2008 CFN Minnesota Preview |
2007 CFN Minnesota Preview |
2006 CFN Minnesota Preview
Patience everyone, patience. Remember why Tim Brewster was hired
in the first place.
It wasn't like Glen Mason was bad, he got the team to bowl games
every year and came up with a few big wins here and there, but
it seemed like the program was treading water and wasn't ever
near to making that big jump up into being in the big-time.
While he might have still been the head man had the Gophers not
collapsed against Texas Tech in the 2006 Insight Bowl, the
program needed a step back to potentially take a big leap
Head coach: Tim Brewster
2nd year: 1-11
Off. 20, Def. 19., ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 18
Best UM Players
2. WR Eric Decker, Jr.
3. DE Willie VanDeSteeg, Sr.
4. FS Tramaine Brock, Jr.
5. RB Duane Bennett, Soph.
6. LB Steve Davis, Sr.
7. LB Deon Hightower, Sr.
8. QB MarQueis Gray, Fr.
9. OT Dominic Alford, Soph.
10. TE Jack Simmons, Sr.
Sept. 6 at Bowling Green
Sept. 13 Montana State
Sept. 20 Florida Atlantic
Sept. 27 at Ohio State
Oct. 4 Indiana
Oct. 11 at Illinois
Oct. 18 OPEN DATE
Oct. 25 at Purdue
Nov. 1 Northwestern
Nov. 8 Michigan
Nov. 15 at Wisconsin
Nov. 22 Iowa
L 32-31 OT
at Fla Atlantic
Sept. 29 Ohio
State L 30-7
Northwestern L 49-48 2OT
Michigan L 34-10
Illinois L 44-17
Iowa L 21-16
Wisconsin L 41-34
Fine, so maybe the
Gophers didn't have to take a giant flying leap back and lose to Florida
Atlantic, North Dakota State, and Bowling Green on the way to one of the
worst seasons in school history (But is wasn't the worst. Some of
the early 1990s teams, along with the 1983 disaster, were in the
running.), but Brewster was brought to Minnesota because he could
recruit. He has done that big-time, but now he has to prove he can coach
Brewster went out and got talents like QB MarQueis Gray, WR Brandon
Green, and LB Sam Maresh, who all have the potential to be stars right
away, but the big coup came from the JUCO ranks getting instant help for
the nation's worst defense with Tramaine Brock, Traye Simmons and Simoni
Lawrence all likely to start in the secondary from day one, while
300-pound Tim McGee could be the run-clogger on the inside that the D so
desperately needs. But while everyone will be hoping for a big
turnaround right now, especially with the new stadium ready to open in
2009, there's one thing everyone must remember: Illinois.
While Brewster isn't nearly as hyperkinetic as Illini head coach Ron
Zook, he's not far off, and his program is following the same pattern.
Illinois was awful for three years under Zook, and then everything
clicked and the team went to the Rose Bowl. While Brewster hasn't
recruited as well as Zook has, he has the pieces in place to make a good
jump in the progression over the next few years.
As bad as things might have been last season, the Gophers, with a
slightly better defense, would've beaten Bowling Green, Florida
Atlantic, Northwestern, North Dakota State, and Wisconsin, and possibly
Iowa and Purdue. Win at least five of those seven, and it's not a
stretch to suggest that with any defensive production, Minnesota
could've won them all, and it's bowl time again.
There are still miles to go before Minnesota can realistically think
about challenging for anything of significance in the Big Ten, but the
team might not be as far off as it seems. The new guys have to kick in
right away, the defense has to show up for the first time in a few
years, and Brewster has to show that he can start winning, even if
everything isn't quite right yet.
What to watch for on offense: The emergence of Adam Weber.
MarQueis Gray and JUCO transfer David Pittman were big-time recruits.
They were so big that the coach's son, Clint, a top recruit last year,
chose to transfer. Even after throwing for 2,895 yards and leading the
team with 617 rushing yards, the job was hardly Weber's going into
spring ball, and then he showed he was a sharper passer with a better
command of the offense. He was already the star of the show, and now
he's on the verge of being a special spread quarterback.
What to watch for on defense: JUCO, JUCO, JUCO. For the nation's
worst defense, it's possible that at least five instant starters are
coming in to upgrade things right away. Junior Tramaine Brock got off
the bus and instantly made himself the tone-setting leader of the
secondary at free safety. Simoni Lawrence is a top option at strong
safety, while Traye Simmons has star potential at corner. Tim McGee will
be starting sooner than later at tackle, while 6-5, 250-pound Cedric
McKinley will join him on the line.
The team will be far better if … it gets to the
quarterback. New defensive coordinator Ted Roof, the former Duke Blue
Devil head man, has placed a premium on improved tackling, but the big
key will be to generate a pass rush. Senior Willie VanDeSteeg is the
player to do it, but he has to regain his sophomore form after playing
through a broken wrist last year, and struggling. The secondary needs
all the help it can get, so manufacturing a pass rush, even if it means
selling out, could be a must.
Considering the problems last year against MAC teams and the losses to
North Dakota State and Florida Atlantic, Minnesota can't take anything
for granted, but starting off with a non-conference schedule against
Northern Illinois, at Bowling Green, Montana State and Florida Atlantic
doesn't get too much easier. Payback's a bear with three road games in
the first four Big Ten dates going to Ohio State, Illinois and Purdue.
The fourth Big Ten road trip is to Wisconsin, and that comes after
facing Michigan. Getting Indiana and Northwestern at home should bring
at least one conference win, while the Gopher fans have to make sure the
regular-season finale against Iowa doesn't turn into a Hawkeye home
game. Missing Michigan State and Penn State should help.
Best Offensive Player: Sophomore QB Adam Weber. While he's not going to be Tim
Tebow, Weber has bulked up this off-season to prepare himself to take
more of a pounding as a runner. He'll have more help from a good stable
of quick running backs, but in a pinch, the offense will completely fall
on his shoulders.
Best Defensive Player: Senior DE Willie VanDeSteeg. After coming
up with 10 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss in 2006, VanDeSteeg struggled
making just one sack and eight tackles for loss. Back to form after
getting healthy, he could be the player who makes everything else on the
defense work. In a domino progression, if there's a pass rush, the
secondary gets more time to work, the linebackers can focus more on the
run, and the defense will actually come up with a stop.
Key player to a
Sophomore CB Ryan Collado. While there's a chance JUCO
transfer Traye Simmons comes in as is the team's No. 1 cover-corner
right away, the defense will still rely on Collado to use his experience
from getting torched last year to become a better pass defender. He
didn't get any help from a pass rush, and he proved to be a great
tackler, but the secondary needs playmakers.
The season will be a
... the Gophers win six games. Again, nothing can be taken for granted,
but the non-conference schedule is soft and home dates against Indiana
and Northwestern are winnable. The key for the future will be to get a
win from out of nowhere against a big boy. It almost happened against
Wisconsin, and if the Gophers can come up with that one win to hang
their hat on, the entire attitude of the program could change.
August 30 vs. Northern Illinois. After losing to Bowling Green in the
opener last year, and after finishing with just one win, starting off
1-0 would mean everything. It would allow everyone to exhale and relax
just a wee bit, because if the Gophers lose to the Huskies, drastic
lineup changes could be made.
2007 Fun Stats:
- Total offense per game: Opponents 518.7 – Minnesota 407.5
- 4th down conversions: Opponents 11 of 16 (73%) – Minnesota
10 of 23 (43%)
- First quarter scoring: Opponents 128 – Minnesota 51