June 30, 2008

Welcome to Gopher Nation Kid - Dan Orseske

The verbals are coming in at a torrid pace lately.

As media outlets prognosticate on the upcoming Big Ten season there are two things Gopher fans can count on this year. 1-The Gophers will be picked 11th nearly 100% of the time. 2-The only Golden Gopher you will see on any pre-season all conference lists is punter Justin Kucek. Kucek is a senior so brining in punter to replace him is obviously important for Brewster and Co.

The coaching staff has received a verbal from their top punter priority. Dan Orseske has decided he will make the move from Chicago to Minneapolis next fall to compete for the starting punter position as a true freshman (P-Blake Haudan will be a senior next fall so he may get a year as the starter).

Size: 6-3, 195 lbs
High School: Brother Rice (Chicago, IL)
Stars: none at this point
Rank: NR
Notes: Brother Rice water polo has won 13 state championships (Orseske does not play WP)
Other Offers: Northwestern (take that LTP)

It is hard to gauge how good a high school punter truly is but after performing well at a Gopher camp this summer, Orseske earned a scholarship offer. He took a week to think it over and this weekend Orseske gave the Gophers his verbal. This verbal brings our commit list to eight as we get to the midway point of the summer.

At the Kohl's Punting and Kicking camp in May, Orseske averaged 44.9 yds per punt with an average hangtime of 4.08 seconds. Those numbers were nearly 5 yds further with .30 seconds of extra hangtime than the next best punter at the camp.

Orseske has spent his summer making the tour of football camps (Illinois, Northwestern, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, N. Illinois). His only other offer was from Northwestern, but ultimately the decision was down to Minnesota or Illinois (who he expected to offer).

Hopefully this team gets to a point where a punter isn't as much of a factor as Justin Kucek has been. An offense the moves the ball and a defense that gets some three-and-outs does more for field position than an All-American punter, but having a strong and accurate leg can do a lot to bail you out.

Dan Orseske, we welcome you to Gopher Nation with open arms. No offense to you but the less we see of, you the better.


On a related topic, lets talk about recruiting pipelines for the Gophers. In a season and a half of recruiting for Brewster and staff there are a couple of areas where the Gophers are making significant inroads. With the addition of Orseske, it adds another kid from the Chicago area. I don't know that a punter becoming the 3rd commit from one area makes us a recruiting heavyweight in the area, but if Brandon Green, Johnny Johnson and now Orseske can have some success we should be able to demonstrate that Minnesota is a viable destination for Chicago area recruits.

The two biggest recruiting hot beds in the country are Texas and Florida. Brewster isn't exactly batting 1.00 in Florida with the flame out of Harold Howell, the de-comittment of Padric Scott and the transfer of Tray Herndon. We continue to pursue highly rated athletes from the Sunshine state but have yet to land a big fish or two to make us viable players down there. Maybe WR-Victor Keise will be the first in a long line of Florida studs to give the Gophers some of that southern speed.

Texas, however, has been a different story. Landing the Skyline-4 has clearly established the Gophers at that particular school, and hopefully the Dallas area. But our Texas pipeline has tapped into more than just the Dallas area. Eric Lair (3-star TE) was an early commitment last summer and this springs verbal from Hasan Lipscomb (4-star RB) gives us another major athlete from the Houston area. Six highly ranked players from the two largest cities in Texas gives us a fighting chance with future recruits. The key to all of this is of course sustaining some success on the field. If the Gophers are able to demonstrate some Big Ten competitiveness in the near future then kids from Texas (or Florida, California, Ohio, wherever) will be more apt to braving Minnesota winters for a chance at starring as a Golden Gopher.


CB-Michael Carter - Florida recruit would give us street cred and much needed help in the secondary
DE - Craig Drummond - Chicago native who needs to get on that I94 tollway north and give us our second 4-star Chicagoan.

June 28, 2008

Welcome to Gopher Nation Kid - Brooks Michel

The 2008 Recruiting class was heavy with wide receivers and defensive players at all positions. So far the 2009 class has loaded with offensive linemen. Typically offensive linemen take a redshirt year so the timing is probably about right since we currently have a young line. These incoming commits will take 2009 to redshirt and most of them will likely watch in 2010 then have 3 years to earn starting spots.

Brooks Michel, welcome to Gopher Nation.

Size: 6'7", 280 lbs
High School: Carmel HS, Indiana
Stars: 3 (Rivals)
Rank: NR
Notes: defending state champs, All-State Honorable Mention
Other Offers: NC State, Kentucky

For those of you looking forward to the 4 or 5 star, top 100 kid, you may be disappointed. For the second commit in a row this isn't that rock star verbal, but maybe you can take comfort in the adage that offensive line is the hardest to project and accurately assign stars. The godfather of recruiting rankings, Tom Lemmings, has been quoted as saying so, and after reading Bruce Feldman's "Meat Market: Inside the Smash-Mouth World of College Football Recruiting" it also became clear that stars mean nothing to coaching staffs. Gopher fans also know this very well as Greg Esslinger (2-star) and Mark Setterstrom (3-star) were lowly ranked and unheralded players who ended up dominating the Big Ten.

Back to Michel. He is a big kid who as a junior helped lead his Carmel Greyhounds to the Indiana State Championship. He is our third offensive linemen of the seven verbals we have received to date.

Let's hope he brings that championship pedigree to the Gophers.

June 27, 2008

Kevin McHale has this NBA Draft thing all figured out, doesn't like OJ Mayo

I know this is not a Timberwolves' blog and in my own defense I have been 100% on topic throughout the life of Gopher Nation. But I feel compelled to throw in my two cents on the Timberwolve's draft and Kevin McHale pulling another draft day trade. Since McHale is a Gopher alumn I think I'm still batting 1.00

I also know that I'm treading on very thin ice here as I try to criticize not just one of the best athletes in the history of Gopher athletics, but I'm also going to question the greatest GM in all of sports (Forbes said it, not me).

The principals of this trade are only half of what bothers me, I'll get to that in a minute. But I get this vibe from McHale that he thinks he knows something nobody else knows. He thinks the joke is on everybody else but in truth they are all laughing at him. What I mean by this vibe is that his track record for drafting is terrible no awful no abysmal, I can't find a word to describe it. Yet he continues to operate each subsequent draft like the previous. With such an unbearable draft record (KG being the lone exception and one could argue he got lucky) why would you just not take the sure thing and be happy with it.

Sitting at #3, McHale did the right thing by drafting Mayo. Mayo has certain skills that directly translate to the NBA and he will contribute immediately (more detail below). But that wasn't good enough for KMc so he traded him. While the entire basketball world agrees that Mayo can shoot the NBA three, has the ability to be a very good defender and has a chance to be a perennial All-star, McHale decided he knew something they didn't and traded Mayo to Memphis.

What did he get in return? He got Mike Miller who will be a nice addition as a productive player and Kevin Love. Love might be fine and also a productive player, but his upside is not what Mayo's is. The NBA is a league of stars and explosiveness. Kevin Love is neither (neither is Miller for that matter).

In an effort to be more specific lets take a look at each players listed strengths/weaknesses (courtesy of stolen from Draft Express)...

OJ Mayo
Strengths Weaknesses
Size Between a PG / SG
Versatility Poor shot selection
Scoring Instincts Turnovers
Shot-creating ability w/either hand Does not get to the FT line enough
NBA 3-pnt range Reliance on outside shot
Ability to pull up sharply off the dribble Struggles to get by defenders
Basketball IQ Year older than class
Court Vision Low shooting percentages
Perimeter Defense
Work Ethic

For my money you can throw a couple of those weaknesses out the door.
  • Tweener? - at 6'5" and NBA range he will play SG and provide some min at PG if needed.
  • Year Older than his class? - So he'll have only a 12 year career not 13.
  • Turnovers/Shot selection/reliance on outside shot? - if he truly is coachable and has a good work ethic (listed in strengths) those can all be corrected.
  • Character Flaws - I honestly believe this has been overblown. I know Mayo's attitude and confidence (arrogance) does not play well in Minnesota, but to be great at this level you have to have swagger. You have to not only want to take big shots you have to believe nobody can guard you and that you are the best person on the floor to take that shot. His other flaws are meaningless once he signs a contract. He hasn't been arrested and most importantly he is known as coachable and having a good work ethic. Those last two attributes have been glossed over because of the scandal surrounding his agent friend while still an amateur player.
His strengths are exactly what you are looking for in an NBA perimeter player. Draft Express says best case scenario is Mayo has a career similar to Chauncey Billups. That is pretty much spot on.

Kevin Love
Strengths Weaknesses
Productive Size
Hands Explosiveness
Strength Plays below the rim
Fundamentals Lateral quickness
Intensity Defensive potential
Ability to score in the paint Not much Upside
Excellent Touch
Range out TO 3-pnt line
Free Throw shooting
Basketball IQ
Passing Skills
Winning attitude
Little downside

When your strengths include attributes like fundamental, productive, excellent touch and passing skills; you are not destined for NBA greatness. And what kills me from within is that his weaknesses include NBA requirements like size, explosiveness, lateral quickness and playing below the rim? Best case scenario for Mr. Love? Personally I see best case being a Christian Laettner type career. Solid player who puts up some decent numbers but will never be more than a #3 option on a good team. Not capable of leading into the playoffs or carrying a team when needed.

Apart from their individual skill sets, Mayo would fit much better on this team than Love. I know we are full of perimeter players but a backcourt of Foye and Mayo to pair with Jefferson in the post is a very good trio. I see two offensive sets that are actually dangerous and require gameplanning by the opposition starting immediately.

1-Mayo coming off an Al Jefferson pick n roll is dangerous. Mayo needs just a little space provided by the screen to hit a mid range pull up (a strength of his) or to dish to Jefferson.

2-Foye and Jefferson have an inside out 2-man game on one side while Mayo stretches the defense on the backside waiting to who his NBA ready 3-point jumpshot.

Love on the Wolves roster? He is a good sized PF who is not big enough to play C (remind of you anyone on the Wolves roster?). Regardless of how good Love may or may not be we don't need another PF. Best case we have two good PFs starting side by side. Again I go to what is a proven formula for success in today's NBA. Two big men doesn't do it. You have to spread the floor with some explosiveness and shooting from the outside to go with someone who can dominate the paint. Tim Duncan doesn't need another big man clogging things up, he needs Parker and Ginobili to keep the defense spread and knock down open shots. Jefferson as a post up PF is great, but where does Love play into this? Setting a back side screen to free up Miller? Finding an opening on the backside baseline for a 10 ft jumper? I think that kind of player can be found without giving up the #3 pick in the draft.

In all fairness the rest of the pieces of this trade I like a LOT. Mike Miller fits in great here and should be productive immediately. Jaric and Walker had to go and it frees up considerable cash in the very near future. If you want to buy into 2 > 1 philosophy then this was the right move. But in a league of stars you brought in two role players for someone who might ("might" is of course the operative word here) be a star.

TWolves Blog agrees with me. I think it is kind of hard to tell what "Let's just say my throat is still burning from the vomit." really means.

PagingJimShikenjanski doesn't comment on the trade but isn't happy about the NBA.

TNABACG loves the lateness of the trade making for incorrect headlines in your paper edition of the Star Tribune (what is the paper edition thing?)

John Hollinger of the WWL disagrees with me (DAMN). "When we break it down, it's hard to see how Minnesota loses: Love is, in my estimation, the better of the two prospects."

Chris Mannix (from SI) agrees with me as well. "With Mayo and Al Jefferson as cornerstones, the Wolves were going somewhere. Now, Minnesota will have to build around a talented but undersized frontcourt (Love, Al Jefferson) without a marquee guard."

Timberwolves' owner Glen Taylor also agrees with me - "Our people thought that Mayo had far more upside than Love," Wolves owner Glen Taylor said. Quote can no longer be found on STrib but TWolves Blog still has it for us to ponder.


NOTE: I like the pick of Petrovik (I'm not bothering to look up spelling).
OTHER NOTE: picture of a GIDDY Kevin McHale was stolen from Star Tribune, picture of players wearing hats, from ESPN

June 26, 2008

New Poll on right sidebar...

I want to know how this breaks down in Gopher Nation...

Where do you stand on the current football coaching staff.

1 - Tim Brewster is the guy and will lead us to a championship level. If you land in this group you believe in the Ron Zook blueprint. Recruit, Recruit, Recruit, then the wins will come. It may take a few years and along the way the first couple seasons may be absolutely brutal but once the talent level is raised and those kids get some experience they will start winning games. As many may recall it wasn't very long ago that Zook was labeled as a great recruiter but a terrible game coach. Those labels are gone for now and soon the Brewster naysayers will have little to say as well.

2 - I miss Glen Mason. At least Mason never gave us a 1-11 season. While we knew a shot at the Rose Bowl was going to take some luck and even those shots would be few and far between. But Coach Mason was right, things were really bad before he got here, he brought us to a new level and under Brewster you are head right back to the bottom 2 or 3 of the conference on an annual basis. We had established one of the best running games in the country and fielded a team that was bearable to watch.

3 - I'm still on the fence. I think it was time for Mason to go but I'm not yet sold on Brewster. But if he can keep recruiting like this I'm willing to take a couple seasons like 2007 with the shot at greatness. I am not willing to call this hire a failure, but so far I'm not impressed.

I encourage you to vote with some passion, in the end I just want to know what % of Gopher fans are actually going to be patient, who misses Mr. Mason and who has bought the snake oil.

June 25, 2008

Mark Schlabach has no foresight

Schlabach put out his 2008 Bowl predictions and I'm appalled that the didn't include your Minnesota Golden Gophers. I didn't expect he'd put us in the Rose Bowl until next year but nothing? (ed note: sometimes sarcasm is hard to pick up so don't crucify me in the comments)

Here are the Big Ten teams and their slotted bowl opponents...

BCS National Championship: Georgia over vs. Ohio State
Rose Bowl: USC vs. Wisconsin
Capital One: Florida vs. Illinois
Outback: Penn State vs. Tennessee
Insight: Nebraska vs. Purdue
Alamo: Kansas vs. Michigan State
Champs Sports: Florida State vs. Michigan
Motor City: Ball State vs. Iowa

Seriously, Iowa? That leaves Indiana, Northwestern and Minnesota the only Big Ten teams not practicing for two extra months. In all seriousness with our non-conference schedule and getting Iowa, Northwestern and Iowa at home we could make a run at that Motor City tilt with Ball State. I know that is a Glen Mason-esque goal, but baby steps to Pasadena. Beating Michigan at home just might get us to San Antonio for the Alamo Bowl.

June 24, 2008

Football Recruiting Snapshot

Football recruiting is massive and hard to keep track of. For those of you who don't pay attention to recruiting on a daily basis I want to give you a quick snapshot.

We are about in the same spot we were a year ago. At this point in 2007 we had 4-star locked up, a handful of 3-star kids mostly from Minnesota and many athletes from around the country putting the Gophers on their short lists. To date in 2008 we have a 4-star locked up, a handful of 3-star in state kids and many studs from around the country mentioning the Gophers along with Ohio State, Florida, Michigan, Georgia, etc.

I sense some anxiousness and eagerness to get more commitments this summer, but as I looked back the bulk of our commitments came in September thru November. So the hope is to just get on the radar of kids and stay in the hunt.

For Tim Brewster to land a second consecutive top 25 recruiting class winning will be an absolute necessity. You can sell kids on playing time and building for future championships while you generate a 1 win season for a little bit but eventually they'll tune you out for teams who are actually winning. Brewster doesn't have to win the Big Ten, but showing improvement and demonstrating that you actually are building something will go a LONG way towards winning recruiting battles with the traditional big dogs.

With that said here is a brief snapshot of who we have, who we are after and who this guy desperately wants to see wearing a Gopher hat come signing day.

Pos. SizeStarsHometownAlso Offered
Hasan Lipscomb RB 5'11", 201 4 Houston, TX (Cypress Ridge) Nebraska, TexA&M, Baylor, ISU
Moses Alipate QB 6'5", 235 3 Bloomington, MN (Jefferson) Wash St, Colorado
Josh Campion OL 6'5", 265 3 Fergus Falls, MN interest from Wis, Notre Dame, Michigan
Victor Keise WR 6'1", 160 3 Coral Springs, FL (N. Broward) interest from NC St, Miami, Conn
Ed Olson OL 6'6", 270 3 Mahtomedi, MN N. Ill, interest from PennSt, Mich, Col, Ill
Nick Rengel TE/WR 6'3", 225 none Sartell, MN Buffalo, UCF, N Ill, NDSU

Lipscomb and Alipate highlight the recruiting class thus far.

ESPN Insider has Lipscomb on their top 150 watch list and had this to say...
Follows his blocks well and runs with good vision. Shows good lateral quickness and outside speed stretching the zone run and turning the corner. Can be shifty through the initial traffic flashing good stop-start skill and body control making defenders miss. Shows a burst and sneaky extra gear when he finds an open seam. Not a burner, but displays good speed in the second level to separate.
As a junior Lipscomb rushed for 26 TDs on 1,625 yards. He is originally from New Orleans but was displaced because of Hurricane Katrina. Because of his New Orleans roots, LSU pursued but never offered.

Alipate is the flagbearing Minnesota kid of 2009. The QB from Jefferson is kind of an intriguing recruit. His high school team was not very successful and he didn't put up great numbers. But when at camps and other opportunities to show his skills he usually does very well. As a junior he was invited to the Under Armor Junior Combine in January, which says a lot about his talent and upside. Scout has him as a 4-star recruit and ESPN can't say enough good things about him.
For a pocket passer with the great size that Alipate possesses, he is a really good athlete with some footwork and movement skills you don't see from a dropback passer. He is very competitive, shows solid overall natural tools and a strong arm.

Overall, Alipate's competitiveness is evident and he has the measurables, arm and athleticism to become an excellent player at the next level. He could play in the spread and could also play as a pure drop back guy which gives him some real versatility and value.
It should be fun to see him compete with 2008's QB recruit, MarQueis Gray, to lead the Dunbar Spread into the Rose Bowl.

Gopher Nation Wish List...

Pos Size Stars Hometown OFFERS NOTES
1 Michael Carter CB 5'11", 154 4 Pompano Beach, FL FL, Clem, Georgia, Miami, Aub and others cousin to Tyrone Carter
2 Ra'Shede Hageman TE 6'6", 252 3 Mpls (Washburn) FL, OSU, Neb, Wis, Ill, Iowa, Mich St a must have for Brewster
3 Ronnie Wingo Jr Ath 6-3, 210 4 St. Louis, MO Bama, Mizz, Tenn, OK, Neb, Kan, Ill, Iowa, Ark planning to visit, would be a great get, maybe RB
4 Chris Davenport DT 6-4, 318 5 Mansfield, LA FL, LSU, USC, Tenn, Tex, Mich, Bama, everybody I'm not holding my breath
5 Craig Drummong DE 6-5, 260 4 Chicago LSU, FL, OSU, USC, Tenn Top 5 DE - We have our work cut out for us here
6 Bryce McNeal WR 6-2, 170 4 Mpls (Breck) committed to Michigan We win, Mich loses things might change here
7 David Gilbert DE 6-4, 215 4 Oakland Park, FL Wis, L'ville, Pur, Scar, UCF, Mich St, etc. As of 4/30 had 3 offers, now has 12+
8 TyQuan Hammock ILB 6'1", 220 3 Fort Wayne, IN L'ville, Mich St., Ind, MAC schools 13 sacks, 164 tackles as JR, cousin to brother to ast coach Thomas Hammock
9 Chris Williams CB 5-11, 185 4 Cincinnati, OH WV, Ind, Cincy (has academic hurdles) "The thing that shocked me was I didn't follow Minnesota football and they told me they went 1-11. I was like 'wow.' I mean if a I believe a school can really turn things around, and they want me to help I, would be interested in that."
10 Nosa Equae DE 6'4", 235 3 Mansfield, TX KU, Col, Iowa, Pur, L'ville Kan and Col are top 2, is planning to visit
11 Rodney Smith WR 6-6, 202 4 Miami, FL Aub, FSU, OleMiss, Mizz, Tenn, many others 3.0 GPA, but kind of a longshot imo
12 Nat Berhe S 5-11, 160 3 Colton, CA New Mex, SDSU 2.9 GPA
13 Matt Garin DE 6-4, 220 3 Apple Valley, MN AZ St, Ore St, Stan, Wash St, AirForce, MACs plenty of Pac 10 schools but no other BCS schools, interesting
14 Anthony Jones OLB 6-2, 200 3 Chandler, AZ AZ, ASU, OreSt, Wash St
15 Dan Orseske P 6-3, 195
Chicago Northwestern We need him and I think we'll get him
16 Artice Kellam S 5'11", 180 NR Miami, FL OleMiss, SoCar
17 Dwayne Difton WR 5-11, 166 4 Ft. Lauderdale, FL BC, Pur, Sflor, S Miss, Syracuse seems high on Auburn if offered
18 Jaz Reynolds WR 6-3, 180 3 Aldine, TX Col, Kan, Neb, NW, Virg, SMU, Bay, Vir his HS QB is heading to Kansas, not likely but who knows

This list is very fluid and I gave preference to guys I thought we had a remote chance at landing. But I am far from knowing anything. As I prefaced this is just a snapshot and wanted to keep people informed (if you want greater detail I suggest you pay the subscription fees to something like Rivals, Scout or ESPN Insider).

June 23, 2008

It's Minnesota Day on BTN

Today the BTN highlights Minnesota's most recent athletic year. Below are the notable events to be aired on the BTN today.

12:00 N - 4:00 "Minnesota Basketball: The Journey" episodes 1-8

I don't think I have seen each all 8 episodes but this was an entertaining little series. They followed the Gophers in Tubby's first season. If you look REALLY close, you can see me in the Big Ten ACC Challenge episode as I paid to go with the team to Florida State that weekend.

7:00 - Minnesota over Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament.

The primetime slot is occupied by Blake Hoffarber's miracle shot. Significant accomplishments in minor sports aside, this was the highlight of the Gopher season for most fans.

9:00 - Big Ten Tonight: Minnesota Year in Review

Not sure what to expect but I anticipate they will chronicle some of the team and individual accomplishments that many Gopher fans were unaware of. So this might be fun to watch to see that just because football was 1-11, basketball missed the NCAA Tournament and Hockey was disappointing; Gopher athletics was not a complete failure.

10:00 - Minnesota vs. Georgetown in 1993 NIT

I remember this game and of all the Gopher programming on today this will be the one I try to watch.

Complete BTN schedule can be found HERE.

June 18, 2008

Welcome to Gopher Nation Kid - Nick Rengel

We now have six verbal commitments, four of which are from Minnesota. As of last night Sartell's Nick Rengal was that fourth.

The 6'3" athlete was at Minnesota's camp this last week and performed well enough to go home with an offer. It didn't take long to accept. Rengal had offers from Central Florida, NDSU, and a handful of MAC schools but had been waiting for the Gopher offer to come through.

"I grew up dreaming of playing for Minnesota, all the kids in Minnesota should. I knew that when they offered me I was going to commit." per Rivals
We need more kids with this attitude. Guys like Matt Carufel and Kim Royston didn't feel like this but later regretted their decisions to play for Notre Dame and Wisconsin respectively . It will take more kids like Rengel and of course a few more wins to truly lock down the boarders.

Obviously as a recruit who has no stars attached to his name this isn't the rock star verbal we all would love to see. But after news of Maresh's heart condition and players defecting news of someone excited to be hear is refreshing.

After reading Bruce Feldman's "Meat Market: Inside the Smash Mouth World of College Football Recruiting" I learned that camp is a great tool for coaches to find those players not yet rated and discovered by everyone. Rengel took advantage of his time in front of the coaching staff and convinced them he was worth a scholarship.

Maybe Rengel is just a local kid who plays special teams and contributes as best he can, or maybe he is that diamond who becomes a factor and makes this team better. I am not here to judge talent, but instead to extend an official welcome.

June 17, 2008

What was your favorite Clint Brewster moment?

As has been rumored for several days, Clint Brewster (son of head coach Tim Brewster in case you lived under a rock), is going to transfer out of Minnesota. After watching Adam Weber set school records as a redshirted freshman, JUCO All-American David Pittman coming in and highly rated incoming freshman MarQueis Gray on his way to Minnesota, Clint wanted a better opportunity to get some playing time.

Personally I think this is a non-story although it does create a doomsday "Cubs Syndrome" where as soon as a player leaves he tuns into a stud and egg is on our collective faces.

I did like the depth that Clint would have provided to our QB situation as he could have been the clear cut #2 for the next 4 years with the ability to perform well should the QB1 go down for any reason. But that is pure speculation and you can't blame a kid for wanting to compete at a level higher than running the scout team vs. the starting defense (and I use the term 'defense' loosely!).

Where do people think the young Brewster will end up?

Colorado? - seems like a logical fit. Sophomore Cody Hawkins is the returning starter but after Clint sits out a year he would then be in position to be a 3-year starter for the Buffs.

Illinois? - I highly doubt it. The tranfer year would be another season to distance himself from Juice Williams but I don't see him transfering within the Big Ten.

Baylor? - transfer Kirby Freeman will be the QB this upcoming season but then after sitting Brewster would have a shot at being the man for the next four seasons. A Big 12 school in Texas, but Clint would have to compete with 4-star recruit Robert Griffin.

BYU? - I don't think he's mormon.
Air Force? - they run the spread but might not be what he is looking for
Utah? - spread offense, might be a very good fit

Those are my total shots in the dark. If I had to give the official Gopher Nation prediction, I'd say...

1. Colorado
2. Utah
3. Baylor
4. anywhere but Wisconsin

June 16, 2008

Brewtster taking heat for comments 17 months ago...

January 17th is a date known for many significant events…

  • 1595 – Henry IV of France declares war on Spain
  • 1605 – First publication of Don Quixote
  • 1899 – Al Capone was born
  • 1917 – the US buys the Virgin Islands from Denmark for $25 million
  • 1949 – the first sitcom, The Goldbergs, airs on US television
  • 1971 – Kid Rock was born
  • 1982 – "Cold Sunday" in the US saw temperatures fall to their lowest levels in over 100 years in numerous cities (thank god for global warming)
  • 1991 – Operation Desert Storm begins

But that date will forever be remember by Gopher fans as the day Athletic Director Joel Maturi officially hired his new head football coach, Tim Brewster.

We are 17 months removed from his first press conference and some Brewster quotes from that day are still being parsed and debated by fans, bloggers and message board enthusiasts. I’ve take my shot at analyzing and ending the conversation (not a goal actually attainable) but ultimately I wonder why it even matters?

There really are two things that matter in college football.

1- actually winning
2- the perception of moving in the right direction

I know that everyone will tell me that really winning is the only thing that matters. And maybe at certain schools that is true, but not necessarily at the University of Minnesota. One could argue that Glen Mason was the third best coach in the storied history of the Gophers (Murray Warmath and Bernie Bierman are clearly top 2). Mason did produce the highest win % since Bierman. But winning games and going to mid-level bowls was not enough to keep his job as it was determined that the program wasn’t really moving forward.

I’m putting words behind the actions of Maturi but I think it is safe to assume that the program had plateaued and the administration or influential alumni believed we needed a new leader to move forward.

This brings us back to January 17th, 2007 and the initial press conference by Tim Brewster, who boldly proclaimed he was not only creating Gopher Nation but planning not take us to Pasadena and stated things like…

"My expectations from day one are going to be to win the Big Ten Championship. That’s what the seniors deserve and what everybody deserves."

“Our expectation is to win a Big Ten Championship now. We’re not interested in any rebuilding process. I’m very fortunate that I’m not coming into a situation that is decimated where there are no players. There are players here. Glen Mason did an excellent job at this university and coached these kids well. They’ve won a lot of games. They’re not void of talent, so we’re in a little different situation here than it is at most places that are going through the hiring process. I’m very excited that it’s not a complete rebuilding process."

These quotes created quite a stir and have been the root of controversy and debate ever since.

One side wonders how we ever hired this lunatic who thought we actually had the talent to win the Big Ten in 2007.Either he was crazy or he was a poor judge of talent and crazy. As his team marched on to a 1-11 season the fuel was added to the fire of this groups’ ire.

The other side says “C’mon guys he didn’t REALLY mean he could win this year.” What coach in his right mind is going to give up on a season. Of course he was just encouraging his troops and showing them that he had confidence in them. Ultimately he just meant that winning the Big Ten (as opposed to ‘earning’ a mediocre bowl bid) is the goal each and ever year.

After initially defending the comments, I say WHO CARES! Whether or not he thought the Gophers were going to be Big Ten Champs in 2008 is completely meaningless. There are two things that matter. His record and the perception that he’s moving the program forward. In year 1, he failed miserably in the win/loss department. But he did hit a home run in the world of recruiting which has Gopher Nation buzzing about being able to field a team with Big Ten talent throughout the roster.

You may say, his words don’t exactly matter, what irks Gopher fans is that his rhetoric is over the top and coming off as crazy which won’t get you anywhere. You may be correct to a degree. He clearly overstated things when he was in the moment of being paraded as a new head coach. But that same enthusiasm and goal oriented rhetoric is precisely the reason he was able to bring in a top 20 recruiting class which happened to be the best this program has seen in decades.

Was his first season a success? Absolutely not, but I would argue it wasn’t a total loss. Bringing in a top 20 class when your team finished 1-11 is incredible. 2007 was a disaster but he has given hope for a sustainable turnaround. Eventually he will have to prove he is more than a recruiter and a coach capable of winning games and take this program to a new level of competitiveness. Through one season he is completing 50% of his passes.

But really does the fact that he was excited and was the first person to voice that we should have higher goals really that big of a deal? His team struggled on the field and there has to be improvement this in 2008, but what he said at his initial press conference or even all through his first spring is completely irrelevant to the 2008 season. Can we please move on?


Inspiration for this post
Charlie Walters
Sunday Morning Quarterback
Footballnews - 247

Golden Gophers on the national (and international) scene

Congratulations are in order all around for the following current and future Golden Gopher athletes...

Women's Track All-Americans
Liz Roehrig - Runner-up Heptathlon
Heather Dorniden - 5th place 800 Meters
Ruby Radocaj - 6th place Javelin

Men's Track All-Americans
Hassan Mead - 6th place 5000 Meters

Mead is a true freshman who has had an outstanding freshman year and if healthy could become an all time Gopher great.

  • All-American (Cross Country)
  • Big Ten Runner-Up (Cross Country)
  • Big Ten Freshman of the Year
  • Big Ten Outdoor Champ 5000M (Track)
  • All-American 5000 M (Track)
  • 6th place finish at NCAA Outdoor Championships
Next? Olympic trials.

Jake Deitchler - your youngest member of the US Olympic team as the 66 Kg wrestler. The 18 year old just graduated from Anoka and will be a Golden Gopher next season but has already made a name for himself as only the second high school wrestler to make the Olympic team. Mike Farina was the last to do it in 1976. This is a pretty incredible accomplishment and should give me a reason to tune into Olympic Wrestling this year.

Also worth noting is that there has been a wrester from the state of Minnesota on the US team for every Olympics dating back to 1968.

June 12, 2008

HOT tailgating product (shameless plug)

I am often e-mailed various products and advertising "opportunities." Some I reject and some I find cool enough that I can't in good conscience keep hidden from Gopher fans and in this case tailgaters.

Check out The Grill Topper (don't hold it agaisnt them that they are an Iowa based company) to see how this little product works. Since my target audience is primarily men, don't count on this being purchased for you for Father's Day, you might have to go and buy it yourself.

Anyway, check it out and it will be interesting to see how many burgers look like THIS on Saturday afternoon, September 12th, 2009 in the TCF Bank Stadium parking lot!

June 10, 2008

Incoming frehsman, Sam Maresh, to have open heart surgery

UPDATE: thanks to brilliant commenter (G0EL Pete) HERE is a link to more info on the Aortic Valve and replacement.
Every once in a while something comes along that reminds all of us that football really isn’t all that important.

Many of us have been eagerly anticipating the new look Gopher defense that was to eventually be led by in-state recruit Sam Maresh.The middle linebacker from Champlin was an early commitment to coach Brewster and honestly has been the only significant in-state recruit Brewster has kept from other major programs.

But the Star Tribune is confirming what has been recently rumored, that Maresh has a congenital heart defect requiring surgery. Sam’s father, Bill, e-mailed the Star Tribune…

According to the e-mail, Maresh reported to the U of M on June 2 for a physical, where tests revealed he had a heart murmur. Three days later, after more tests, the family was told that Maresh has a congenital heart defect. Bill Maresh wrote of Sam: "His aortic valve has a serious leak, his ventricle is enlarged and also has an enlarged aortic root."

That is incredibly scary for Maresh and his family. Fortunately this was caught before the condition would have been worsened by 2-a-days in August and hopefully it can be corrected so the young man can live a long and healthy life.

The article does a nice job laying out the significance of Maresh to Brewster and the Gopher program so I won’t go into it any further.

A 4 pm press conference is scheduled for this afternoon to provide further details.

While hoping and praying for more Gopher wins this fall is kind of a big deal to those of us who follow, it all feels pretty meaningless in light of something as serious as this.

It is my prayer for the Maresh family that they can be at peace throughout this process and that Sam can be healed by competent doctors to live a full and healthy life.



From GopherIllustrated message boards (rivals subscription required and I urge you to subscribe as they are excellent at what they do), Bill Maresh recently posted this...

It’s difficult to know where to start when sharing information like this. Julie and I have tried to keep the information from going public, only telling family and a few staff members. At 4:00 p.m. there will be a press conference here at Champlin Park High School with Julie, Sam and myself. We feel it is time to share this information with the people we work with.

On Monday June 2nd, Sam reported to the University to participate for his first work out with the Gophers. The University requires physicals of all their new recruits before allowing them to work out. During the physical Sam was told he had a heart murmur and before they would let him work out they would have to perform further test. Wednesday June 4th, Sam had an EKG and an Echogram. Later that evening, Julie and I received a call telling us they had set up an appointment with a cardiologist and that Julie and I needed to be there. Thursday, as we met with two cardiologists, we were told that Sam had a congenital heart defect, his aortic valve has a serious leak, his ventricle is enlarged and also has an enlarged aortic root. We were told that he would need open heart surgery to repair or replace his valve and also to “fix” his aorta.

Yesterday, we were at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester and saw three more doctors, the last being Dr. Schaff, a surgeon who we scheduled the surgery with. The Surgery will be June 26th.

The priority of Sam living a full and long life has been the number one concern through this process. Of course as most of you would guess, Sam asked the doctors, “will I be able to play football again” and I’m sure many others will ask the same question.

So before I answer that question, I want to again state that we, including Sam, have accepted the fact that this surgery was necessary for Sam to have a long and full life. Sam chooses to have the valve repaired if possible and if not to have it replaced with a tissue valve.

With the tissue valve, Sam has a chance of playing again. Of course the surgery will have to be a success, his ventricle will have to return to a normal size and his breastbone will have to mend strong enough to handle the impacts of football. So the answer to the question “will Sam be able to play football again” cannot be answered at the present time. There are many hurdles for Sam to clear in the next year before the doctors will clear him.

Julie and I are so thankful for all the University of Minnesota has done, from detecting the heart murmur, to referring us to possibly the best surgeon in the world, Dr. Schaff. We are most thankful for the prayers we have received through the last week and asked that you continue to pray for Sam through his surgery and his recovery.

Thanks for all your support,

The Maresh Family


June 6, 2008

Gopher Sports 2007-08 Recap

Chances are pretty good that if you read this blog then you are already aware how the football, basketball and hockey teams fared this year. (Ugly, improved, disappointing in case you didn't know). But lets take a moment to recap all of the 23 Golden Gopher sports...

Big Ten Champions
Women's Cross Country
Women's Swimming and Diving
Women's Indoor Track & Field

I guess it was a better year for the women's side of the athletic department but here is a brief sport-by-sport run down.

Fall Sports

Football (1-11) - Tim Brewster's first season was highlited by his recruiting class while we suffered through a season as bad as any in memory. The football team has received enough coverage so we'll leave well enough alone.

Volleyball (18-13) - 11-9 which was good enough to be tied for third in the Big Ten. A streaky season for the Golden Gophers who started out 12-3, went on a seven game losing streak, split their next two and then finished the conference season winning five of their last six. Minnesota was the only team in the country to face all four participants of the Final Four (Cal, Stanford and the National Champs from Penn State). Heading into next year we return two very talented freshmen (Brook Dieter and Lauren Gibbemeyer) and currently sit as the 9th winningest volleyball program in the country.

W Cross Country (finished 12th at NCAA Championships) - Big Ten Champs (five runners in top 17) and NCAA Midwest Region Champs highlited a rather successful season for the women runners. SO-Jamie Cheever was the highest finisher at the NCAA meet finishing 33rd overall. We do return six of our top seven runners so 2008 could be another highly successful season for the women long distance runners.

M Cross Country (finished 8th at NCAA Championships) - JR-Chris Rombaugh finished 29th and FR-Hassan Mean finished 43rd to lead the Gophers. Mead and Rombaugh finished 2nd and 4th respectively in the Big Ten Championships as the Gophers finished 2nd to Wisconsin. We return three of the top five runners for next year.

Women's Soccer (9-8-2) - The season was nothing special but did manage to pull off the biggest upset in the program's history when the Gopher women knocked off nationally ranked (#8) Penn State 1-0 in double OT. The team finished 6th in conference and lost to Illinois in the first round of the B10 Tourney. With their sophomore and freshmen classes ranking top 50 nationally when they were recruited, it would appear that the next couple seasons could be improved.

Winter Sports

Men's Basketball (20-14) - again well chronicled on this particular blog. Much improved, incredible recruiting class and some new coach who given time just might make a name for himself.

Women's Basketball (20-12) - 11-7 was good enough for 3rd in the Big Ten. More importantly the women earned a their 5th bid into the NCAA Tournament in coach Pam Borton's six seasons. They return their best player in cup stacking champion, PG, Emily Fox who earned First team All-Big Ten honors in her junior season.

Men's Gymnastics - finished 5th (out of 6) in Big Ten Championships. SR-Mitchel Mays claimed an individual title on the vault. Mays was actually the heavy favorite to win an NCAA title on the vault but he "landed short on his Tsukahara double pike for a score of 15.625 and an eighth-place finish."

Women's Gymnastics - finished 6th in Big Ten Championships, but managed to finish the season with a #16 national ranking. Apparently the Big Ten was loaded as seven teams finished in the top 30 (6 in top 20).

Men's Hockey (19-17-9) - a disappointing season as the Gophers began the season with hopes of a Frozen four appearance but reality brought them down to a 9-12-7 WCHA record (7th place). Freshman Goalie, Alex Kangas, went on an unbelievable run during the WCHA tournament and Minnesota fell just short of their 15th conference tournament championship. The Gophers did manage an at large bid into the NCAA's but lost in their first round match up at Boston College.

Women's Hockey (27-7-4) - a more successful regular season than the men ended in much the same fashion. After finishing 2nd in the WCHA to Wisconsin, the Gopher women advanced to the championship game but lost to Wisconsin. They did of course make the NCAA tournament and were given the opportunity to avenge their previous 3 losses to Wisconsin but once again they lost to the Badgers to end the Gopher season.

Men's Swimming and Diving (3rd in Big Ten) - continued their streak of a Big Ten top 3 finish each and every season since 1989. The men scored more points this year in the NCAAs than they did a year ago when they finished 10th, but the added points this year were enough to garner an 11th place finish.

Women's Swimming and Diving (Big Ten Champs) - setting 14 team records and five events the women swimmers (and divers) won their third conference championship. The women continued their successful season and went on to finish 13th at the NCAA meet. Jillian Tyler earned Big Ten freshman of the year.

Wrestling - The Gopher grapplers followed up their 2007 National Championship season with their worst finish in the NCAA meet since 1996 finishing 10th. Not so bad, right? But when you have standards set as high as the Gophers', who have finished top 3 in nine of the last 11 seasons, 10th isn't exactly something to write home about. Second in the Big Ten, their best wrestler returning and the nation's top recruiting class on it's way there is no reason to believe the Gophers will not be back to their usual top three finish.


Baseball (20-35) - the baseball team is likely the biggest disappointment of the Minnesota athletic department. A decent showing in the non-conference season beating Tulane, Pepperdine and Missouri (all NCAA Tourney participants) turned out to be fools gold as the Gophers struggled mightily and finished last in the Big Ten. I'm planning to cover this in more detail soon, but it was their worst season since 1950. A very young pitching staff and much of their lineup potentially returning (depending on draftee decisions) should mean the Gophers will return to the top of the Big Ten soon.

Softball (29-16) - 4th place finish in the Big Ten. This was the highest Big Ten finish since 1999 and with only four seniors on the team 2009 could be a very successful season for the softball team.

Rowing - With the finest facilities around and a breakthrough season in 207, the women's rowing team finished 4th at the Big Ten Championships and 6th in the Central Region.

Men's Tennis (7-17) - 16 of their 17 losses came to ranked opponents and this young squad finished 4-6 in the Big Ten to cap their season. They will return 3 of their top 4 singles players and should be in fine shape to return to the NCAA tournament where they have been 13 of the last 15 years.

Women's Tennis (15-11) - a winning season and much of their roster returning this may have been a learning season. #1 singles was freshman Alessandra Ferrazzi from Brescia, Italy who will anchor the team in the next few seasons. Looking at the roster you see that the women's tennis team hails from exotic locations all over the world as Italy, Russia, Brazil, Australia and Neenah, Wisconsin are all represented. Bonus points to anyone who is actually reading this and can guess which of those locations I have actually been to.

Men's Track & Field - 5th place in Big Ten Indoor and Outdoor Championships. The premier outdoor event, the 100m, was won by a Gopher for just the second time as Ibrahim Kabia established himself as the fastest man in the Big Ten (would have been 8th in SEC for those of you keeping track). Three other men won individual titles. Five Gophers will participate in the NCAA Meet (June 11-15 in Des Moines, IA). All five are underclassmen.

Women's Track & Field - This may be the most successful team in Gopher athletics this season. Big Ten Indoor Champs and 3rd place in Outdoor Championships. Eight individuals will be participating in the NCAA Meet next week.

Men's Golf - Big Ten runner ups to Michigan State with two golfers finishing in the top 10. JR-Victor Almstrom finished tied for 5th and SR-Clayton Rask finished 10th. Like several other sports this team was young and will return four of their top five golfers. Rask and Almstrom also participated in the NCAA Central Region Tournament finishing 11th and 41st respectively.

Women's Golf - While young squads has been a theme here, the women's golf team is the youngest of them all. The Gopher women finished 8th in the Big Ten (shooting their second lowest B10 score in team history) and the team was led by two freshman. Teresa Puga finished sixth individually at the Big Ten Tourney and Mary Narsizi finished 23rd. Essentially the entire roster returns (one senior who was not usually within the top 5), while this does not guarantee success they will have every opportunity to improve.

That covers all 23 sports that you can support in Gopher Athletics. As a group the University of Minnesota athletics finished 22nd nationally in the NACDA Director's Cup Standings. I do not believe that all of the spring sports are included in the most recent rankings so I would expect a little drop depending on how well our track athletes perform. A year ago we finished 20th but with the poor showing by football and baseball, coupled with slightly down years in hockey and wrestling the drop cannot be all that unexpected. How Notre Dame could even think about hiring away an athletic director from a team not in the top 20 of the Director's Cup Standings is beyond me.

Directors Cup Standings
Big Ten Teams
2 Michigan
3 Ohio State
4 Penn State
18 Wisconsin
22 Minnesota
23 Purdue
25 Michigan St.
29 Illinois
30 Indiana
32 Northwestern
50 Iowa

Take that Iowa!

June 1, 2008

Cold Minnesota Lakes Cause Linkage

I haven't jumped on the linkage bandwagon lately but here is what is going on around Gopher Nation and the Big Ten.

  • Recently some minuscule Michigan blogger MGO Blog (you've probably never heard of it), has indirectly called out Gopher Nation saying there really is no such thing.
    "I blame the 2004 Red Sox and Kos for this. There is no Spartan Nation. There is no UAB Nation. There is no Badger Nation. Unless you are named Chad and everyone on your team is also named Chad, there is no nation for you. BLANK Nation jumped the shark two seconds after the 2004 ACLS. Shut up about it."
    I guess Brian didn't directly call us out so maybe we are OK. All I know is Tim Brewster said there is a Gopher Nation so that's what I'm going with. Maybe he'll think differently after his Wolverines step foot into Gopher Nation as they get housed at the Dome this fall.
  • Matt Hayes at The Sporting News recently listed his top 5 players in the conference at each position. Only Eric Decker (#5) and punter Justin Kucek (#2) represented the Gophers. There is little to argue with here as there was a reason we were 0-8 a year ago. If the Gophers are going to win a couple conference games this year guys like Weber, Dom Alford, and anybody on defense may have to earn a spot within the top 5 of their respective position.
  • As usual the Iowa bloggers Black Heart, Gold Pants provides us with a funny but completely unsafe for work, home or the library post. Just for your own safety and job security I suggest never clicking on a link provided by BHGP!
  • People who know me will say I'm lying but I am actually reading a book. I have begun reading Bruce Feldman's "Meat Market - Inside the smash-mouth world of college football recruiting." Feldman spent a little more than the entire 2007 recruiting season with Ole Miss and noted recruiting great Ed Orgeron.

    I am not far enough to comment on the book but I have noticed several parallels between Orgeron and Brewster. Both are noted as outstanding recruiters and have landed blue-chip players for blue chip programs which led to National Championships. Orgeron was the master behind Leinart, Bush and other drafted players at USC. Brewster is given credit for guys like Vince Young at Texas. Both parlayed their recruiting reputation into head coaching jobs at schools in need of talent to move up from the bottom of their conferences. It should be a great read and provide some insight into the world of college football recruiting.
  • From the Barn put out a hard hitting interview with incoming PF Colton Iverson about his love of "The Office."
  • Paterno will eventually die or quit coaching (not sure which will come first) and there are rumors that Rutgers coach Greg Schiano is being set to replace him. A planned successor isn't all that strange but when that successor is currently coaching another D1 team, that is unprecedented. It is of course just a rumor but interesting nonetheless.