

Stephen's lack of size or top end speed does not concern me. I'm happy he is on board as our eithth verbal commitment of the year. What does make me nervous is that there is still a LOT of time between now and signing day in February. Until he puts his signature on a MN letter of intent I'll be worried the big boys from Texas will come calling.

But for now, welcome to Gopher Nation and I'll be sure to keep tabs on his senior season with the Mansfield Timberview Wolves, who texasfootball.com ranks as #20 in class 4A.
Why They're Ranked: We'll admit some intra-office dissent with this selection, and not because Timberview is ranked. Everyone agrees on that, but some feel Timberview should be among the Top 10. Their reasoning: for starters, 14 of them are back, seven on both offense and defense. No running back in Class 4A, in fact, returns with more rushing yardage than Eric Stephens, whose 1,906 yards came against 5A competition. Stephens was the offensive MVP in his district last year, while another decorated player, CB Christian Spears, was named the district's top sophomore. Both Stephens and Spears have what coach Terry Cron said is the overall strength of the team: speed. Fleet feet are in the receiving corps (where all three starters return) and the defensive backfield (where four starters return). Don't just assume Timberview will finish behind Stephenville and Everman in this district; Timberview will challenge for the district crown, and in doing so, it will justify its ranking.
Sounds like Stephens should have an exciting senior season that will then flow into a brilliant freshman season with the Gophers.


(photo stolen from Dallasnews.com, don't tell them)

July 18, 2008

Ranking the Big Ten QBs as NFL QBs

The cool thing to do now is put out your own ranking of Big Ten Quarterbacks and as a blogger you are required to do a comparison list at least 4 times a year. Since Weber was one of our few bright spots in 2007 and is one of our few positions of "strength" heading into 2008 I too will take part.

The Best

1. Curtis Painter (Pur) - Painter threw a lot of passes a year ago (1st in B10), completed a high percentage of them (2nd in B10), threw very few INTs (just 11 in 569 attempts) and also threw a lot of them for 6 pointers (1st in B10). Is Curtis Painter the Tom Brady of the Big Ten? He doesn't have quite as much to work with, but his ability to be consistently accurate and able to find the endzone more than anybody else does draw some comparison. The biggest difference? Painter hasn't show he can win big games against good teams. In his last collegiate season this is his chance to give a big boost to the Boilermakers and put his name on the map.

4. Kellen Lewis (Ind) - Could Kellen become the Daunte Culpepper of the Big Ten? Mr. Lewis losses his primary offensive weapon in WR-JJ Hardy who accounted for 29.8% of Lewis' completions, 37% of his yards and 57% of his TD completions. When DC lost Randy Moss his numbers dropped substantially. TD:INT ratio went from 3.5 : 1 to 1:2. Injuries came along to shorten his season but prior to that he dropped 70 yds per game and was on pace to throw 60% fewer TDs than the year before. I don't know that Lewis will fall victim to essentially seeing his career tailspin into oblivian, but it will be interesting to see how he adjusts to losing the best that offense had going.

3. Todd Boeckman (OSU) - Boeckman is a big QB, with a strong arm and lacks mobility. Peyton Manning anyone? Sorry Buckeye fans, but it would be irresponsible of me to put a former SEC QB here, lets go with Ben Roethlisberger. He's also big with a strong arm, plus he's more of a midwest guy. But I'll end the comparisons there. Everything is ripe for Ohio State to win the Big Ten and roll into the BCS Championship game. Boeckman needs to be just a little improved. Believe it or not, but TB has the highest INT per attempt % of any returning Big Ten QB (even higher than Juice's). Painter threw INTs on 1.93% of his attempts and Lewis 2.26%. TB? He threw an INT on 4.68% of his attempts. That needs to improve and is the primary reason he is where he is on my list.

Next Best

4. Adam Weber (Min) - Vince was Brewster's guy, Vince is probably the best rusher on his team, does not have many weapons on his team and tends to have higher INT%. Check, check, check and check for the Weber comparison. I know I'm a homer but its my blog so screw you. I really think Weber flew under the radar on his way to a very good season last year. Mistakes were high and I've not hidden my thoughts that Weber was directly responsible for the Florida Atlantic and Northwestern losses. But with that said he also put up great numbers in his rFR year while learning a brand new, complicated offense. Of course mistakes will have to be reduced and steady improvement must be shown but this list is not about last year and more about where they will rank in 2008. I think Weber is poised to have a breakout season and will have every opportunity to be near the top of this list in 2009.

5. CJ Bacher (NW) - Jon Kitna threw the ball a LOT last year, was on a losing team and threw about as many TDs as INTs. Bacher threw for a lot of yards with a lot of attempts, but he has the lowest TD% of any returning B1o QB throwing TDs on just 3.65% of his attempts. The next lowest among returning QBs is Jake Christensen at 4.60%. That is kind of an alarming number for Bacher. For those who don't pay attention to the lower half of the Big Ten it would be easy to confuse Bacher and Weber as both are on teams trying to improve but that all depends on fewer mistakes from their QB.

6. Juice Williams (Ill) - I am NOT a fan of Juice Willaims as a QB. He is an incredible athlete and to be fair improved in the last several games last year. BUT, in multiple games last year I watched him completely miss guys who were wide open. Twice in their Indiana game he had certain TDs to WRs who had no defender within 10 yards. On both instances he missed the WR by 5 yards. Completion % was better but his INT% was still really bad. He should probably be higher because his value is in his legs (hence the Michael Vick comparison). Like I said, Juice is an incredible athlete, but I think he will have a very disappointing season with Rashad Mendenhall playing on Sunday's this year.

Solid Starters

7. Brian Hoyer (MSU) - Hoyer quietly is solid. None of his numbers stand out but he threw 20 TDs to 11 INTs and 2,700+ yards. Jeff Garcia was the best I could find as a solid but unspectacular NFL QB. Hoyer is losing WR-Devin Thomas so, like Kellen Lewis, it will be interesting to see how he responds.

8. Daryll Clark (PSU) - I chose Rex Grossman for two reasons. One, nobody is certain who will be starting for the Bears but conventional wisdom suggests that the more experienced Grossman should be the guy in week 1. Secondly, in Chicago if they are going to win it is because of the defense. I guess the fan base's frustration with their team's offensive coordinator factors into this decision as well. Clark should be the man in the new "Spread HD". Nobody is sure yet but

9. Jake Christensen (Iowa) - Cleo Lemon was on a bad team. He wasn't terrible but had a low completion percentage which stalled drives and lacked other offensive weapons. Having an experienced, returning starter is big in NCAA football. Christensen is solid who threw the fewest INTs of any returning QB. But like Lemon was on a bad team, was an unspectacular QB who isn't hurting his team but isn't exactly helping them either. The hopes of the Hawkeyes rest on the shoulder pads of Christensen.

The Rest?

Wisconsin QB (Allan Evridge, Dustin Sherer)- Just hand the ball off, don't worry about throwing the ball. Hand it off and let your defense give you good field position. If you are not familiar with why this comparison is apt or who Tarvaris Jackson is. He is the QB of the Minnesota Adrian Peterson's. Jackson is an unknown but all he has to do is hand the ball off to a super talented RB.

Michigan QB (Steven Threet, ??)- I should lead with the fact that this comparison has NOTHING to do with stats or individual success on the field. The comparison here hinges on teh fact that whoever starts for the Wolverines will probably put up big numbers but we all know they won't beat their more talented rivals.

Terrell Pryor (OSU) - MAKE UP YOUR MIND WOULD YOU? Plenty of talent and the tools to help lead his team to a championship. But probably won't play this year.

If you want some of the other Big Ten QB rankings you can go here...

ESPN Big Ten Blog
Big Ten Network
Lake the Posts (NW Blog)

Skyline-4 end of season awards that I missed

I'm not sure how I missed this but I wanted to put it out there just to get the juices flowing about how excited we really should be about our in coming recruiting class. This is the final time to enjoy their epic high school season before we leave it in the past as they learn to dominate the Big Ten as they dominated the Dallas area.

LB/S - Spencer Reeves - Dallas / Ft Worth Defensive Player of the Year

Maybe all of Gopher Nation knew this already, but last fall the Dallas Morning News named Spencer Reeves the Dallas/Fort Worth area Defensive Player of the Year last fall. That is a pretty cool honor especially when you consider how much talent and division I football players there are in the Dallas area.

Reeves was credited with 160 tackles, but that's only one way he contributed. His personality became the fiery heart of Skyline's defense.
Reeves also received defensive MVP of District 11-5A.

LB/S - Keanon Cooper

Dallas Morning News 1st Team All-Defensive team

Key stats: 165 tackles, four interceptions, three blocked punts.

About Cooper: His quickness at outside linebacker made him one of the top playmakers on Skyline's formidable defense.

Did you know? "I'm very goofy on the field," said Cooper, who jokes with his teammates to keep them loose during games.

Also District 1st team Defense

ATH - Troy Stoudermire

District 11-5A Offensive Player of the Year

There are no notes on Stoudermire's season but he was all over the field for Skyline playing QB, RB and WR at different times. He did have an outstanding season.

WR - Dajon McKnight

Not wanting to miss out on the party, McKnight also drew 1st team All District 11 as a WR.

Dallas-Skyline had an historic season as they won a playoff game for the first time since 1995 ending an 0-11 streak, advanced to the 5A Quarterfinals and finished with a 12-2 record. The heart of the team was a rock solid defense that held teams to just over 200 yds per game (this group may have fared better than the Gophers last year).

Impressive season but the fun part is just the beginning for Gopher fans. In their freshman seasons I would expect Cooper and Reeves to contribute from the beginning. Both will have the opportunity to earn starting jobs but at the very least they will contribute. If Stoudermire or McKnight earn playing time that is great but I would expect they will redhirt and be regular contributors down the road as they'll both likely be learning to play DB at the Div1 level.

High school is over for these guys but hopefully the fun is just beginning for them as well. While I'm sure advancing a few rounds into the Texas State Playoffs is a lot of fun, but taking the Gophers to the Rose Bowl would be an unbelievable achievement.

July 16, 2008

ESPN Big Ten Blog Interview with Eric Decker

Part 1
Part 2

ESPN's Big Ten Blog is a fairly new endeavor of theirs (began July 3) and so far I love it. Adam Rittenberg was hired away from covering Chicago area teams (NW, Notre Dame, DePaul and others) to be ESPN's Big Ten Blogger.

Rittenberg chats with Decker about playing baseball, what was learned from last year and what we can look forward to this year.

What do people not know about your team right now that they'll find out in the fall?

ED: That we don't give up. We're definitely a bunch of guys that are fighting for starting spots and won't give up, because 1-11, that's something you carry on your shoulders for a while. You definitely want to erase that season by being successful.

I hope they can learn from last year's mistakes and make some serious strides forward.

This is basically the same thing Kevin Seifert left the Star Tribune for as he is ESPN's new NCF North Blogger. Also a very well done blog so far.