Monday, August 23, 2010

We're moving to The Daily Gopher

Remember when Denny Green said "If you're looking for Denny Green, look on the high road, because that is where I'll be"?

Apparently the high road that Denny was speaking of was a stint as a coach in the soon-to-be-defunct UFL.

Anyway, Jeffrick and I have decided that the Gopher Football Blog has run its course.  The feeling started coming over me several months ago, and then coincidentally we were asked to join The Daily Gopher, an invitation which we accepted.

So, if you're looking for Jeffrick and JDMill, you won't find us on the high road, we'll leave that to Denny Green. Where you WILL find us, however, is at The Daily Gopher.

I started this blog right around the time that Tim Brewster started heading up Gopher Nation, and it's been a lot of fun.  I was excited when I brought Jeff on and we began doing some podcasting.  But it's always been difficult to juggle life and put together a blog that communicates our love and passion for Gopher football.  At The Daily Gopher we'll continue to get to write and podcast about what we love, we'll get the benefit of the tools and support of a very strong blog network, and we won't feel the pressure to promote and try to build the blog.  In short, we'll get to do what we love without all of the administrative mumbo-jumbo that comes along with it.  We'll miss it here, but we are really looking forward to our new home.

If you weren't already reading The Daily Gopher every single day, I'm not sure why not, but you should start (and it should be easy to find because I've already hyperlinked to it 4 times.

Thanks for your readership over the last couple of years!

Jeffrick & Jeremy

p.s. You will continue to find me writing at Off Tackle Empire (formerly The Rivalry, Esq).

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Few Things to Get Excited About

Like Jermo said last week, I too am really, really excited for Gopher football to start. Dare I say, I'd almost call myself optimistic about what we should see out of Brew's Crew this season, especially when compared to the incredibly low expectations that have been set for this team by every possible media outlet that covers college football. The Gophs have been picked to finish no better than 9th in the Big Ten this year in every publication and preview I've read, and I've seen nary a Gopher player picked as first or second team preseason Big Ten. Adam Rittenberg on his Big Ten blog on E! has been listing his top five units for each position (Backfield, offensive line, linebackers etc) and not once has Minnesota been ranked. Brewster is apparently guaranteed to be fired and we've got nothing to look forward to but getting the snot kicked out of us all season long.

Well I, my friends, am choosing to look differently at all of this. Am I expecting a trip to Pasadena this year? Or even our first New Year's Day bowl since the dawn of time? Um no. I think realistically a six win regular season is reasonable, and if things go really well, perhaps even seven. And sure the doom and gloom that everyone expects is possible, but there is just so much more to look forward to. Consider the following;

It's Adam Weber's last year as a starter.
Seriously, how great is this? This will be the last season that I'll have to endure bad start after bad start after bad start, only to hear his supporters blame everyone else- the offensive line, the coaches, the receivers, BP, Obama, the cast of Jersey Shore- for Weber's struggles. I hope Weber has a good year and meets his supporters' expectations, but I'm not exactly holding my breath. His 2008 2nd Team All-Big Ten season was an absolute fluke, taking advantage of his first seven games when he was great, as well as the weakest year for Big Ten quarterbacks in the history of humanity. He will NOT be an all-conference quarterback again (although a big part of that is because of just how loaded the Big Ten is this year. Holy Moses the conference is as deep and talented as it's been for at least the last decade, if not longer), but I'm not even hoping for that. Just a completion percentage north of 55 would be dandy, as well as more TD's than INT's. Really.

MarQueis the WR?
So Weber beat MarQueis fair and square apparently, and now Gray is getting a ton of reps at wideout. As long as Brewster is being truthful when he says Gray will get another crack at the starting QB job next year (although really, Brewster can say whatever he wants because there's a good chance he won't be around next season anyway. So he can say that Gray will be the QB and the Gophs will win 21 games and be better than the Vikings and that he'll be sole reason for an economic turnaround. Seriously, he can say anything and it doesn't matter if it's true. Perhaps his next gig should be to run for governor? Can't be any worse than Pawlenty), I applaud this move. It DOES get your best athlete on the field and in the game, and he'll be another weapon for Weber to throw to. I'm guessing the faster Gray learns the nuances of playing receiver, the more reps he gets, unless more than one of DaJon McKnight, Troy Stoudermire, Brandon Green, and Bryant Allen really asserts themselves, there's a starting spot there for Gray for the taking.

An Athletic D-Line
The more I read about our young, athletic D-line, the more excited I get. Brandon Kirksey could be a force inside, and how can you NOT get all amped up for redshirt frosh Rashede Hageman? a 6'6 280 pound freak of nature blowing over, around or through blockers off the edge? Sign me up!

The Home Schedule
Yes it's going to be tough, but when was the last time we've had USC, Penn State, Ohio State AND Iowa all come visit Dinkytown in the same season? Oh that's right, never. I'll take this schedule over Cupcake Central that we saw under Glen Mason every time. Now if we can just start competing and winning some of these games, it'll be even better.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Shhhhhh... I have a secret

I finally admitted it on the phone to my uncle on Friday evening.

I haven't even told Jeffrick yet.

I've really been trying to suppress it, but it bubbled out of me on Friday and for some reason, before the sun rises on this Sunday morning I'm prepared to share it with all of Gopher Nation.  Or at least the dozen or so people that read this blog when they are trying to kill some time.

I blame the media.  They've been printing quotes by Gopher players and coaches and they've seeped into my subconscious.

I blame some of the posters over at Gopher Hole because some of them have been talking about it for months as I lurked quietly back, shaking my head and rarely posting anything in response.

I'm beginning to feel a bit of optimism about this Gopher football team.

There... I said it.

I know, I know, I've been negative for months.  I was annoyed by Adam Weber all of last season.  I was disgusted by our play in the Insight Bowl against Iowa State.  I was skeptical of Brewster's insistence on there really a quarterback competition going on during the spring.

But as actual football is returning to our lives, my attitude toward what we might see on the field this fall is thawing out a bit.  

Here are a few things that I wasn't really thinking clearly about that currently have me a little bit excited.

*Yes, we lost 9 starters on defense.  Yes, that is a staggering number.  And yes, the two starters that ARE returning had an injury (Royston) and a run-in with the law (Theret), during the off-season that put them slightly in doubt for the upcoming fall.

But saying that we lost 9 starters on defense and then automatically assuming that that means this will be a completely inexperienced defense just isn't the case.

Consider that of the 13 games that the Gophers played last season Kim Royston, Kyle Theret, Keanon Cooper, Gary Tinsley,Ryan Collado, Michael Carter, Anthony Jacobs, Jewhan Edwards, D.L. Wilhite and Brandon Kirksey saw playing time in 11 or more of those games, and all are in the discussion to be projected starters this season.

Yes, the defense will be young, but it will also be filled with plenty of guys who have seen significant playing time, albeit not necessarily as starters.

*Jedd Fisch might be a pretty smart offensive game-plan guy, but when it comes to actual coaching he might be an idiot.  This is college football, this isn't the NFL, and by all accounts, Fisch installed an offense for the Gophers last fall that was filled with motion and intricacies that our players just weren't equipped to handle.

Add to that the fact that Fisch (and I'll put at least part of the blame here on Brewster because while Fisch was calling the plays, Brewster is STILL the head coach of this team and when the fish stinks, it stinks at the head) seemed more than willing to abandon the run in games painfully early last season and continually called plays that forced Weber to make throws into the flat (his least comfortable and least successful type of throw), and you begin to see why maybe it's not such a horrible thing that ol' Jedd headed west to try out NFL pastures.  That, and he's an idiot.

I'm not quite prepared to say that I'm super excited for Jeff Horton, but in retrospect, I'm pretty glad that Fisch is gone.  Additionally some of the things that I've been hearing have me at least intrigued about what Horton is doing with Weber and the offense.

Adam Weber, from the PiPress last week:
"We've had only 15 practices with coach Horton so far, but I already know that we're not going to try to trick ourselves," Weber said. "This style of play is more of a traditional style of football. For a while the spread became very popular, and it still is, but this style of play is more suited for the talent we have on our team. For me, I feel most comfortable in the I-formation with play-action fakes and being under center. That's what I was recruited to play. I wish I had more seasons with it."
A couple of things become clear from that quote.  First, Weber isn't in awe of the offense in the sense that it's over his head.  He seems to be comfortable with what is being installed and happy about getting back to something more simple.  Second, Jedd Fisch was an idiot.

Another point is that Weber appears to be in much better health than he was at this time last season.  Looking back, perhaps not enough was made of the fact that Weber was coming off of shoulder surgery and hadn't had the chance to condition in the off-season the way you'd like to heading into a Big Ten football season.

A guy who is confused by the offense he's trying to run and is also not confident in his body is a really good formula for a poor season... which is exactly what Weber had.

I would like nothing better than to see Adam Weber have the kind of season that he had in 2008, and with the  talent that he has around him, this could translate into some very good numbers.

*There are definitely a lot of expectations in place for the 2010 Gopher Football season... fortunately almost all of those expectations are very low.

You cannot find a place anywhere on the internet that predicts the Gophers to finish anywhere but the bottom three in the Big Ten.  In fact, in a completely unscientific research project, funded only by me and fueled by Diet Mountain Dew, I went to The Google, and searched "2010 Big Ten Football predictions." (My research methods are quite advanced, I know.)  Of the articles on the first page of results that actually ranked how they thought the Big Ten would pan out in 2010, EVERY SINGLE ONE predicted the Gophers to finish DEAD LAST in the conference.  (To which my wife replied "'s going to be a painful season.")  Every.  Single.  One.

Call it bulletin board material, call it motivation, call it whatever you want.  The fact is nobody expects us to do jack squat this year, and considering how last season ended, and considering that we lost perhaps the single best player in the history of the program from an offense that was... well, bad, that shouldn't be too surprising.

To quote a line from the Gin Blossoms song "Hey Jealousy": "If you don't expect to much from me, you might not be let down."

So here's to having low expectations... but secretly having a little bit of optimism.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Notes on some notes

Ladies and gentlemen of Gopher Nation... do you feel that?  Do you feel the rumble?  Can you feel the air moving?

THAT'S RIGHT GOPHER FANS... practice has started.  This morning at 6am I was running wind-sprints at the Gibson-Nagurski football complex... okay, that's not true, but the Gophers were.  And so it begins.  IT'S FOOTBALL SEASON!!!

Both the PiPress and the Strib (by the way, Phil Miller, welcome to the Gopher beat, you're already a breath of fresh air) had tidbits on the Gophers yesterday and I thought I'd add my own tidbits to their tidbits.

Marcus Fuller is reporting that Ra'Shede Hageman has become a beast.
"Former tight end Ra'Shede Hageman's transition into a load at defensive end amazes even Kirksey, a junior defensive tackle. They both bench press over 400 pounds, but Hageman power cleans 390 pounds."
Hageman looks like he could make an impact on the D-line as a redshirt freshman and how nice would it be to see a true pass rushing and run stuffing, long and lean lineman coming off the end.  Also, remember when this guy chose to go to Minnesota because he wanted to play TE?  Doesn't look like he's got much interest in lining up on the offensive side of the ball anymore.

Fuller also talked to Brandon Kirksey, who will be a team captain this fall, and Kirk is ready to step up and, along with his coaches, expects to be one of the top D-tackles in the conference.

"Gophers coach Tim Brewster said the 295-pound Kirksey has a chance to be one of the top defensive tackles in the Big Ten this year. 
The St. Louis native said he's been hearing that kind of praise from his defensive line coach Tim Cross since last season ended, and even more after he was named a captain.
'It motivates me to know that my coach feels that way about me,' he said. 'It's nothing new. Coach Cross and I always talk about it, but it's time to fill the shoes.'"
I have loved our defense that last couple of years, and I feel like they got a bad wrap in 2009 because they were constantly playing from behind and having to make up for where the offense left off, but with 9 starters graduating, there's been some concern about them.  But I'm getting more and more excited to see how this defense performs.  It definitely is lacking experience, but by all accounts they are a more talented group than we've seen the last couple of years.

PhiMill says that Brewster and his staff will be isolating the freshman for the first 3 days of practice in order to give them more individualized attention.

"Freshmen will take the field at 9 a.m. each morning, and everyone else will practice at 3:30 p.m. After a weekend of coaching emphasis on fundamentals and technique, the newcomers will join the vets on Monday as regular two-a-days begin.
'It will help, most importantly, from a confidence standpoint,' Brewster said of his 20-member freshmen class. 'They'll go into the fourth day with the older guys much more confident.'"

Here we go folks.  We're going to start getting reporting on ACTUAL football, not just quotes and jottings and conference expansion and realignment and recruiting, but actual football!!!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Spending our time in the doldrums

"I was spending my time in the doldrums..." is the opening line of the song "Lost For Words" by Pink Floyd.  It's one of those songs that I haven't actually heard for probably a decade, but it sometimes pops into my head, and that opening line in particular describes how I feel about these last days of the summer of 2010 without Big Ten Football.

I really wanted to be excited about Big Ten media days.  I really wanted to be excited about hearing what Brandon Kirksey, Kim Royston, Adam Weber and Coach Brewster have to say about the upcoming Gopher Football season.  I had convinced myself I was going to follow it closely and write blog posts about it and that it was going to be an exciting way to jump into the football season.

But then I realized something... it's all just talk, it isn't football, and it isn't quite quenching my thirst for Gopher Football like I was hoping.

Then something else happened.  As a fan of the Vikings, the news hit today that Brett Favre (allegedly) will be retiring for real this time.  Suddenly I was thinking "this is good, this will be a good distraction for a couple of days until Gopher football practice kicks off."  But you know what?  I got bored with the Brett Favre news in about 20 minutes.

So here I sit again, spending my time in the doldrums, just waiting for Gopher football season to start.  I can't wait for the talk and the speculation to stop and for the season to just begin.  I even think that I might be excited about practices (it's possible I'll be wrong about my excitement for practice like I was excited about media days) because at least we'll be hearing about how the players are performing and who looks good, instead of just the constant speculation.

All I can say is bring on the football!