Sunday, August 10, 2008

A New Home And Partner

This will be the last post in PJS history. (Tears).

We're ready to launch a new Web site dedicated to Minnesota Gophers sports. It's www.thedailygopher.com.

While I'm pleased to be shedding the aesthetically-challenged Blogger platform, what I'm most excited about is the partnerships that will be on display at www.thedailygopher.com. I'm teaming with Tom from Gopher Nation, who in my opinion does a downright fantastic job covering the Gophers. I believe our differing approaches will bode well for the reader. We have different strengths, weaknesses and writing styles.

The new site will be on the SBN platform. That means we'll be joining talented bloggers like A Sea of Blue, Black Shoe Diaries, Black Heart/Gold Pants, Burnt Orange Nation, and many others, including The Daily Norseman (one of my stops for Vikings coverage). Combine that with our friendships with the Big Ten Bloggers Group, and we should be able to bring our readers the best college sports coverage from around the blogosphere.

The SBN sites allow for tremendous reader interaction with the site, giving you the ability to create your own posts or add video, links or other items you'd like to share with the Gophers community.

We hope you'll join us at www.thedailygopher.com, because Tom and I are both looking forward to analyzing, opining, and even reporting a little on the Gophers at our new site. We've been looking forward to this all summer and it's finally here. Hope to see you over at The Daily Gopher shortly.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Dominic Jones Is A Number

Excellent article today by the Star Tribune's Rochelle Olson on life in prison through the eyes of former Minnesota Gophers defensive back Dominic Jones.

Choice quote from the lede: "Number 00425759. That's my number," Jones said. "My name now is Inmate. It's not Dominic Jones."

I highly recommend you read the entire article. Great reporting by Ms. Olson.

In this case, I believe the punishment fits the crime (though I could argue it could have been more harsh), but I do have one question. Does reducing one's existence to a serial number work towards rehabilitation?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

So, How Did Brewster Fare On Media Day?

Well, Tim Brewster is what he is. There's clearly no changing him. Even after a year of snarky comments from fans, columnists, bloggers and opponents, our young ball coach remains the bundle of unbridled optimism he was all year last year.

When Brewster took the podium at Big Ten media day this week, looking rather sharp I might add, Brewster promptly said he had "tremendous optimism" and was "excited." I smiled after hearing his comments, because, well, this is Tim Brewster he is who we thought he was:.

"All in all I couldn't be more excited as we stand here today with the 2008 season getting ready to start," Brewster said.

I'm not going to pick on Brewster for the optimism anymore, but I still don't like the expectations he puts on his players or his position that talent is all that matters and schemes aren't as important.

Anyway, here are some highlights of his speech, followed by video of his address to the media.

*** He admitted the team defense was horrible, and suggested that his highly-ranked recruiting class could shore up some defensive weaknesses.

"We went about correcting that situation," he said.

The defense wasn't just bad last season, it was an embarrassment. Even an OK defense in 2008 would be a huge improvement.

*** Brewster "couldn't be more excited" about having Adam Weber back as the starting quarterback. I disagree with this and don't think this job should be handed to Weber, but I'll talk more about that at a later time.

*** Brewster believes Eric Decker will be one of the top receivers in the country. Not the Big Ten. The NCAA. I like Decker. He's a very nice receiver. But I really wish Brewster wouldn't put that type of expectations on his players. Harold Howell comes to mind.

*** Apparently one of Brewster's favorite things to say to his players is "If you really love football, football will love you back."

*** Asked how style and schemes would change to improves his defense, Brewster instead talked about talent and athleticism. This tells me that Brewster didn't think there were any Xs and Os issues in 2007. Were there talent issues? Yes. Athleticism issues especially at linebacker? You bet. But I would rather see Brewster take a balanced approach here and not state publicly that he is simply relying on talent and "hungrier players."

*** Brewster compared MarQueis Gray to Vince Young. Again, I wish Brewster wouldn't put these types of comparisons out there!!! It only creates unfair expectations.




*** Rivals' Tom Dienhart gives Brewster the "Most Inspirational" award for Big Ten media day. I can't disagree, but think Brewster should also have been in the running for Best Dressed. Dienhart wrote: "His passion and fire had this writer ready to run through the buffet line with gusto. Brewster should be a general."

*** John Lemon and Lindsey Willhite of The Daily Herald have a brief in their media day recap titled "Brewster enthusiastic." I guess that's better than whatever the opposite might be.

*** Before he faced the Big Ten media, Charley Walters asked Brewster what he thought about being picked by the media, and just about everyone with a pen, to finish last in the conference. Brewster doesn't think the media knows what it's talking about: "The writers, they don't have any clue, truly, about these kids. So basically what they're doing is basing their prognostication off of last year."

*** ESPN's Adam Rittenberg put together a nice post on Brewster's strategic decision to add experienced talent that can help right away by concentrating on the JUCO ranks. After talking to Brewster, Rittenberg writes Tramaine Brock will start at safety, Traye Simmons at corner back, Rex Sharpe at linebacker and Cedric McKinley will get some time on the Gophers' defensive line.

*** WNUR noted Brewster's bone-headed comment of the day. In the video above if you watch it, Brewster states "“you need to take 2 steps backward to take one step forward." Ooops. The WNUR staff also felt as if Brewster was "yelling" at them, and suggested motivational speaking for a future endeavor for Brewster. I'm not sure that's funny anymore.

(CLARIFICATION: Upon further review, and as noted by a commenter, Brewster actually said "You need to take two steps backward to take one big step forward.")

*** Instead of making fun of Brewster's optimism or energy, Jeff Rice of the Centre Daily Times reported on the Gophers' highly ranked recruiting class.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Royce White v. Damien Johnson

Royce White, who we're all excited to be donning maroon and gold come fall 2009, has given the punditocracy another reason to question his maturity.

In an item I didn't see until it was pointed out to me today, it's reported that White had a little altercation with Damian Johnson during a summer league game. Now, White insists it was simply competitive sparring. But the funny business got him ejected.

This Star Tribune blog post by Myron Medcalf (after burying the lede) informs us that White was tossed for trash talking and throwing a ball at Johnson's back when he was turned away. Yeah, that's not cool, considering Johnson was arguably the Gophers' MVP last season and was easily the player who grew the most under Tubby Smith. Show some respect, Royce!

Medcalf also decides to paraphrase Tubby Smith second hand. Here's the paragraph that made the editor in me cringe:

Tubby Smith was upset and befuddled when he learned about White’s verbal
sparring session with his future teammate. During a conversation with a
colleague, Smith questioned White’s immaturity.
I believe Tubby would be questioning White's "maturity," and this incident might give credence to those who suggest White is "immature." Whatever.

This little note proves two things to us: 1) Royce White hasn't learned a microscope is on him and 2) the Star Tribune isn't going to save us from another year of questionable reporting and grammar from pup reporter Myron Medcalf.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tollackson Update

Blogging continues to be sparse, but there is a good reason. I swear! Should have an announcement in the coming days/weeks that I think many of you will like.

Meantime, check out this article from the Chaska Herald that was sent in by a reader that updates everyone on the status of graduated center Spencer Tollackson. He's going to play pro ball in Europe. Good for him. He wasn't the greatest of centers to grace the Williams Arena floor talent-wise, but he played up to his potential, IMO, and gave us all he had.

Congratulations, Spencer.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Playing Catch Up.... Again

OK, everyone needs to scold me. Each week I intend to get back into the swing of things here and then either life or the day job keeps me away. I will admit some summertime (read: off season) boredom.

Nonetheless, I'm still here. And a new site is still in the works as I promised months ago. For today, let's catch up again on what has been going on in Gopher Nation.

*** Larry Vought of Kentucky's Scout site sat down with Tubby Smith for a five part interview that is available at the following links and does NOT require subscription.

Part 1: Tubby talks about leaving UK, the reception he received in Minnesota, and Tubby was asked the tired question of the Minnesota weather.

Part 2: Tubby discusses Rajon Rando and the post UK successes of his former players.

Part 3: Tubby discusses his son Saul's progress as a coach.

Part 4: Tubby talks about the differences, or lack thereof, in recruiting in Minny as opposed to UK. He also weighs in on camps recruiting young kids.

Part 5: Tubby tells Vought he "never thinks about retiring." Good to hear!

(HT-A Sea of Blue)

*** Interesting that this week Lute Olson of Arizona comes out and says he will no longer recruit one-and-done players. I'd agree with that perspective if all coaches were on board. As it is, they aren't. In this ESPN piece, Jim Boeheim said "Are you crazy?" when asked if he would follow suit. Our Orlando Tubby Smith? He says "Even it is for one year, they can do a lot for you." I understand Lute here, but see no reason why Tubby should put unnecessary restrictions on the Gophers until the entire college basketball community puts a stop to this practice. How about doing what college baseball does? If you don't go directly from high school to minor league baseball, you have to play at least three seasons of collegiate ball?

*** Chris Diggs' UK blog at the Louisville Courier-Journal asks why Billy Gillispie was savaged for "cradle robbing" when he received a verbal commitment from 8th grade 15-year-old Michael Avery, while Billy Donovan was praised for his recruitment of 9th grade 15-year-old Austin Rivers (son of Doc).

Like the Avery recruitment, I tend to think the Rivers recruitment is a bit of a stretch. But there is one obvious difference. Rivers is in his freshman year of high school. Avery wasn't.

But perhaps one other reason the reaction to the Avery commitment was much more harsh, is the different perceptions of Gillispie and Donovan. Like it or not, Donovan exudes class. Gillispie, in my opinion, comes off as crass. It might not be accurate or fair, but it doesn't mean that personal reputations of coaches doesn't play into the reactions of the punditry in cases like this.

Ken Howlett at A Sea of Blue is also up in arms over the differing takes on recruitment.

*** Excited about Tubby Smith's sophomore season? I am. Incoming JUCO swingman Devron Bostick continues to rack up the accolades. Already the recipient of the National Junior College Athletic Association Player of the Year award, this week Bostick was named the David Rowlands Male Student Athlete of the Year. For Southwestern Illinois College, Bostick put up 18.2 points and five rebounds per game.

And he's made quite the splash in the Howard Pulley summer league, teaming up with my favorite Gopher Damian Johnson. Per Rivals (subscription), Bostick is sticking it from beyond the arc, against competition like Troy Bell and Kammron Taylor. Against those foes, Bostick scored a dominant 38 points. Rivals suggests he is explosive enough to help the Gophers from day one. Good news!

*** One area where the commenters on the forums are worried concerns Devoe Joseph. The last we reported here, Devoe was going to be on campus this summer, skip the Canadian Nationals and get to school and start working out at the U. Devoe won't be here until the fall now, according to Sid Hartman, who called the development a "blow" to Tubby Smith. It's not ideal. It'd be great of Devoe was playing ball alongside Johnson and Bostick or Sampson and Iverson.

*** KSTP TV has a nice update on Sam Maresh, where the Champlain Park linebacker, talks about dealing with having heart surgery. He wants to come back and play. And also a great move by Tim Brewster here. At the end of the story it is noted that Brewster "has promised Maresh that he will be the one to carry the school's flag as the team runs out of the tunnel in their new stadium in 2009, whether he's wearing street clothes or football pads."

That's all for today. Have a good weekend everyone!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Playing Catch Up

The holiday weekend, and a mini hiatus beforehand, has left a lot of catching up to do for those who come here to follow Gophers sports. Here are some of the "need to knows" from the last week or so.

Hope everyone had a relaxing 4th of July weekend.

*** Per Twin Cities Boys Hoops we learn of Scout's updated 2009 high school basketball rankings. Minnesota commit Royce White is ranked #32, up from #38. Rodney Williams drops from #45 to # 57.

*** Incoming freshman guard Devoe Joseph will be on campus shortly, according to Sid Hartman, as he will not be playing with the Canadian National Team in Olympic qualifying games as some had expected. That should leave Paul Carter as the only incoming player to not be on campus or en route. Carter has some classwork to finish reportedly.

*** Marcus Fuller of the PiPress chronicles Ralph Sampson III and Colton Iverson playing on the same team together in the Howard Pulley summer league. On the floor at the same time together, Iverson played the center position and Sampson the power forward position. Both players seem to like their respective positions. Iverson is a tad stronger (6'11, 250, compared to Sampson's 6'11, 235) and Sampson is known as more of a finesse player. Good article from Fuller.

*** Charley Walters also reports from the Howard Pulley summer league. He quotes former Gophers guard Terry Kunze as calling Devron Bostick "the real deal," and the recruit that will be the team's "top player." A common thread among Fuller's report, and Walters' convo with Kunze is the thought that Sampson needs to either get "stronger" or "more assertive."

*** Something called The Gopher Wagon is touring the state of Minnesota with Joel Maturi.

*** Ohio State blog From the Mind of Minnich suggests Brewster's Gophers will be the "dregs of th Big Ten," and wonders if the Mason firing/Brewster hiring reminds us of the song "Big Yellow Taxi."

*** The Realests offer a Minnesota football preview. If you don't like potshots at Brewster, don't click on the link).

*** In a thorough Big Ten preview, the blog Putting up Bricks pegs the Gophers at 3-9 in 2008. Hey, a two game improvement wouldn't be bad!

*** In this set of Sid jottings, we learn that Joel Maturi is still after Texas for a football home and home and that former Minnesota wide receiver Ernie Wheelright has signed a free agent rookie contract with the Baltimore Ravens. Regarding the Texas home and home, this would be great if it is a few years down the road (and it would be). The Gophers need a couple more highly touted recruiting classes to not get laughed out of the stadium.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Friday Randomness Explains Why The NBA Has Been Dead To Me

I guess it began around the time it became clear the Timberwolves weren't going to be able to put together sustained success with Kevin Garnett. But, now that I think about it, the NBA has been relatively dead to me for quite some time.

I think the tipping point came when Latrell Sprewell, in one of those never-forget moments made the absurd statement, after turning down a contract that wasn't to his liking, that he had to feed his family. That struck the sports world as one of the most arrogant comments ever uttered by a multi-million dollar professional ball player. For me, I looked at my own family. My father worked in construction and later at the Ford plant in St. Paul. My mother worked in a school kitchen. They had to worry about feeding their blue-collar family.

While Sprewell's arrogance likely pushed me over the edge, I had thought since childhood the college basketball game was the superior game. College basketball is predicated on teamwork. NBA is predicated on one-on-one isolation's. Having been a student of basketball, the former to me has been more appealing.

In watching the NBA draft last night, Dick Vitale went on a rant that made a lot of sense to me. The NBA's decision to force high school players into one year of college ball is hurting the college game, and giving me another reason to look at the pros with disdain. I don't begrudge LeBron James, Kevin Garnett or any other uber-talent from taking the money when they can. But, as Vitale said, forcing some of these talents into the college game is a detriment to the game many of us love. Many of these one-and-doners don't want to be in college. They don't care about academics. Pretty soon, won't some of these kids go to Europe for the early money, not to mention the appreciating Euro versus the depreciating dollar?

Vitale's suggestion was that players could come to the NBA out of high school should there talent merit that. But if they choose college, they ought to stay for at least three years. Baseball forces its amateurs to do the exact same thing.

So it was that I watched the NBA draft last night, hoping to see the Wolves make the right pick. They did, and later traded it (I'm not going to rant about this). But what stuck out to anybody watching was the shear number of college freshman that comprised the first 15 or so picks. This can't be good for anybody.

And it makes me, someone who is having trouble coming back to the NBA, less likely to return. But if I had three years to get to know OJ Mayo at USC or Kevin Love at UCLA, I might be more inclined to follow their careers at the pro level. Those extra years seemed to serve Tim Duncan well.

*** Tim Brewster's prized in state recruit Sam Maresh underwent heart surgery Thursday at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. No one knows if Maresh will play ball again, but he certainly has his sights set on it. Our best wishes go out to Maresh, his family and our hopes is for a speedy recovery.

*** Tom at Gopher Nation has a poll ongoing asking for your honest opinion about Tim Brewster, Glen Mason and the coaching situation with the football program. Share your opinion here.

*** Victoria's Secret and Goldy aren't friends. Shame.

*** The Big Ten Bloggers teamed up for more fearless predictions. I didn't have time to put significant thought into them, so I passed. But our friends who live and die with Northwestern, Lake the Posts, has the results here.

*** I'm getting some criticism from UK quarters for the most recent guest post I authored at 10,000 Takes. The point I was trying to make was that in the NABC's decision to try and put an end to kiddy-recruitment, Tubby Smith (president of NABC) looks good, while Billy Gillispie (who for right or wrong is the current face of kiddy-recruitment) doesn't look as good. I suggested Tubby might be getting some enjoyment out of this. I shouldn't have applied motives to Tubby, but I do believe Tubby looks like a statesman here and Gillispie looks like he lost a recruiting tactic some see as questionable. Tru at A Sea of Blue is right here, I could have done better.

That's it for now. Have a great weekend. The in-laws are coming to town here. Yikes!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Your New Gophers: Keanon Cooper

PJS Note: In an effort to prepare you for the myriad new faces on Tim Brewster's 2008Golden Gophers, we're going to methodically brief you on each newcomer. To Brewster's credit the Gophers compiled their best recruiting class in recent memory (17th best in the country by Rivals' rankings).

Your New Gophers: Keanon Cooper

There is no question that one of Minnesota's two primary weaknesses last season was in the secondary. This is nothing new for Minnesota, as the Gophers have traditionally struggled to stop high-flying, spread offense teams. But with Tim Brewster installing the spread offense himself, moving away from the ball control offense under Glen Mason, the secondary needs to be that much better. The quicker the Gophers score, the more possessions the opponent is going to have to exploit a beleaguered secondary. Brewster knew this and addressed it with his 2008 recruiting class.

One newcomer who could have an immediate impact is Dallas Skyline safety Keanon Cooper, a 6' 190 pound athlete who could have went to a number of programs including Michigan, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Miami or Kansas.

But the biggest obstacle in Minnesota's way for Cooper was Texas Tech, where he originally committed. But Cooper decided to drop that commitment and join three of his high school friends who had also committed to the University. We'll get to Cooper's classmates at a later date, but this should indicate one reason why Cooper picked the Gophers.

Cooper is ranked as Rivals' 24th best safety in the country (though he also could be played at outside linebacker, where a lack of quickness was another weakness for the Gophers), and was one of two Gophers to make the site's Big Ten Signing Day Dream Team, the other being quarterback Marqueis Gray.

Academically, Cooper seems to be anything but a problem child, having finished in the top quarter of his senior class. He's described by his coach as an "outstanding student" and "a relentless player."

ESPN.Com's Football Recruiting Blog called Cooper perhaps "the most versatile defensive prospect in this class." By versatile, ESPN means exactly that. They go on to praise him for wreaking havoc at safety, linebacker and even defensive end. That to me sounds versatile! So, while Cooper is listed as a safety, don't be surprised if he is used in all sorts of places. It's up to new defensive coordinator Ted Roof to put him in position to succeed. Let's hope Roof gets creative.