Ugly ending for GophersThe Insight Bowl was barely over, and coach Tim Brewster was giving his wish list for the Gophers. More athleticism. More strength. More size. Sounds like the desire of every team in the country.
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Insight Bowl was barely over, and coach Tim Brewster was giving his wish list for the Gophers.
More athleticism. More strength. More size. Sounds like the desire of every team in the country.
“That’s our commitment. That’s what we’re going to do,” Brewster said.
Progress toward those goals has already been made in recruiting, but those are paper improvements. When Minnesota takes the field at TCF Bank Stadium in September with another influx of new players, the fans will start to find out more about Brewster’s ability to attract and maximize top talent and successfully strategize around them. The number of coach Glen Mason’s players still around is fast decreasing, and in the third year of his tenure Brewster’s fingerprints on the program will be indelible.
Brewster took a big step even before Wednesday’s 42-21 loss to Kansas, the Gophers’ third straight defeat in a bowl game, by hiring Tim Davis as his offensive line coach and running game coordinator. Mike Dunbar, the offensive coordinator, had his role reduced to focus on the passing attack.
The spread scheme Dunbar was brought in to implement has not been effective, particularly with the ground game, so the Gophers spent their practices between the end of the regular season and the Insight Bowl incorporating some of the power running principles they used quite well under Mason. The linemen are in three-point stances more often, and fewer snaps taken by quarterback Adam Weber are from the shotgun.
“I am pleased with what we added to our offense,” Brewster said. “I think we will get better as we move forward. Our players were excited about putting their hand on the ground and coming off the ball and doing some things that way. Obviously it’s very disappointing when you are fourth-and-inches on the goal line and don’t get in — and a third-and-one that we didn’t convert.”
He was talking about two notable failures against the Jayhawks, signs that the Gophers have a lot of work to do in the offseason to become a quality offensive team.
“The truly exciting thing about us on offense: We don’t lose one player,” Brewster said. “We bring every single player back.”
Wide receiver Eric Decker leads the list. After having arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, one of several injuries that slowed him during his junior year, Decker came back strong with eight receptions, 149 yards and a touchdown in the bowl game.
As long as he doesn’t decide to turn pro in baseball this summer, Decker will give the Gophers a solid foundation to build around.
“We started off strong, and we’ve got to learn how to finish,” said Decker, referring to the five-game losing streak they closed the season on to finish 7-6 after going 1-11 in Brewster’s first year.
Decker added: “We are so young right now. I think we’ll just get a lot better in the offseason.”
The schedule will be more difficult in 2009, so improvement must be made if the Gophers are going to win a bowl game next season — let alone reach that elusive goal of playing in an elite-level bowl in January.
Outgoing senior linebacker Deon Hightower, at least, offered an optimistic evaluation.
“I think the program, it is just on the up and up right now,” he said.