Thursday, April 23, 2009

Gopher Football is Back and So Are We!


Hey everybody! It’s great to be back! How the heck are y’all? Are you excited for Gopher spring ball? Can I get a high five? A chest bump? An amen? Anything? Everybody? Anybody? Hello…?

Ok so we’ve been gone a long time. A LONG time.

We’ve been gone longer than it took Axel Rose to write Chinese Democracy (thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all week).

We’ve been gone longer than JoePa has coached at Penn State...ok so maybe not quite THAT long, but you get the idea. While we’ve been gone a long time, we haven’t been gone long enough for…
…Michigan to find a quarterback
…Wisconsin to find a quarterback
…Bret Bielma to be popular in Madison!
…Kirk Ferentz to keep his kids (and by “his kids” I mean both his players that ARE his son and his players that are NOT his son) out of jail
…Terrell Pryor to be a quarterback instead of a running back who throws incompletions

There’s probably more there, but as you can see, there’s a lot of questions to be answered around the Big 10 before the 2009 season kicks off. Will we have any answered in spring ball? Do we really learn anything from spring ball? Not really, but it’s a great excuse to talk college football.

Your Golden Gophers, as you know, also have their share of questions to answer before the season kicks off Saturday September 5th at Syracuse. And while I don’t think we’ll get many, if any, answered at this Saturday’s spring game at St. Thomas (which Jer and I will both be attending. Be there or be square), it won’t stop us from asking them:

We know Adam Weber will start the season at quarterback, but will he still have the job in November?
While some teams like Michigan and Wisconsin are struggling to find somebody, ANYBODY, to run their offense (quick, raise your hand: when was the last time Minnesota had a better QB situation than Michigan AND Wisconsin? Anyone? Bueller?) the Gophers have the luxury of not only a quality starter, but a young phenom fighting for snaps. As Kent Youngblood tells us in his
Strib Gopher football blog, the Gophs coaches are getting creative with ways to get freshman MarQueis Gray on the field, yet head coach Tim Brewster remains adamant that incumbent starter Adam Weber will be the team’s starter for 2009.

From Youngblood’s entry:
"I really don't,'' Brewster said. "I think without question our guy is Adam. But we also have to prepare for the time where, if Adam gets nicked, we have a No. 2 guy we can win with. That's our mind-set.''

It’s one thing if you have a quarterback controversy because neither guy plays well enough to win a job outright, but it’s a great problem to have when Weber is an experienced starter and he’s being pushed by a really talented freshman.

So for now, Brewster’s absolutely right that they’re in a good position. Fine, but what if Weber struggles early while Gray shines? Will Brewster have the stones to pull his third year starter for the more talented Gray, much like Close-to-theSweater-Vest Jim Tressell did at Ohio State last year when he yanked fifth year senior Todd Boekman for frosh Terrell Pryor? We shall see.

I can tell you right now, getting to see Gray in person is my #1 reason for going on Saturday.

Will the Gophers be able to run the ball?
Further down in that story, we find that the Gophs are scaling back the all-out spread attack for more traditional formations which the team hopes will help run the ball. Because let’s be honest, once the Big 10 sked started last fall, the Maroon and Gold could not run the ball. Teams who do run well out of the spread generally have a VERY athletic quarterback in the mold of Gray who can burn teams with the option or scramble, or they have an awesome workhorse back like Javon Ringer was for Michigan State last year. The Gophers not only had neither of those things (and this is not a knock on Weber- it’s just not his style. He’s certainly not a bad running QB, he’s just not a guy like a Pat White at West Virginia or Pryor at Ohio State who are great runners. Of course Weber is light years ahead of those two throwing), they also had a VERY young offensive line trying to learn an entirely new offense and blocking scheme. In the bowl game we saw a glimpse of the new-old running style, and personally I like it. If Weber is indeed your guy, it plays to his strengths more, it’s more comfortable for your linemen, and now all of your tailbacks have had a year more experience running in the Big 10. Still, we might not learn much Saturday, as it looks like HB’s Duane Bennett and Shady Salamon will be kept out of the scrimmage, and they don’t add freshman four star Texas HB Hasan Lipscomb until the summer.

Will anybody emerge as a viable second receiver behind Eric Decker?
As I understand it, Decker won’t even play in the spring game because he’s playing baseball, and JC transfer Hayo Carpenter doesn’t arrive on campus until August. And you know what? It’s just as well, because every other receiver and tight end on the roster needs every snap they can to gain confidence and help out the Gopher passing game. Ben Kuznia and Brandon Green will be the first two in line, but we’ll see if anyone else can step it up on Saturday.

What Will Become of the Defense?
As expected last year’s Defensive Coordinator Ted Roof took off for greener pastures- it just wasn’t for the head coaching job offer we thought he’d get, but instead to be the DC and linebackers coach at Auburn. He will be missed. In his one season at The U Roof did a complete 180 with a Gopher D that had been one of the worst in NCAA history in 2007 and made them a top 25 unit in 2008. Like the offense, the defense too slipped as the season went along, but part of that can be attributed to the offense completely falling apart, putting all of the pressure on the D to win. Still the D made some huge strides, and we hope can pick up where they left off. Certainly the loss of all-Big 10 DE Willie VanDeSteeg and LB Deon Hightower (among others) to graduation will be huge, but with so many guys from their 2-deep like Big-Play Traye Simmons, Lee Campbell, Marcus Sherels, Tramaine Brock, and Simoni Lawrence returning, there's more than enough talent for the defense to be as good or better than it was last year. And just wait until blue chip super-DB recruit Michael Carter from Florida gets here this fall. This defense is going to be fun to watch.

1 comment:

cappszilla said...

I'm glad to see you guys are back in Blogsville! Cheers!