Friday, August 29, 2008
Anyone who reads this blog regularly, as well as having a pretty sad life, knows that although I have a passing interest in college football, my knowledge is as limited as Jason Kubel's range in the outfield. However, since this is, first and foremost, a Gopher blog I might as well give some kind of preview. Even if most of the info is directly stolen from other sites (including, but not limited to, The Daily Gopher, Gopher Football Blog, and Buck Bravo) at least I can give my own thoughts on this stuff.
Before I get started, let me address the big brou-ha-ha over Brewster recruiting academically questionable kids. Well, no shit. How else is a mediocre-to-embarrassing program going to turn around? By getting the same kinds of kids Mason got every year? No. And you aren't going to get the blue chip recruits with good academic backgrounds just by hiring a coach whose most impressive credential is being a TE coach and having a new stadium coming on the horizon. Winning brings the good kids in. At a place like Minnesota, at least for now, you're either going to sacrifice talent or character. They've been sacrificing talent, it's time to try something new. If it works, it's a homerun, but let's no vilify the guy if he whiffs. There are a million other reasons to vilify him.
With that said, on to the preview:
OFFENSE: Adam Weber is back to lead the offense after having the greatest quarterbacking season in the history of the world. He only loses one of his receiving weapons, Ernie Wheelwright whose claim to fame was earning All-American Status in NCAA 07, but what should we expect? The returning receivers aren't anything special - sorry Eric Decker, but you're not - although TE Jack Simmons has a chance to be an impact player. Not Dustin Keller impact, but impact. The overall receiving corps gets quite a nice influx of talent, with at least three high-profile freshmen expected to make a splash.
But will Weber be able to take his game up a notch with better weapons at his disposal? His numbers were excellent last season, but running the BYU/Houston/Hawaii style spread offense the QBs numbers are pretty much guaranteed to seem impressive. Add in the world's worst defense and all that comes with it, playing from behind as well as a lot of possessions, and of course his numbers will be out of this world. But from watching Weber last season, he has a long, long way to go. He was, without question, one of the least accurate quarterbacks I can remember not named Bryan Cupito, and the numbers back this up as he had one of the worst completion percentages in the Big Ten and threw the most interceptions. His rushing numbers look good because he would generally take a three step drop, make one read, and if it wasn't there take off running. Honestly, I've seen nothing out of Weber that makes me optimistic this season, and that's why this whole MarQueis Gray thing is such a bummer, as there is nothing behind Weber at all, so it's him, whatever may come. Great. Bring on Alipate already.
Oh yeah, there's running backs too. And an o-line. What used to always be the strengths of Gopher teams. Too bad the last two years pretty much haven't had anything that could qualify as a strength. Gone are the Barber, Maroney, and Russell days. The Gophers will likely have a multi-headed rushing attack again, but not due to too much talent, but too little. Unless one of the new guys can burst onto the scene, expect Jay Thomas and Duane Bennett to rotate being mediocre. Combine this with a line that could be a trouble spot, and the offense looks like a mess for the second year in a row.
DEFENSE: How bad do you have to suck to be last in your conference in both rush and pass defense? It's the rare double dip the Gophers pulled off last sesaon, and giving up 42 points to Florida Atlantic is nothing short of stunning. The bad news is that there isn't much to look forward to. The good news is this preview is almost over.
Starting up front, if Willie VandeSteeg can rebound from his wrist injury, he's at least a pretty decent pass rusher. The rest of the line is experienced, but they are experienced at sucking. The best case would be for some of the youngsters to rapidly improve and take over starting spots early in the year.
Deon Hightower and Steve Davis are guys I've at least heard of. They're back and could bring some respectability to the LBs, although I doubt it. Gopher Football Blog guy has a crush on Simoni Lawrence, who could be either a safety or linebacker, and is said to have the "speed of a safety" and the physical tools of a linebacker. Maybe he should just play all the positions.
Brewster went for a major re-tooling of the defensive backfield, which was badly needed considering there wasn't a single player last year who could cover anybody ever. JUCO d-backs Tramaine Brock and Traye Simmons will immediately jump into the lineup, while former WR Marcus Sherels will probably start at a corner. Most of the depth will come from freshmen. Other than Kyle Theret and Ryan Collado, the whole unit will be new. What does this mean? I don't know, but it can't be worse than last year. Unless it is.
LOSS vs. Northern Illinois: Yes, the Huskies were only 2-10 last season, but they were hurt by injuries and have pretty much the whole team back. Watch for HB Justin Anderson to rip through the Gophers on the way to a high scoring win.
LOSS at Bowling Green: Wow, swept out of a home-and-home by a MAC team, huh? Believe it. Remember Tyler Sheehan? Threw for almost 400 yards against the Gophers last year? Yeah, he's back and so are all his receivers.
WIN vs. Montana State: Call me optimistic, but I think the Gophers can handle a I-AA opponent this season. I'm just a homer like that.
WIN vs. Florida Atlantic: Cautiously predicting a win here, based mainly on the revenge factor after losing at FAU last season. Expect this game to be 63-60, and the only two-game win streak of Brewster's short career.
LOSS at Ohio State: This one is going to be ugly.
LOSS vs. Indiana: A young team continues to build off it's success last season and plays even better this year. With four starters back on the O-Line to protect Kellen Lewis he takes another step forward in his Junior season. Pay attention Gopher fans, Lewis is what you want out of Weber.
LOSS @ Illinois: THE JUICE IS LOOSE!!!!11.s
LOSS @ Purdue: Drew Brees, Kyle Orton, Curtis Painter - it doesn't matter. It's a plug-and-play system up there and they pretty much light up the Gophers every time. Painter lost a couple of his weapons, but the receiver position there is pretty much plug-and-play as well.
LOSS vs. Northwestern: Yet another game on the schedule where nobody will bother to play any defense, the Wildcats are always tough for the Gophers to stop and with all their skill players back on offense could put up an 80 spot.
WIN vs. Michigan: I know it's weird to pick a win here, but I think Michigan is going to be way down this season. Of course, down for them is pretty good for anybody else. I think they'll manage to fight their way to a decent season, and the schedule sets up for them to come into the dome on a roll, where they will overlook the Gophers and get beat. Book it.
LOSS @ Wisconsin: Zero percent change of having the possibility of a prayer to even compete.
LOSS vs. Iowa: Did you know everyone in Iowa hates Ferentz now? It's because ever since he got the fat contract they haven't done squat. True Story. Still can beat the Gophers though. Handily.
So there it is. The blueprint to a 3-9 season. I also fully expect Brewster to have a full-on breakdown at some point, which will probably be the most entertainment Gopher fans get this season. Take heart, at least they'll have a high draft pick next year.