Thursday, August 30, 2007

U Athletic Department Misleads About BTN

I'm sitting in my Northern Virginia home right now watching the Big Ten Network. So far, I'm unimpressed. But it's early. I'll give the network time.

Unfortunately, I'm likely in the minority of Minnesota Gophers fans who are able to watch the Big Ten Network right now. The largest cable operation in Minnesota, Comcast, has yet to sign on the dotted line with the Big Ten for it's money grab. I haven't opined about this from my digital soapbox because, well, it doesn't impact me. But it impacts many of you.

And I can't help but be slightly outraged by the contradictory press release sent out by the UofM today. Here's a snippet from the release.

"The new Big Ten Channel will result in higher visibility for Gopher athletics and the entire University of Minnesota both in our state and nationally," said Athletics Director Joel Maturi.

The Big Ten Network will provide more exposure for football and basketball and for sports programs that traditionally have received little or no television coverage such as baseball, soccer, gymnastics, volleyball and wrestling.

And there will be a dramatic increase in the amount of televised women's sports. More than 60 Big Ten women's basketball games will be broadcast this coming year, doubling the previous average. Within one year, women's sports will comprise half the network's sports programming.

The Big Ten Conference is the second conference to launch its own television network, but it is the first to have guaranteed national distribution. Available nationwide with Direct TV satellite and some smaller cable networks, the BTN is still negotiating with larger cable operators to expand its availability in the future.

The BTN can't be both a venue to add exposure for Big Ten teams while failing to come to an agreement with many large cable outlets throughout the country. The BTN has concentrated on cable companies in states that are home to conference teams. The network fails to realize it is 2007 and we live in an increasingly small world. I know many Big Ten fans working in the nation's capital. They'll need DirecTV to see many of the games they could otherwise have seen on their normal cable operator a year ago.

I'm not going to get into whether or not the BTN is asking too much per subscriber from Comcast and others or if the cable operators are in the wrong. What I will say is this propaganda from the University of Minnesota needs to stop, or at least include a dose of honesty.

Big Ten Bloggers Roundtable Week 1

As many of you know, many of us Big Ten bloggers have joined together to create an unstoppable force known as the Big Ten Bloggers. Behind the scenes we talk an assortment of trash. In pubilc, we bring you "roundtables" and other fun stuff. This gives everyone a chance to check out the great bloggers from around college sports.

This week, Sean at Aroud the Oval agreed to host the first in a series of roundtables. He essentially came up with a few questions which we'll all answer in our unique ways. In the future, we'll also do a pick-em type thing and give you assorted other goodies.

What follows is my response to the Week 1 roundtable.

Which player from your own team are you most looking forward to watching? I have to go with Adam Weber here. He's a redshirt freshman and is being handed the starting job in the first year of Tim Brewster's and Mike Dunbar's spread offense. Weber is a dual-threat type and will allow the Gophers to effectively run the option. That should create a new dimension in a still strong running game to go along with the benefits of the spread. If Weber struggles, I wouldn't be surprised if it's true freshman, and Brewster's son, Clint, that took over at quarterback instead of the surpassed junior Tony Mortensen.

Which player from another Big Ten team are you most looking forward to watching? I'm going here with Michigan's enigmatic running back Mike Hart. For those who wonder why, check this link. My point is, Hart runs his mouth. Combine talent and quotability and Hart should be entertaining.

If your team was an action move star, who would it be? Strange and tough question to answer. But I'm going with Russell Crowe, more for his off-camera personality than the characters he has played. Crowe is brash, arrogant and outspoken. New Minnesota head coach, to be kind, is outspoken and confident. Brewster came in proclaiming he would take the Gophers to Pasadena. That strikes me as slightly arrogant coming from a coach with no head coaching or coordinator experience. That said, Brewster has turned many a Minnesota fan into believers. Crowe delivers on screen. Will Brewster back up his talk on the field?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

It's Weber's Team

Tim Brewster named redshirt freshman Adam Weber his starting quarterback today, which isn't a surprise if you've been following camp. But Weber came into camp as the #2 behind junior Tony Mortensen.

Weber gives the Gophers an added dimension with the athleticism to run the option. The Pioneer Press has a story up here. An AP version is here, and in that report Brewster says he won't have a "quick hook" on Weber. To me that means Weber is the guy until he proves incapable of running the team.

The Star Tribune's Chip Scoggins, on his blog, reports a few other camp battle results. Freshmen wideout Tray Herndon will start as the slot receiver alongside Ernie Wheelright and Eric Decker. Decker will join freshmen Harold Howell on punt returns. And Scoggins reports the second-team secondary looks a little weak. That group includes wideout-turned-corner Mike Chambers and three true freshman.

Blogpoll: Take 2, Preseason

RankTeamDelta
1Southern Cal--
2West Virginia 1
3LSU 1
4Florida--
5Texas--
6Wisconsin--
7Virginia Tech--
8Oklahoma--
9Michigan--
10Louisville--
11California--
12Tennessee--
13Ohio State 1
14Arkansas 4
15TCU 2
16Hawaii 1
17Auburn 1
18UCLA 1
19Rutgers--
20Nebraska--
21Penn State 2
22Wake Forest--
23Oregon State 2
24Oregon--
25Boston College--

Dropped Out:


Not many changes here in my second Blogpoll ballot. I moved West Virginia up one notch because I actually want to pick them #1, but I'm too wary of the USC juggernaut to make that leap.

I think I am probably too high still on TCU and Hawaii, but I believe one or both will be ranked in the top 15 by the end of the year, if not contend for a BSC slot.

I was tempted to drop Wisconsin down, consdering I received a few emails from Badger fans suggesting I had them up too high. Afraid of the expectations Badger fans.

I can amend this until tomorrow, so if you have any thoughts and would like to have a hand in the Blogpoll, here's your chance.

Catching Up

I'm going to unveil the preseason Week 2 Blogpoll this afternoon, but before I do that, there were a few items that caught my eye during my blogging hiatus. And rumor has it Tim Brewster is going to unveil his starting quarterback this afternoon. We'll see if the speculation that redshirt freshman Adam Weber is the guy turns out to be true.

** First, Nathen Garth has decommitted from Tubby Smith's Gophers. On its face, this would appear to belong in the not-so-good news department. But the GopherHole quoted Garth as stating that the decision might have had more to do with playing time--that is he wouldn't get what he intially thought. Here's the quote:

"This re-opening was not basketball related. Coach Smith never doubted my talent or game. It was something I wanted to do and Coach Smith was supportive of my decision. Since the roster at Minnesota has changed with Al Nolen being qualified, he told me the opportunities I was presented before, were different now."
When I first learned of the Garth decommitment I was worried. But after hearing that from Garth, I'm breathing a little easier. It would appear Tubby and his crew might think they can do better elsewhere. That said, Tubby has to get to work. The only other commitment Tubby has secured is from JUCO forward Paul Carter.

** I found this little reporting amusing. The Post and Courier of Charleston reported today that Tim Brewster went hard after Tommy Bowden's offensive coordinator Rob Spence. Here's what was reported.

Brewster, the new head coach at Minnesota, had made a courtesy call to let Bowden know he was courting Rob Spence to run the Golden Gophers' offense. Brewster was making an offer that would have given Spence a $100,000 raise.

"I thought he was gone," Bowden said.

Bowden was so convinced, he had already tabbed receivers coach Dabo Swinney to take over Clemson's offense. But Spence, who had spent two years with the Tigers' football team, surprised his boss and others by electing to stay. There were multiple reasons for Spence's decision — his family, his faith — but the driving force was his drive to fix what went wrong with his offense late last season. The man known as the mad scientist couldn't allow his Clemson tenure to be defined by an experiment that blew up in his face in the last five games of an 8-5 disappointment.

I don't remember seeing anywhere Brewster indicating Mike Dunbar was his first choice, but I also don't remember seeing anywhere that Brewster's large salary offer to Spence was turned down. Time will tell if Dunbar is the right guy, but if you read this Star Tribune article, you'd walk away thinking Dunbar was Brewster's number one guy.

** On the other side of the football, Everett Withers is apparently a "flat-out star." One wonders if anyone turned down a Brewster offer for this position. Whatever the case, I'm excited about Withers' defense. Anything could be better than the Glen Mason sieve.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Coming To Minny

I've been away from the great state of Minnesota for too long. So, I'm flying to Minnesota from D.C. tonight to spend a weekend, which will include family, friends, drinks and most importantly, a fantasy football auction, where my team is poised to repeat as division champion.

So, I'll be away from my computer until Monday night. I was tempted to bring the laptop along with, but I decided that since I see the boys and family in Minnesota only on rare occassions I would opt against blogging for the weekend.

In case you're wondering, my fantasy team is poised to dominate in 2007. I'm in a 10-team auction keeper (been playing with the same guys for nearly a decade). We have $100 to spend in the auction. This is the second year of the auction keeper and my squad has been voted as having the best keepers: Willie Parker at $8 and Joe Addai at $6. That will leave me about $90 to fill the rest of my slots. Not bad, I'd say, considering someone is keeping Shaun Alexander for $40.

Until Monday everyone. And good luck in all of your fantasy drafts/auctions.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

In Better Recruiting News ....

The Gophers have received a verbal committment from JUCO forward Paul Carter, a 6'8" 190-pound swingman who is entering his freshman season at Missouri State West-Plains Community College. Provided he signs a letter of intetnt at some point, Carter will be a member of the Gophers' class of 2008.

That means Carter should have three years of eligibility.

Reports began to increase on Carter in recent weeks, as coaches began to take notice of his play at a recent summer camp in Tulsa, Okla. He also had interest from Arkansas, Oklahoma and Oregon, among others, according to the Pioneer Press. The paper also quoted his coach comparing Carter to former Minnesota star Quincy Lewis.

Rivals quotes Carter's coach as saying Tubby Smith has compared Carter to former UK star Tayshaun Prince.

Seems to be a decent get for Tubby. Rivals indicates that Carter had offers from Charlotte, Wyoming and Baylor, and had received at least some interest from Oregon, Tulsa, Kansas State and Missouri State.

Carter is the second 2008 recruit for Tubby, joining Dallas point guard Nathen Garth.

No Festivus This Year; Festus Signs With Vandy

Sigh.

If you can't judge by the title of this Web site, I'll fill you in on a little secret. I'm a fan of basketball players with cool names. That's why I was excited early on when it was reported new Gophers basketball coach Tubby Smith was after a 6'11" 250-pound standout basketball player named Festus Ezeli.

News has broke, however, that Festus gave a verbal and also signed a letter of intent at Vanderbilt of all places, even though it has been reported that Florida and Ohio State, among others, were in the mix for his services.

The Nashville City Paper (linked above) indicates that Festus will be eligible this upcoming season but will likely redshirt.

I had looked forward to chanting Festus' name from inside Williams Arena. But this likely ends my fascination with Festus Ezeli. Shame.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Camp Battles: Wide Receiver

Calling the competition for time at wide receiver a battle would presume there is enough depth on the Gophers football roster to pick and choose. The ugly fact is the Gophers are woefully thin at the position.

For a Glen Mason team, this likely would have been no big deal, as the run-first, second and third offense would have survived. But with Mike Dunbar's spread offense taking over, the lack of talent at the wide receiver position poses a significant problem. There seem to be two sure things for the Gophers, though even that's a generous statement.

Senior wide receiver Ernie Wheelright would be one of those 'sure things.' But he has been different things at different times. He's flashed talent. He's looked lost. He's dropped passes. And he's your 2007 go-to receiver in the new spread offense. Here's what STrib beat writer Chip Scoggins wrote about Wheelright:

A starter since his freshman season in 2004, Wheelwright has spanned the spectrum. He's been good, bad and indifferent. He's been a star, a mystery and a tease. His first three career receptions went for touchdowns, and he's dropped more balls than anybody this side of Troy Williamson.
Well written and completely true. In his junior season, Wheelright was relatively ignored in Mason's offense. He grabbed 26 passes for 437 yards, a modest total for a receiver who at times shows tremendous talent and stands at 6'5. For the Gophers to be able to withstand the lack of depth behind Wheelright, he'll need to drop fewer passes and be a leader amongst a host of youngsters. There is no reason Wheelright can't be one of the best wide receivers in the conference.

The number two wideout slot also seems to be set with sophomore Eric Decker. Decker redshirted in 2005 and played as well as Wheelright did last year. He grabbed the same amount of passes--26 for 378--while starting just three games. Decker looked good when he had the opportunity last year, and reports out of camp have him locked into a starting spot.

Decker's career started off on what was surely an unforgettable note for the wideout. He grabbed a 39-yard touchdown pass during the season opener against Kent State--his first college touchdown and reception. Decker has the athleticism to be a decent receiver in the Big 10. A Wheelright-Decker combination could be much worse. But the questions start with what comes after the big two.

Scoggins reported on his blog that the presumed number three wide receiver, sophomore Mike Chambers, has been moved to cornerback--another problem area for the 2007 Gophers. After Wheelright and Decker, Chambers was the only wide receiver on the roster to have caught a pass--19 to be exact--in 2006. Assuming Chambers stays in the secondary, that will leave a host of unprovens to battle for multiple spots in Dunbar's spread.

Marc Cheatham, a JUCO transfer from Oakland's Laney College, should have every chance to nail down one of those spots. Brewster has said publicly that he won't sign JUCO kids unless they fill a specific need. Cheatham would seem to be in that category. He stood out in Oakland, averaging more than 18 yards per catch. This FOX Sports Gophers preview suggests Cheatham could be a big-time playmaker and could emerge as the Gophers' number two option.

After Cheatham it's anybody's guess. Scoggins makes that point clear in another article.
Don't be surprised if four or more true freshmen receivers see action right away. That group includes Tray Herndon, Harold Howell, Ralph Spry and Damien White. It's certainly not an ideal situation, but the Gophers have little choice at this point.
Best case scenario for the maroon and gold would have Wheelright be a go-to guy all season, Decker emerge as a consistent possession receiver, Cheatham be a competent third option and have one or two of the freshman step up and prove they can compete at the Big 10 level. Anything less than that and the Gophers' first season in the spread might be difficult to watch.

OMG, Someone Isn't Picking Brewster's Team To Finish Dead Last

I typically don't provide random links until the weekend, but this one was too good to pass up. A reputable sports news outlet, not one of us silly bloggers, is picking Tim Brewster's squad to finish 7th in the Big 10. Not impressive, you say? Well, considering just about everyone else is predicting the Gophers to finish 13th in the 11 team Big 10, I'd say it's worth noting.

The Sporting News' college football expert Steve Greenberg says the following about Brewster in his Big 10 preview: "Minnesota's identity crisis won't last much longer. It has been 40 years since Minnesota last won a share of the Big Ten championship. There have been numerous flirtations with big success since, but those typically ended in fast starts gone horribly wrong. Fact is, the Gophers haven't had enough good players to compete with the top teams wire to wire, and they sure haven't had much of a home-field advantage. "There aren't many teams that go off campus and have a great identity," says first-year coach Tim Brewster. "We don't have a game-day environment right now." That will change when a new on-campus stadium opens in 2009. Until then, Brewster will run this program on positive thinking. ..."

Greenberg, in the scouts' take section of his preview, adds this: "You have to like the new coach at Minnesota, Tim Brewster. He is extremely energetic. He's fun to be around. His staff is the same way. They have a great passion for football."

In reality, this means little. But after weeks of opening up Big 10 previews and seeing the Gophers picked last or damn near last, it's a relief to see someone believing in something other than Brewster's public relations skills.

Back later tonight/tomorrow with thoughts on the Gophers' lack of depth at wide receiver.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Blogpoll: Take One, Preseason

Whew. I was fretting putting that together. It's nice to move teams up you are high on--like West Virginia and TCU for instance--but in doing so other very solid teams fall down the ladder. Such is the fun of the Blogpoll.

Brian at Mgoblog organizes this weekly event during the season, and I'm honored to be part of it this year. This is my first take, and it can be altered before the Blogpoll is tabulated Wednesday morning. I'm going to run through a few of my thoughts, but if anyone has any thoughts, positive, negative or in between, please comment. We can put the Blogpoll together as a team.


RankTeamDelta
1Southern Cal 25
2LSU 24
3West Virginia 23
4Florida 22
5Texas 21
6Wisconsin 20
7Virginia Tech 19
8Oklahoma 18
9Michigan 17
10Louisville 16
11California 15
12Tennessee 14
13TCU 13
14Ohio State 12
15Hawaii 11
16Auburn 10
17UCLA 9
18Arkansas 8
19Rutgers 7
20Nebraska 6
21Oregon State 5
22Wake Forest 4
23Penn State 3
24Oregon 2
25Boston College 1



Some thoughts:

1. USC: The Trojans have what I believe is the eventual Heisman winner in John David Booty, what should be an improved running game and the best coach in the game. I'm not a fan of dynasties or anything close to it. But I can't not respect the USC beast.

3. West Virginia: Junior quarterback Pat White was the Big East Offensive Player of the Year. Steve Slaton finished fourth in Heisman voting and is arguably the best running back in the college game. Rich Rodriguez' squad is loaded and should have no problem going 7-0, with Western Michigan, Marshall, Maryland, East Carolina, South Florida, Syracuse and Mississippi State on the docket. Then, the Mountaineers have a two-game stretch that should determine if they are a BCS contender. They travel to Rutgers and then host Louisville in back-to-back weeks. Hosting Louisville is key here.

4. Florida: The Gators begin a stretch of five teams that I played around with for quite some time. I'm not sold on this location but am giving the champs the benefit of the doubt.

6. Wisconsin: In other previews I've written, I've picked the Badgers to win the Big Ten. Running back P.J. Hill and the conference's best offensive line should get the job done. They could fall behind Michigan and Ohio State in the conference if the quarterback situation unravels.

7. Virginia Tech: Blacksburg, Va., is a tough place to play already. I try to make it to one Hokie game per season and something is telling me Frank Beamer's boys will be ready to play this season. I like the Hokies enough to pick them as natinoal title contenders, but a schedule that includes trips to LSU, Florida State and Miami is a difficult test for anyone.

13. TCU: The vast majority of the Horned Frogs' outstanding defense returns for another year as that small school Texas team that can get the job done. They are fashionable picks to crash the BCS gates. Whether that is possible or not will be answered quickly. The Frogs head to Austin to take on the Longhorns. A win vaults them into BCS contention. A good loss could put TCU in a position to be this year's Boise State. The Utah Utes also loom large in the Mountain West, but the Frogs host the Utes this season.

14. Ohio State: I'm not sure if this is too low or too high. Can someone convince me one way or another?

15. Hawaii: This year's WAC sweetheard. Colt Brennan is poised to put up silly numbers. Boise State, I think, returns to Earth.

21. Oregon State: The Beavers came on strong at the end of last season and return the majority of that squad. It shuld be good to finish fourth in the conference. Senior running back Yvenson Bernard is reason enough to tune in.

Unranked? I figure someone might yell about Georgia. But I say what's to like? Quarterback Matt Stafford, granted as a frosh last year, tossed seven touchdowns to 13 interceptions. The defense has went through a massive overhaul. I just don't see the Bulldogs contending for the SEC title.

And Minnesota fans, I can't wait to put Tim Brewster's squad up here when we remain undefeated after beating Purdue.

Did I miss anyone?

Weekend Links Two Weeks From Kickoff!!!

It has been a busy week for Minnesota sports. College football camp wages on and our quarterbacks continue to battle for the starting spot. A once promising big man has left the Gophers basketball team.

And in case you didn't realize it, we're two weeks away from blowing out Bowling Green.

Now for the weekly series of links to check out.

** That Gophers quarterback battle is continuing according to the Star Tribune's Chip Scoggins. I predicted Thursday that Weber would be the opening day starter, and Scoggins' reporting continues to hint at that. He wrote: "Redshirt freshman Adam Weber continued Friday to work almost exclusively with the first team and seems to have pulled ahead of Mortensen in that competition." The only scrimmage of camp will take place today (Saturday) and could allow Weber to distance himself from Mortensen or allow Mortensen to close the gap.

** In the same article, Scoggins indicates that true freshman Harold Howell, the track star out of Flordia that Brewster recruited and was exceptionally high on, will return kicks and punts. This is what Brewster previously said about Howell: "We are extremely excited and fired up about Harold Howell. Harold Howell is going to return kicks and punts for us. ... Because if we give Harold Howell a crease, if we give that young guy a change, he’s out."

** The Pioneer Press' beat reporter Marcus Fuller also weighs in on the quarterback battle and suggests that today's scrimmage could determine a lot. He writes: "It's becoming clearer by each practice that it will be a two-man race. The quarterback who shows better passing accuracy today could have an edge. Brewster said 7-on-7 situations don't give a true indication of how a young quarterback will perform under pressure."

** In the same article, Fuller highlights a handful of other position battles brewing in camp. He states other battles to watch include:

Senior Desi Steib and freshman Ryan Collado are battling for a starting cornerback position.

Sophomores Lee Campbell, Matt Stommes and Derrick Onwuachi are in competition for a starting defensive end spot.

Freshman Duane Bennett is pressuring sophomore Jay Thomas to back up Amir Pinnix at tailback.

Freshmen Tray Herndon, Ralph Spry and Damien White are battling sophomores Mike Chambers, Marcus Sherels and Ben Kuznia for a starting receiver spot.

Sophomores Nick Tow-Arnett and Troy Reilly are in competition to back up tight end Jack Simmons.

The other day I walked through the quarterback battle. I plan to do the same with a look at the secondary and wide receiver positions in the coming days.

** The Chicago Tribune's Neil Milbert offers a balanced preview of the Gophers football team. Milbert writes, in part: "The Gophers will contend for the Big Ten title if ... the new spread offense enables junior Tony Mortensen, redshirt freshman Adam Weber or true freshman Clint Brewster to excel at quarterback; young wide receivers and defensive backs make plays; and defensive coordinator Everett Withers repairs one of the worst defenses in the nation." Can't say I disagree with any of that.

** Iowa State unveiled its entire 2007-08 basketball schedule this week. On it, the Cyclones play the Gophers on Nov. 20. Iowa State blog the Clone Chronicles had this to say about that tilt in Ames. "Minnesota, despite having Tubby Smith, shouldn't be a huge challenge at Hilton."

** My take on the Bryce Webster departure dealt primarily with the lack of media attention to the story. Fellow Minnesota blogger Gopher Nation adds his two cents and does a good job of looking at what the deaparture means for the program. This is what Tom at Gopher Nation writes, and he's completely right.

We have razor thin depth at all positions but there is at least there is marginal hope or potential with a few G/F's. Incoming freshman Hoffarber, incoming recruit Nate Garth, Junior-Brandon Smith have some potential, and I hold out marginal hope for Kevin Payton and Damien Johnson to at least contribute at the Big Ten level. None of those five can play the 4 or 5 so there is a MAJOR problem that will hit this program very soon. I know Tubby is working hard to land a big man or two, BUT he hasn't landed anybody yet and we should all be concerned.
Tubby reportedly tried to convince Webster to stay, so it would seem Tubby is aware of the lack of depth the program will have at the 4 and 5 slots after this year. Tom is right to be worried about the future. Tubby has his work cut out for him to turn around this program. And it's going to start with a perhaps do or die Class of 2008.

** One more item quickly. It's somewhat unproductive to set up a Google news alert for Royce White, you know, hoping to get updates on the standout prep high school player from DeLaSalle. While you'll get a couple emails per week dealing with the sophomore stud, you'll receive hundreds more emails trying to sell you a white Rolls Royce.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Celebrating #100

This is it ladies and gentlemen, post number 100 at PJS. We surged past the 10,000 unique visitor mark a while back without comment, but this means more to me. To celebrate, I bring you this wonderful photo below which I saw earlier today at Hey Jenny Slater. Enjoy. I did. Really, I did.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Bryce Webster Says So Long To Minnesota

A week or so ago I posted about the mysteries surrounding Bryce Webster's rumored decision to leave the Minnesota basketball team. Now it's official according to the Associated Press.

The Associated Press piece linked to above, like all the reporting on Webster's departure, is completely lacking of any insight into why he decided to leave. The AP suggests he was overmatched in the Big Ten: "Webster often looked overmatched against Big Ten competition. He appeared in 28 games last season, starting seven ties on a 9-22 team, and averaged 1.2 points, 1.7 rebounds and 9.3 minutes per game."

Minnesota blogger Down with Goldy also suggests Webster was slightly overmatched.

I won't go that far, considering he was a true freshman last year playing limited minutes.

But I would like to reiterate what I said in my previous Bryce Webster post. The reporting on this situation has been embarrassing. Rumors have circulated on message boards that pointed to various factors contributing to Webster's departure. But no solid reason has ever been given. The rumors made Webster so umcomfortable he apparently contacted the message board to put some rumors to rest.

In any real college basketball town, the reporters would be fighting over this story no matter the real reason Webster decided to leave. If a sophomore leaves Billy Gillespie's team at Kentucky, I'd wager just about anything that the papers across the state would get to the bottom of the situation.

It was previously reported that he wanted to step away from the team--not transfer--because of academics and family issues. A transfer smacks of something more than a desire to hit the books and "family issues."

Did he feel outmatched? Did he want to concentrate on academics? Does he want to travel to Cali to play for Dan Monson? Is he not a Tubby Smith type of player? Does Tubby have plans that don't include him?

Or, does he want to transfer to Normandale Community College to be closer to his girlfriend? That might sound silly, but no one has reported any solid reason. Hopefully the Star Tribune andPioneer Press will pick up the slack.

UPDATE: Our two local periodicals continue to tell us next to nothing. Here's the Star Tribune's nothingness. The Pioneer Press at least tried, with this article by Marcus Fuller. The reporter quoted Webster's coach from his days with Howard Pulley as saying Webster didn't like the social aspect. But it's not clear if he meant that concerning his Gophers teammates. It was also reported he could be off to Harvard to play for Tommy Amaker.

Oh, and by the way, Charley Walters, in this series of blurbs published Friday, is still citing his famous birdies. Can someone tell Mr. Walters that once a press release is out about the situation, one need not cite unidentified sources to get out the same material? Sheesh. Correction: I read Walters' blurb wrong. He was citing a birdie that indicated Webster might head to Harvard. My bad. I still see no need for a 'birdie,' considering Fuller cited a source and reported the same thing. But I hereby take back the "Sheesh."

Whatever the real reason, I wish Webster well. If he's off to Harvard, I say congratulations.

Camp Battles: Quarterback

There is a consensus opinion among political consultants that suggests that you win the day if you can turn your candidate's weakness into a strength. For Tim Brewster's Golden Gophers to succeed on the field this year, our new coach, a good PR man in how own right, will need to turn perceived Gophers weaknesses into strengths.

To do that, Brewster will need to make the right decision between junior Tony Mortensen, sophomore Adam Weber and true freshman--and his son--Clint Brewster.

In countless previews, writers have called for the Gophers to have a losing season often because of the quarterback situation. Three-year starter and the U's all-time leading passer Bryan Cupito is gone, leaving a considerable void. So in this first part of a three-part series on worrisome positions, I'll look at the quarterback battle, a position that has been the talk of camp. In the coming days I'll take a look at the secondary--remember Michael Floyd said he wanted to go to a school with excellent cornerbacks--and the wide receivers.

Recent reports would indicate, even though Brewster says not to read into it, that Weber might be winning the day. Coming into camp a betting man would have wagered on Mortensen, who has been in the program four years. A cynic might have suggested that Clint Brewster the coveted quarterback out of Colorodo was the odds on favorite.

Here's the Star Tribune's Chip Scoggins on the quarterback battle from Wednesday's paper.

Gophers redshirt freshman quarterback Adam Weber took the majority of snaps with the first-team offense on Wednesday morning, but coach Tim Brewster cautioned not to read too much into that.

"You guys all know that could change quickly," Brewster said

Weber is a local kid, having attended Mounds View before graduating in 2005. His father, Bobby Weber, played defensive back for the Gophers in another era.

Between Weber, Mortensen and Brewster, it's the Mounds View grad that offers the closest thing to a dual-threat at the quarterback position. Previous reports indicated Mike Dunbar was installing an option into the offense. It would seem Weber is the quarterback that could run such a play effectively. Scoggins, in a different article, sums up the competitors' strengths this way:
Each quarterback possesses different skills and qualities. Mortensen has good size (6-3, 230 pounds) and doesn't appear to get rattled easily. He is similar to Cupito in his roll-with-the-punches demeanor. This is Mortensen's fourth season in the program, so he should have an understanding of what it takes to compete at the Big Ten level.

Weber is the best athlete in the group and gives the offense a dimension in the option game. He also has a strong arm and a fiery competitive streak. But he needs to show the coaching staff that he also has command of the offense.

Clint Brewster reportedly has a strong arm and is the son of a coach, which typically means he has a good feel for the game. He also played in a spread offense in high school. It's unusual, however, for true freshmen to be physically and mentally prepared to step in and start right away.
While Weber reportedly has perhaps a more diverse game, Mortensen, a Hutchinson, Minn. native has the benefit of experience. He has played in a handful of games since he made his debut filling in for an injured Cupito in 2005. That 2005 game against Wisconsin, as a redshirt freshman, was his only start for the Gophers. He has since made eight other appearances, and has competed just 11 of 34 passes for 145 yards and a touchdown.

While most of that time has been in mop-up duty, Mortensen hasn't exactly set the world on fire when he's gotten the opportunity.

The longshot in the race has to be the coach's son. Some, including me, worried that Clint Brewster would be favored in the race to succeed Cupito. And even if he wasn't "favored," there was the possibility that such a perception could emerge that would hurt Minnesota's chances of recruiting top-caliber quarterbacks in the seasons to come.

Reports indicate that Clint Brewster is taking some snaps in camp with the first team, but that Mortensen and Weber are taking more. That should indicate the real battle is between Mortensen and Weber.

Brewster is a true freshman, but he has the advantage of having played in the spread offense in high school. It should be no secret to Gophers fans that the days of Glen Mason's run always offense is behind us and the ever-popular spread offense is upon us. And it has reportedly been a challenge for Weber and Mortensen to pick up the new schemes.
The coaching staff treated spring practice like a classroom setting. They bombarded the quarterbacks — and the offense as a whole — with an avalanche of information in a short time span, knowing full well the result might be mass confusion. And it was at times.

"It was pretty unreal," Weber said. "That first day it was like, 'Boom, here it is.' You're kind of like, 'What?' There were a couple of days when you go out to practice and your head is still spinning from the meeting you just had."

Said Mortensen: "It was frustrating because some guys would be on one day and five other guys were confused. It wasn't clicking. It was tough for us. We kind of looked sloppy at times."
For a quarterback to have success in the spread, he must be able to make quick decisions, be able to read defenses and understand his blocking schemes. All of that is important because many defenses attack the spread by blitzing from different angles. So, Brewster's experience running the offense can only count in his favor. But staring down a 17-year-old blitzing linebacker on the high school playing field is more than slightly different than staying calm in the face of an Ohio State linebacker.

And while spring practice was surely trying for Weber and Mortensen, published reports indicate they have made strides and become more comfortable under center as preseason camp continues. Weber told the Star Tribune he's made the most progress.

Weber said he has made the most progress in his ability to identify protection.

"The protections are what killed me this spring," he said. "Not knowing who is blocking. Especially in this offense when you spread the field, [defenders] can come from all over the place. If you don't know where to throw it you're dead."

Brewster has said he is looking for his quarterback to be a leader in the huddle and to run the team with composure. But we won't know who has won that contest until the days before the Gophers face Bowling Green.

My bet? Adam Weber will be your opening day quarterback.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Nightcap

I aim to make my regular readers happy and honor their requests. Back Thursday with a more thoughtful, though less eye-pleasing update.

Tubby To Take Izzo Down First

The first Big Ten game for Tubby Smith will be in East Lansing, against another coaching great Tom Izzo. The Big Ten released the upcoming conference basketball schedule yesterday.

The Gophers didn't receive any breaks with the unbalanced schedule. The two teams Tubby's crew will face only once are Iowa and Purdue. It'd clearly be beneficial if we played Ohio State once, for instance. It's unfortunate that Iowa is on the schedule only once for two reasons: they might be one of the worst teams in the conference this year and they are a border rival. The Big Ten should keep traditional rivals facing each other twice per year.

Three home games--Michigan, Iowa and Indiana--are scheduled to be telvised on the four letter (otherwise known as ESPN). The full schedule can be found here. The vast majority of the games will be televised on the much-discussed Big Ten Network. I'm thoroughly pleased I have DirecTV.

After travelling to East Lansing, the Gophers have two winnable games--hosting Northwestern and at Penn State. I'll be heading to Happy Valley for that contest if anyone would like to tag along.

The nonconference schedule should come out shortly. Various reports have come out indicating some of the games. Someone can correct me, but I believe the Gophers will travel to Iowa State, UNLV and Florida State (Big Ten/ACC Challenge). Home games I've seen reported are plenty bland so far: Colorodo State, South Dakota and North Dakota State and UC Riverside.

PJS is a college basketball fan first and foremost. I look forward to breaking down the entire schedule as soon as possible.

A Return To The Insight Bowl

I was asked a while back to pen a Minnesota preview for SportsProjections.com. My preview, along with all other Big 10 previews are up today. You can find my preview here

I predicted a 7-5 finish and a return to the Insight Bowl for the Golden Gophers. I was one of two contributors to pick Wisconsin to win the Big Ten title. So, for the few readers who have emailed me and complained that I pick on the Badgers, realize I do have it in me to say something kind about the team from Madison.

The main page for all of the Big Ten previews is here.

The Gophers, based on all of the previews and predictions, will come in 9th in the Big 10. I personally predicted a 6th place finish for our lads, so that tells me my fellow bloggers aren't so high on Tim Brewster's crew. But that's not too surprising, now is it?

Monday, August 13, 2007

No Respect And Sidebar News

Transitioning from jobs is taking more of my time then I'd like. That said, I have a couple things I'd like to bring your attention to today. After that, I'll probably be away until Wednesday afternoon/evening.

In the Rodney Dangerfield category: A blog known as Saturday Sound Offs listed a litany of "Games to Watch" for the upcoming college football season. One of those games includes the Gophers. Minnesota v. Wisconsin perhaps? Nah. Minnesota at Florida Atlantic though, that's one worth tuning into. The blogger writes: "Don’t laugh! Minnesota will be, well, they’re just going to flat out stink. FAU is the home team and FAU has the potential to pull this off. Keep in mind, the Golden Gophers were one point and a missed FG away from losing to North Dakota State………at home."That North Dakota victory was embarrassing, no doubt about it. But it seems clear that Tim Brewster's crew will play with a little more passion than Glen Mason's squads did. The game at Florida Atlantic is a strange one, but there is no reason to believe Brewster's squad won't be able to pull an easy win.

And I have another announcement for those that follow right-sidebar news with passion. Brian from Mgoblog invited PJS to take part in the much-discussed blogpoll. It's an honor to be included and hopefully I can withstand the temptation to rank the Badgers far below what they might otherwise deserve. All of the blogpoll participants, which I gather are involved by invitation only, are now listed on the right sidebar. The poll results will likewise be available for your perusal here. I'm thinking it'll be about five years before the blogpoll becomes part of the BCS ranking system and the media poll as we know it today goes by the wayside.

Until Wednesday ....

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Your Usual Saturday Links To Gophers Stuff

Starting next week I'll be going over what I see as the positions of concern for your 2007 Gophers football team. I'll discuss the quarterback battle, the wideout position, the secondary, and perhaps more.

Until then, there has been an assortment of news to catch up on.

** In the best news I've read in months, the Pioneer Press' Charley Walters informs us that it is unlikely Glen Mason will call any Minnesota games for the Big Ten Network. Something tells me Mason will be lobbying to call as many games possible that include Ohio State.

** In Shooter's column, we also learn that Andrew Brommer, who verbally committed to Dan Monson's Gophers before rescinding when Tubby Smith took over, apparently has new offers. Monson's Long Beach State 49ers have offered and so have Colorodo State, Wisconsin-Green Bay, Valpariso and Dayton. The scuttlebutt on Brommer was that Tubby wanted to go in a different direction and that the Rosemount youngster could find a better situation elsewhere. With the schools that are in the mix for Brommer, it would seem Tubby made the right call ... that is if he can convince more talented kids to come to Minnesota.

** Gopher Nation unveiled earlier this week it's Top 16 recruits they'd like to see Tim Brewster land. I pretty much agree with what Tom at GN argues. I will add though, that it will be highly disappointing if Brewster fails to land Cretin Derham Hall wideout Michael Floyd and/or Eden Prairie standout Willie Mobley.

** In other Michael Floyd news, the Cretin wideout reportedly phoned the Star Tribune Friday to tell the newspaper the Gophers are in his final five. He also told the newspaper he would not be doing anymore interviews until after his senior season. Tim Brewster has his work cut out for him. Minnesota joins Florida, Notre Dame, Michigan and Ohio State in the wideout's final five.

** Mike Lucas of The Capital Times in Madison penned a thorough Minnesota football preview this week. He touches Brewster's energy (who knew?), the changes we'll see on offense and he mentions in passing that Glen Mason was always "patronizing" to Joe Paterno.

** Earlier this week the Star Tribune had a nice article about the start to college football practice. Chip Scoggins tells us a few things of interest: the Gophers are installing a new option play that Adam Weber at least thinks is "cool," the quarterback competition is on and no cell phones or computers are allowed as preseason practice continues.

** The St. Cloud Times has a good profile of defensive end Willie VanDeSteeg, who apparently has taken after Tim Brewster.

** The Dayton Daily News previews Brewster's squad here.

** Women's hockey coach Laura Halldorson reportedly resigned after 11 years and three national titles with the Gophers. She was 278-67-22 during her stint here.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Meet The Real Jim Shikenjanski

The title of this blog has confused a few people who are either too young to remember the days when a long-haired red head took the basketball court for Clem Haskins' Gophers or simply follow other Big Ten teams not named after a rodent. Some bloggers have intentionally botched the name--in good fun of course--and one blogger even suggested I violated the first rule of blog titles, which he stated was to use something other than a random collection of letters.

Make no mistake, Jim Shikenjanski does exist. And according to an interview at the GopherHole, he's heard of my little corner of the Internet.

GH: Are you aware that there is a Gopher related blog entitled Paging Jim Shikenjanski?

Shik:(laughs out loud) Yea, my wife is big into the Internet and I think she found it and told me about it. I haven’t seen it yet, but maybe I’ll take a look some day. Hopefully it talks good about the Gophers.
While that made my day, there's other good material from the interview. Shik still attends Gophers games, lives in the Twin Cities with his wife, and is excited about Tubby Smith taking over the program. Here is Shik on Tubby.
That was a heck of a hire. Tubby is about as reputable as you can get. I do hope that Gopher fans are patient because he has a lot of rebuilding to do. It could easily take a couple of years to get beyond the level that Coach Monson left the program in. It’s been a really bleak last few years and it will not happen overnight. There are two things that Coach Smith needs to do and first and foremost is pack The Barn again. That place can be the hardest place in the nation to play in when it is packed, but when it’s half full, it’s a vastly different facility. That is a big problem about Coach Monson as there wasn’t the pride in The Barn like we had under Haskins and hopefully what Tubby can bring. From there he obviously needs to recruit better players, but that will not be as easy as it seems as a lot of these guys, even the local guys, don’t know much about Gopher basketball anymore because we haven’t been relevant in a long time.
Shikenjanski was a member of probably my favorite collection of Gophers who didn't receive sanctions. He played during the 1989-90 runs in the tournament, a subject he also addresses in the interview.

Some have asked me what led to the name. Well, I always loved Shik, but at an airport one day, the following was overheard on the loudspeaker: "Paging Jim Shikenjanski to ..." Shik represented the University well, I thought. I remember him as a hustle type player, the kind I modeled myself after during my days playing competitive basketball.

Since I know Mrs. Shikenjanski has been to this blog, I can only hope that someday the man who this site is named after will stop by, approve, and join the conversation.

A big thank you to Rob Litt of the GopherHole for pointing me to this interview and for tracking down Shik for a Q&A. I've been searching high and low for the past few months for a picture of Shik during his Minnesota playing days. I've had no luck. If anyone out there can point me in the right direction, I'd be extremely thankful.

PJS Ethics

When I started this blog a few months back a good friend of mine opined that it would be a matter of weeks before I lost interest. Now about 100 posts later, I wish I had taken him up on his offer to place a wager.

I write this today to tell you all that I plan to do this for the long term. I've had quite a bit of fun the past few months. And I didn't imagine how many people would find their way here. I thought to myself, 'Who in the world would go to a blog called 'Paging Jim Shikenjanski.' Well, many of you have come. In the early days, I was pleased when 20 people stopped by on any given day. Now, just a few months in, and still in the offseason, the number is usually up around 200. So, to start, I'd like to say thank you to those who stop by here a few times a week.

But I'd also like to spell out a handful of ground rules for myself. As someone who went to journalism school, I know readers come to a Web site for a service. Maybe it's to be entertained. Maybe it's for information. Maybe it's just to waste 20 minutes at work. Whatever the case may be, I feel that I should be held accountable like a traditional media outlet should. So, I'll try to lay out here a few rules I'm creating for myself. And if I should ever break them, I hope that my faithful readers will take me to task.

Postings

•• My goal has been to update this site at least 5 times per week. Most weeks I've been able to accomplish that. If I'm going to be busy or away, I'll always try to let you know.

•• I will write about the Minnesota Golden Gophers more than 90 percent of the time. That said, I follow all Minnesota sports relentlessly and might not be able to resist the itch to scratch all the time.

•• As the football season begins, I will try and provide you with live blogs during the games, previews and reviews.

•• I reserve the right to bring on contributors. I'm talking to a friend of mine to write about Gopher hockey. I follow Don Lucia's squad, but I can speak far more intelligently about football and basketball then hockey.

•• If you want to write a guest post, or perhaps be a contributor, I'll certainly entertain the idea.

•• I will try not to curse.

•• I will not get upset about the outcome of one particular game and come to my keyboard to rant and rave. I will try always to keep things in some perspective, while at the same time leveling a fair dose of criticism.

•• If I publish a stupid post I regret, I will not take it down. You can judge me on what I've written. I'll probably make mistakes, but I won't hide them when I do.

•• I'll keep posts about my personal life to a minimum.

Comments

•• I will not delete comments criticizing me, my opinions or my posts.

•• I will delete comments that are laced with profanity.

Ethics

•• I will do everything I can to verify what I write. That doesn't mean I won't print a rumor I've found elsewhere. But as sources contact me with information, I will double check that. And I will make sure if something is alleged, it's reported that way and not as a statement of fact.

•• If I make an error, I will run a correction on the post it was on. I'll ask for some slack on minor typos and grammatical errors.

•• I will not self-promote. By that, I mean I will not go to other forums or blogs and write 'Check me out.' If someday I get a side writing gig with, say, Rotoworld, I will not gloat.

Bloggers

•• If you're a blogger, I'll link to you if I cite your work.

•• I haven't asked anyone to include me on their sidebar. I find it somewhat tactless to do so. If you have a blog that you'd like me to link to, let me know you exist and I'll check you out.

•• If I bash your blog, I probably meant it. But I'll try to go out of my way to give bloggers the benefit of the doubt. But I'll assuredly disagree with things I've seen written, so expect a few random potshots.

Other Random Promises

•• I will not call for someone to be fired—this does not include Kevin McHale—unless they have put together a track record of futility.

•• I will take tremendous joy in any sports-related turmoil happening in Madison.

•• I will remember that the players I write about are kids, and will not get personal with them. That doesn't mean I won't criticize their performance.

•• I won't be your home for rah-rah Minnesota Gophers coverage. I'm not a fan of sugar coating mistakes. I'll try to call a spade a spade. Dick Bremer I am not.

•• If you e-mail me, I will respond.

•• I will try to work with other bloggers to advance the blogging community. That might mean seeking access to sources.

•• By day, I'm a political junkie, and have recently taken a job as a media consultant to political campaigns. I will keep this site free of partisan politics.

I reserve the right to add to this list. And I invite your comments, suggestions and emails about this list. My goal is to have fun here, but to do it with a semblance of professionalism.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The Bryce Webster Mystery

As many Gopher fans know, sophomore power forward Bryce Webster apparently plans to leave Tubby Smith's maroon and gold. Unfortunately, there has been more rumor and innuendo than actual substance to report on the mysterious decision by Webster.

I've hesitated to discuss the scuttlebutt in the local papers that the Minnesota forward is planning to leave the team. The GopherHole served as a home to considerable gossip about the cause for the Webster's departure, eventually forcing the sophomore to contact the message board putting some rumors to rest.

But this week the Star Tribune's Sid Hartman and Pioneer Press' Charley Walters weighed in again. Walters wrote that Tubby Smith indicated publicly for the first time that Webster would not be back this upcoming season. Hartman cited anonymous friends of Webster's who indicated it is unlikely the former 3-star Rivals forward will be back next season. Both of the columnists reported Tubby would talk with Webster again soon to try and convince him to stay.

There has been an incredible lack of reporting on this situation, which has lasted now for more than a month. Sid Hartman and Charley Walters, for non-Minnesota readers, are columnists who print more rumor than fact. I'm not doubting the information they've provided here, but this is a situation where the sports editors at the Pioneer Press and Star Tribune ought to realize their readers want facts, or as I like to say, the closest possible version of the truth. Both newspapers have let us down.

Webster, according to Hartman was the 2006 Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year. Rivals indicates that he had offers from Marquette and Boston College. He started seven games as a true freshman last season under Dan Monson, averging 9.3 minutes in 28 games. He is certainly a player that has/had the potential to blossom into a quality Big Ten power forward.

The best information about Webster comes from the aforementioned email he apparently sent to the GopherHole. He apparently indicated that his decision to leave the team centered around academics and family issues. I'll take him at his word, but because other rumors floated around, it might be a good idea for the local rags to have their beat reporters ask a few questions and put any and all rumors to rest once and for all.

Blogs, Brewster's Kool-Aid And The Return Of Zombie Nation

I've added a few new items to the sidebar and I thought I'd fill you in on what I've done. And at the bottom of this post, I'll point you to a blogger who has been on the blogroll for awhile who desrves another look.

A new fixture on the right sidebar is the Big Ten Bloggers feed, where you will see the latest posts authored by members of the Big Ten Bloggers alliance. The feed is a nice addition, I think. The Big Ten is lucky to be represented by some great bloggers. Having their content ready and available at PJS can only be a good thing for readers.

I've added two new links to the "Big Ten Foes" blog roll. One of my favorite Big Ten bloggers, Hawkeye State, turned out the lights at his shop only to join a new venture dubbed The Hawkeye Compulsion. At the Hawkeye Compulsion, the former Hawkeye State blogger will join the former author of Steve Alford's Hair Gel, which itself turned out the lights when Alford was run out of town. The Hair Gel was fantastic and Hawkeye State was damn good too. The combination should be great for those who clamor to read all things Hawkeye.

The second new blog in the Big Ten foes section is Inside the Hall, a Hoosiers blog dedicated to Kelvin Sampson's team. The blogger took a nice potshot recently at Illinois head coach Bruce Weber's new recruiting tactics. Take a look here.

In other sidebar news--I know how you all yearn to read about these things--I've replaced the standard Minnesota "M" with a jug of maroon kool-aid. For Minnesota football fans who have followed our new fearless leader Tim Brewster, this should need no introduction. For others who don't know, it's real simple. Brewster has proven one thing since he came to Minneapolis: that he can convince a crowd of reporters and alums that he can turn the program around. Most are convinced the man with a propensity for exaggeartion--"Gopher Nation," "Minnesota football tradition," and "Rose Bowls"--will improve upon Glen Mason's medicority. Few people--though the Star Tribune's Patrick Reusse deserves credit for being among them--realize all Brewster has done so far is talk a big game. So, the kool-aid represents many strangely giddy Minnesota fans who have been completely swayed by a smooth talking salesman.

And finally, a colleague and friend of mine, who started his blog about Penn State around the same time I began this blog is finally back. The author of Zombie Nation, who I saw for the first time in a month-plus last week, lost probably 25 pounds due to a horrific battle with Crohn's Disease, which had him in and out of the hospital. Mike's a great writer and one of the most knowledgable college football fans I know. Glad you're back, Mike.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Saturday Grab Bag

Clearly, I'm still experimenting with what I should call a group of links. I've tried numerous headlines, none of which I've particularly liked. Today's edition is no different.

But before I get started ... for those of you that follow this blog regularly, I've taken a new job outside the world of journalism and am stepping into the role of a media consultant for political campaigns. The money is more than slightly better but the hours will be more than slightly worse.

Anyway, on to an assortment of good stuff, mostly Gopher related. I'll start with everyone's favorite former Minnesota basketball coach.

** Anyone feel bad for Dan Monson? He's taking over a program in Long Beach State that is on probation and needs to replace its starting five from last year. But, Monson tells Fox Sports, those trying circumstances probably helped him land the job. And for whatever reason, Monson still can't get a point guard to play for him. He said: "We’re still trying to field a team,” Monson said. ``We don’t even really have a point guard right now." Neither do we, Danny!

** Tubby Smith and Vince Taylor, who have both seen Missouri State West-Plains CC forward Paul Carter play, should be happy to know that the Gophers would seem the odds on favorite to add the JUCO player. According to Rivals, Carter has named his top 4, and indicated high interest in the maroon and gold. Minnesota is ranked ahead of Charlotte, Wyoming and Baylor to land Carter's services. He also lists low interest in Kansas State and Oregon State, but those schools haven't made an offer, according to Rivals.

** In breaking down the schedules for Big Ten football teams The Fanhouse suggests Minnesota has the "weirdest game" on the docket. The game? Minnesota at Florida Atlantic in Dolphins Stadium. Here's what the blog states: "It's quite the mysterious trip for Minnesota. Big Ten schools seem kind of above traveling to play at Sun Belt teams. Not only that, but since most of the BCS schools seem intent on having at least seven home games per season, it seems odd that team from the Big Ten would waste that one road trip on such a lowly opponent." Can't say I disagree. Hopefully Tim Brewster will find more meaningful road games to schedule.

** Anyone need more proof Tim Brewster is a good salesman? Well, if you do, some of the reporters' takes about his appearance at Big Ten media day should end any speculation. Brewster served up what appears like a whopping dose of his high-octane kool-aid. And the journalists apparently slurpped it all up. The Daily Collegian, the Penn State college newspaper, describes the impression Brewster gave:

When Brewster spoke, his hands clutched firmly at the sides of the podium. He's heading into his first year as coach of the Golden Gophers, but his bellow was louder and more resolute than the six Big Ten coaches who took the stage before him and the four who would follow him.
And then we have Des Moines Register columnist Sean Keeler with this take on Brewster.

Kirk Ferentz hemmed. Pat Fitzgerald hawed. Joe Paterno chastised. Mark Dantonio sort of mumbled.

Tim Brewster shouted.

“I couldn’t be more honored and more PRIVILEGED,” the new Minnesota football coach gushed as he introduced himself to reporters today at Big Ten media days, “to be part OF SUCH A GREAT CONFERENCE!”

It was — well, OK, it was weird. You see, Big Ten media days are one of the few times all year where coaches, players and reporters are on the same page: Everybody usually wants to get it over with as soon as conceivably possible.

Not Brewster. He could’ve stood there forever. He shimmied right up to that podium. He attempted to make eye contact about 4,000 times. He pointed to Paterno, who was sitting in one corner of the audience. He pointed to Lloyd Carr, the Michigan coach, sitting in another.

“Make no mistake about it, we’re going to get the Little Brown Jug,” Brewster said, referencing the trophy bestowed upon the winner of the Minnesota-Michigan game. “Wisconsin, we’re going to get (Paul Bunyan’s) Axe. That’s the deal.”

Picture Dan McCarney. Only perkier.

“I drink a lot of coffee,” the Gophers coach said later, smiling sheepishly. “I do.”
No kidding.
And Brewster received a rave review from blogger Brian Golden, who ranked Brewster's press conference, which can be listened to here, as the best among his Big Ten coaching peers.

I came in prepared to not like this guy, but once he started talking, it became obvious immediately how he’s assembled his reputation as ace recruiter. Speaking with noticeably more volume, animation and intensity than every other coach, Brewster extolled the virtues of Minnesota football past, saying “Minnesota has always been and will always be about winning.” Brewster also said that he will take his squad to spend time around John Gagliardi at nearby St. John’s University, the winningest coach in college football history. Who knows if the fire and brimstone will translate to W’s, but one thing is certain: Brewster looks the part.
After years of the PR-challenged Glen Mason, who would have received no ink during media day, the attention Brewster got for the program is definitely a plus. Now all he'll need to do is win and back up all of this bravado.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Shocked

I've driven over this bridge thousands of times. I'm putting off a planned post this evening because some things are more important than sports. For those who don't know, this bridge is I35 W where it crosses the Mississippi River near the Metrodome and the University of Minnesota. The bridge is extremely close to Dinkytown, a UofM community, frat row and University Avenue.