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.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Brewster's Touted Class Could Be OK After All

The Star Tribune's Sid Hartman continues to keep us posted on the status of Tim Brewster's incoming recruiting class. Sid previously reported that some incoming recruits might be at jeopardy of failing to meet the admissions office's academic criteria. Now, Sid reports that all seems to be going well.

According to Sid, Brewster indicated one or two recruits might not qualify academically. Most recruits are either enrolled for summer school or are expected to be on campus within weeks. Taking out those recruits, that leaves "Traye Simmons, Tim McGee, Vince Hill and Spencer Reeves -- who have schoolwork to complete before they can be admitted."

We previously profiled Hill, a 4-star wide receiver recruit.

It's not good to lose any of these recruits, but at least the list seems to be trimmed dramatically from what some were speculating.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Friday Randomness Thinks About Feeling Bad For Tim Brewster, Reconsiders

Hey Tim Brewster, still enjoying your tenure as head coach at the U?

First, Tim Brewster embarked on a Minnesota worst 1-11 season, which included an NCAA embarrassment of a defense and a loss to North Dakota State. That couldn't have felt good.

To his credit, Brewster dusted him self off and started anew. He put together a heralded Class of 2008, filled with high-level wide receivers and touted quarterbacks. This looked great on paper until the roof started caving in.

First, Brewster was forced to give up on Harold Howell a would-be sophomore out of Florida that was touted to be a return man with the lightning in a bottle quality of a Devin Hester. Howell was horrible, couldn't catch a punt and obviously couldn't find it within him to excel academically. That couldn't have been fun..

Yesterday, Brewster's own son, Clint Brewster, a one-time verbal commit to Illinois, has decided to leave his father's 1-11 football team behind and pursue other options. Homers can spin this by suggesting that the younger Brewster was expendable because the Gophers have depth. Sophomore Adam Weber poised to return as the starter, veteran backup Tony Mortensen remains and two allegedly talented newcomers in JUCO transfer David Pittman and hyped dual-threat quarterback Marqueis Gray are arriving this fall.

But in all honesty, we can't really know what members of Brewster's class of 2008 will ever wear maroon and gold. It has been reported that Brewster's class, which ranks by most any measure in the upper echelon of the Big Ten, may see it's numbers fall after the academics czars at the U have their say. You see, some of these prized recruits can't pass their entrance exams and can't gain admission by other means. Sid Hartman tells us Brewster isn't too happy about this.

I can't imagine he would be.

Yes, it's been a rocky year-plus for Brewster. But, then again, some of us were convinced Brewster was a public relations disaster last year when he allegedly decided to go on an anti-Notre Dame rant and call Charlie Weis a fat slob. Michael Floyd apparently is more concerned about substantive coaching then waistlines.

Enjoying the Tim Brewster era yet? Despite what he'll say, I'd guess he's not either.

*** I read this as Tubby Smith bitch-slapping Billy Gillispie. Nice. Tubby, as president of the NABC, is saying college coaches should chill on the recruitment of pre-pubescent athletes. I totally agree with this.

*** Congratulations if you have Comcast, you will now be able to watch your favorite Big Ten team on cable.

*** Hawkeye State at Black Heart, Gold Pants, chronicled a recent conversation between Tim Brewster and Ron Zook. Classic.

*** Easy target that he is, Tim Brewster is a recruiting machine. He racked up recruit number six for his Class of 2009 recently in Sartell's Nick Rengel. Minnesota was the only BCS major to offer Rengel. However, North Dakota State made an offer, so at least Brewster was able to out maneuver a DII team.

That's it for today. Everyone have a good weekend!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Brewster's Son To Transfer

Via the Star Tribune we learn today that Tim Brewster's son Clint is going to transfer. You'll remember that Clint Brewster was a big "get" for the new football coach. The quarterback recruit had verbally committed to Tim's alma mater, Illinois, but withdrew from that pledge to play for his father.

The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

Clint's decision is hopefully based on the fact that the Gophers have become surprisingly deep at quarterback. Sophomore Adam Weber is poised to lead the Gophers under center for the second year of Minnesota's attempt to install the spread coast offense. And Coach Brewster's big get during this recruiting season was MarQueis Gray, a quarterback that is hyped to be a perfect fit for the spread coast. The Gophers are also bringing in JUCO quarterback David Pittman, though it has been speculated he would play a position other than quarterback.

However, losing any 4-star player isn't good. Adding in that it is the coaches son leads me to two thoughts.

1) This might show me that Tim Brewster has been honest with his son. Perhaps Coach Brewster told Clint that Weber is the quarterback of the present and Gray is the quarterback of the future. It would only be natural for the father in this situation to want his son to be in a position to succeed. Because of actual talent at Minnesota (wow, can't believe I said that) the opportunites aren't in maroon and gold for Clint. If this is the case, I applaud the transfer.

2) This might show me that Coach Brewster is worried about the public relations of playing his son over the likes of Pittman or Gray. If Clint Brewster honestly wins a job over his competitors, jerks like Patrick Reusse and me will surely pen an article or post talking about nepotism. Playing Clint Brewster could be seen as a lose-lose situation for the coach, unless of course the son performs above expectations. If this type of thought went into the transfer, or Coach Brewster's decision to anoint an otherwise raw quarterback like Weber to the starting role, then I shake my head at the news of the transfer. After all, Clint Brewster came into to camp last year as the only quarterback with experience in the spread coast.

Personally, I'll remember Clint Brewster for his antics after the Gophers lost to Winsconsin last year. He, according to the Bucky kicker, sprinted across the field and used some naughty words to basically say 'Wisconsin sucks.' Classy.

Other reading: Gopher Nation asks "What was your favorite Clint Brewster moment?"

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Lacy Seems To Be Leaning Towards Gophers

Four-star Milwaukee point guard Johnnie Lacy, who the Gophers officially offered this past week, will be attending the Minnesota basketball camp instead of a similar camp being held at the same time at Marquette, his hometown school.

It has been thought for some time that Marquette was the favorite to land Lacy's services, but after Tom Crean bolted from Marquette to coach Indiana and Buzz Petersen took over, the Golden Eagles' interest in Lacy has reportedly waned. And if that is not the best way to put it, well, Rivals reports that Petersen hasn't really been in contact with Lacy or his coaches.

The Pioneer Press' Marcus Fuller touched on Lacy's recruitment, his decision to attend a U of M camp and the Minnesota offer in a blog post here.

Minnesota is just the second BCS school to offer Lacy (the other obviously being Marquette). Other big names are after the point guard, however, including Purdue and Tennessee. But something, and some have speculated academics, have kept high majors from coming after Lacy en masse.

Lacy is 5'10", 165 pounds and described as a lightning-quick scoring point guard. He's a Rivals 150 player in the class of 2009 and would go along way in Tubby Smith's efforts to shore up the Gophers' point guard situation. The Gophers have also offered Arlington, Tx, point guard Nick Russell, but it seems that almost every high major has offered Russell.

One bit of speculation: Lacy seems to talk very highly of Crean. If Indiana were to make a push for Lacy (and I wonder how Verdell Jones' presence would impact such a decision), I think Crean's relationship might be tough to beat.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Friday Randomness Begins With Joel Maturi

As his alma mater searches for a new Athletic Director, Joel Maturi is saying all of the right things. Asked by Charley Walters what he would say if the big-wigs at Notre Dame came calling, Maturi responded thusly: 'Thank you, but I love what I'm doing."

Noting the rumors surrounding Maturi, the Minnesota Daily put together a well-done look at Maturi's tenure, beginning with his charge in 2002 to be the first Athletic Director to oversee both the men's and women's departments. Maturi has had some great moments while in his chair and some not so great moments. Here are some highlights.

The Good:

*** Saved men's and women's golf in 2003 thanks to a fundraising effort. Talks of cutting programs has diminished overall, thanks in part to a budget that has remained in the black, if not swimming in cash like, say, Florida.

*** Laid the groundwork for the new football stadium by securing TCF Bank sponsorship and subsequently pushed the stadium package through the state legislature.

*** Hired Tubby Smith

*** Cleaned up the men's basketball program after the Clem Haskins scandal

The Not so Good:

*** Gave Glen Mason a 4-year contract extension in January of 2006. Fired Mason in December of that same year. Mason received a $2.2 million buyout.

*** Was AD when two men's tennis coaches were suspended after committing six NCAA violations. Cheating in tennis?

*** Seemed to have trouble pulling the trigger with Dan Monson. Monson received a $1.1 million buyout in December 2006.

Please feel free to add your own.

My biggest criticism of Maturi probably centers around the handling of the Glen Mason situation. Eleven months after extending his contract, Maturi acted rashly after an embarrassing loss to Texas Tech and fired Mason. Like most of you I rejoiced at the decision, but it was late in coming and it might tell us something about Maturi's decision-making ability.

That said, I hope Maturi lives by his word and tells any potential suitors that he's happy where he is. Maturi deserves loads of credit for bringing an open-air football stadium to the U. He landed Tubby Smith and the men's basketball program is turning around. Maturi hasn't been perfect, but he's done a pretty damn good job.

What do you think?

*** Three members Tubby Smith's incoming class will be at the U for summer school. They are Ralph Sampson III, Colton Iverson and JUCO transfer Devron Bostick. Paul Carter will be finishing up his freshman classes in summer school at his junior college. Devoe Joseph is planning to try out for the Canadian Olympic team. Sounds pretty cool for the kid, right? Tubby's not so sure.

Per Sid Hartman's column, Tubby said: "I looked at that roster, and the people that Canada is inviting, all of them are veteran players," Smith said. "So, he might need to get here. I don't want him to waste his summer if he's not going to be [playing much]."

*** Most of us know that a certain segment of University of Kentucky basketball fans are delusional. When I read the headline of this post from Kentucky Wildcats Blog, I was envisioning a post that would be outlandishly partisan and, of course then, off base. The headline: "U of K Basketball - Is UK Basketball Bigger than the SEC?"

Thankfully the post is coherent and honest about the state of the SEC, noting the recent success at Tennessee and Florida. That success brings in money, which props up programs. If I was asked to answer the rhetorical question, is UK basketball bigger than the SEC, my answer is simple. Not even close.

Florida is the cream of the crop in the SEC. Back-to-back national chippers isn't something that will be easily overcome. The blogger writes this about UK returning to prominence:

U of K basketball is still U of K basketball though. It will just take more time and effort to dominate the SEC like in years past. The name Kentucky on the front of a jersey is still very appealing to many recruits and I’m sure U of K basketball will continue to grow in tradition with many talented players and championships.
I'm not sure the UK brand is as irresistible as some UK loyalists might believe. The UK name is surely appealing, but the days of five to 10 programs across the country dominating are over. The AAU circuit is producing more top-notch talent and the money behind big college programs is propelling many former also-ran programs into prominence. And I'm also not sure Billy Gillispie has the charisma to compete with Billy Donovan and Bruce Pearl. Donovan and Pearl each have established their own personal brands. But the perception of Gillispie is that he's a hot-headed jerk. Just my opinion.

*** A name to watch in the 2009 basketball recruiting wars is Milwaukee Bay View point guard Johnnie Lacy. Marquette seems to be the favorite, per this Rivals article, but the Gophers as well as Purdue and Tennessee are in the hunt. Lacy is one of a handful of point guards Tubby Smith is looking at, in an attempt to shore up one of the team's weaknesses. Lacy is a 4-star product. Snatching a recruit from Wisconsin would be fantastic to send a message to Bo Ryan, even though Bo's 2009 scholarships are all used up.

*** Tim Brewster is taking some heat for his comments that last year's one-win football team "very easily could have been a six-, seven-win season, easily." For more on the same subject, check out Sunday Morning Quarterback's take. It's definitely worth a read.

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

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Football Season Is Apparently Around The Corner

I did this last year and enjoyed it, so once again I'm going to try and bring you every Minnesota football preview I can find on the Web.

The first installment this year comes from Big Tenet, which compares the current Gophers to the Ron Zook led Illini. Can Brewster turn the program around in Zook-like fashion. Not right away according to this writer. Here's the money graf:

The schedule does them no favors, as after four nonconference games against lower D-I and D-II teams, the conference schedule has the Golden Gophers on the road at Ohio State, Illinois, Purdue, and Wisconsin. Ouch. Still—this will be a good year for a rebuilding program in terms of the up and comers learning more about the system and getting experience, but to expect the Gophers to finish with more than 3-4 wins is not going to happen.

Three to four wins. Hmmmm. Can't say I disagree at this point, but there is still time for me to get caught up in the Brewster hype.

Meanwhile, our friend at Lake the Posts hosted the first annual (yes, I know you can't have something be "annual" if it's the first version) Big Ten Bloggers Preseason Picks. While I'm a member of the BTB unholy alliance, I didn't have time to partake with my own rankings. However, even my maroon-colored glasses wouldn't have done much to improve the take on where the Gophers would finish.

That's right, dead last.

Check out the entire set of rankings here.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Reflecting On The Obsessive College Sports Community

PJS Note: I write a weekly column for 10,000 Takes and this first appeared there this morning. I'm cross-posting it here.

Since the end of last year's Gophers football season, eyes turned to the future. It's only natural that this happens. It's the reason sites like Rivals succeed.

It's why sports columnists, commenters at GopherHole act as if the sky is falling anytime a potential recruit picks school colors that aren't that writer's preferred. I'm not trying to be holier than thou. During the basketball recruitment of Draymond Green, I latched onto a very easy storyline after Green picked Tom Izzo over Tubby Smith. It wasn't my finest moment. I acted silly, took the easy angle and raised bogus concerns that Green's choice might underscore some criticisms wacky Kentucky fans had about Tubby.

I bring this up because of the unfortunate news that Champlin Park's Sam Maresh, one of Tim Brewster's marquee recruits, faces a real life challenge: open heart surgery, according to the Star Tribune, to repair or replace his aortic valve. Maresh's bio is one that has excited Gopher Nation. Brewster has compared him to Brian Urlacher. He was a 4-star Rivals linebacker who bucked the trend of high-profile recruits leaving the state and picked the Gophers over Michigan. That alone endeared him to Minnesota fans.

Thankfully, the reaction of Minnesota fans has been sensitive. It's cliche, but this type of news does put sports into perspective. But for those of us in the peanut gallery, perhaps we can take a look at this situation and keep it in mind when we're writing our columns, posts or comments. Losing out on Michael Floyd to Notre Dame isn't the end of the world. Getting surly because Draymond Green picks the Spartans over the Gophers is hardly an appropriate reaction.

Maresh insists he will play football again, and I will root him along in that effort. But I won't be upset if he doesn't. And I'm going to try not to be upset the next time that recruit I really want in maroon and gold picks some less wonderful colors.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Life Strikes Sam Maresh

Perhaps Tim Brewster's most prized recruit, Champlin Park linebacker Sam Maresh, had life intervene this week in his quest to help turn the Gophers football program around.

Maresh has a congenital heart defect and will need to have open heart surgery.

You might remember that Sam Maresh, a local 4-star recruit according to Rivals, was compared to Brian Urlacher by Brewster. Whether or not that was a stretch is irrelevant, Maresh was the first big-name recruit to pick the Gophers over powerhouses like Michigan.

While this is certainly bad news from a football perspective, our thoughts at the moment should be with Sam and the Maresh family. The time will come where we can diagnose how this impacts the Gophers. That time isn't now.

I'll bring you more on this as it comes along and as I have time to relay it.

For now, here is the Star Tribune article on the story and the thoughts of Tom at Gopher Nation.

Good Read

If you haven't already, check out Charley Walters' interview with Tim Brewster. Walters did a good job asking the right questions and making the right comparisons.

He noted how different Tubby Smith's public relations style had been, playing down expectations, compared to Brewster. We've touched on that before here too. Walters also asked Brewster about his perhaps over-hyped predictions for last season.

Here's the money quote from the article, but be sure to read it all.

"I don't know that was an overhype at all," he said. "This is who I am, so I've got to be who I am. What I wanted to do was raise the level of expectations of the fans and people of this state. I wanted the people of this state to think, 'hey, yes, we can; yes, we will.' I think they've lost that some. I think people in this state, people who backed the Gophers, had really lost a little bit of their optimism toward winning a championship and taking the Gophers to Pasadena. So I wanted to re-establish that as, hey, this is the mind-set. Now, never one time did I ever say last season we're going to the Rose Bowl, this season we're going to the Rose Bowl. This is what we want to do, this is the expectation level of our team, and I want it to be the expectation level of our fans."
Walters also touches on the difficulty of having his son, Clint, on the roster as a quarterback. Clint Brewster was a 4-star quarterback but finds himself behind Adam Weber on the depth chart and highly recruited Marqueis Gray would seem to threaten the younger Brewster's chances of ever taking the reins.

*** One small housekeeping note, life has been hellishly busy for me the last month or so. I've been working on a heated primary campaign in Virginia and the elections are today. After I unwind tonight and tomorrow I fully expect to get back to regularly scheduled blogging. Thank all of you for sticking with me and making PJS a stop on your bored-at-work Internet tour everyday.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Friday Randomness Talks Brewster's Recruiting

Grandpa Sid Hartman had an interesting tidbit in his column this week on Tim Brewster's hyped 2008 recruiting class.

The big question about the Gophers football team's highly ranked recruiting class is how many of the players haven't passed their entrance tests or don't have the credits to gain admission to the university. The scholarships given to recruits include money for enrolling in summer school. Some people, who should be in the know, report that coach Tim Brewster is not happy with some of the decisions that the school's admissions office could make. More than a couple of
the top recruits might not be admitted.
That's the first indication that Tim Brewster's top-20 national class might not be all he's spun it to be. On its face it is impressive that Brewster was able to lure as much talent as he did to Minnesota after a 1-11 season. But, as Papa Sid reports, this recruiting class might well take a step or two backward before the first game is played this fall.

I'm no expert on college football recruiting and on the kinds of things that are offered to these kids (like money for summer school), but it would seem to me that doing such a thing is a measure taken by a coaching staff or administration that values winning way too highly above academics. Didn't Brewster learn anything from the Harold Howell experiment? Every other college passed on Howell because of academics (and also probably because his football skills were poor) but Brewster bit at the opportunity to bring in an athlete despite academic issues. The result? Howell struggled on the field before being unceremoniously booted for academic reasons.

So, the question is who is this year's Howell?

*** So, the SEC is considering starting its own network. You didn't see much ranting here against the Big Ten Network, because living out in Northern Virginia and having DirecTV, I absolutely loved having it. I was able to watch every Gophers basketball game. How sweet that was.

But for the blog Coaches Hot Seat to opine about how grand the BTN was, well, they obviously weren't paying that close of attention. Basically, I'm nitpicking' here as much of the rest of the piece is spot on. But here's the' line that I couldn't help but add my two cents on.
Overall the Big Ten network programming is very well done, and the studio shows and play-by-play/color commentators are practically network/ESPN quality

Yeah, um, the production on the BTN, the commentators, the color analysts, the booth guys especially, were close to downright horrible. Gene Keady, while aesthetically pleasing, is not cutout to do booth work or color commentary. Gary DiNardo and Howard Griffith? I couldn't stand to watch them, and I don't think I was alone.

*** Highschoolhoops.com ranks Royce White as the #2 small forward in the 2009 recruiting class. Of the Minnesota commit, the Web site states: "White is one of those rare players who mixes superior talent with hustling. The Minnesota bound forward also finishes around the basket with ease." That sounds good to me.

*** If you weren't aware, Minnesota AD Joel Maturi seems to be a prospect to fill the same position at Notre Dame. Maturi has only stated (that I've seen) that he's happy at Minnesota. But one has to think an opportunity to go to his alma mater would be appealing. Goldhelmet.com did a rundown of ND AD candidates and listed the good and bad on Maturi. On the good side was his effective lobbying to get the football stadium passed and his hiring of the late Terry Hoeppner when Maturi was at Miami (Ohio). The bad? You guessed it, the "questionable" hiring of Tim Brewster.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Your New Gophers: Brandon Green

PJS Note: In an effort to prepare you for the myriad new faces on Tim Brewster's 2008 Golden 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: Brandon Green

Probably the most hyped wide receiver in Tim Brewster's Class of 2008, Brandon Green picked Minnesota over his home-state school Illinois, as well as Wisconsin, West Virginia and most every other Big Ten school, except the one he really wanted to attend.

Growing up, Green reportedly rooted for the Ohio State Buckeyes. And in this Rivals interview, Green openly admitted he wanted an offer from the Buckeyes. It never came, and the Chicago Robeson, 4-star wideout will now have a chance to compete against his boyhood team when he suits up for Tim Brewster and the Golden Gophers this fall.

Green's decision to come to Minnesota seemed to be swayed by two things. First was playing time. He told the Chicago Tribune that had he attended Illinois he likely would have been redshirted and would have had to battle other wide receivers for playing time. At Minnesota? Green said, "Tim Brewster said I would have a chance to start right away. That had a big impact because I didn’t want to red-shirt my freshman year. It looks like they could use a little help on offense."

Maybe most importantly, however, was Brewster's willingness (or perhaps desire) to recruit Green's teammate Johnny Johnson. The same Chicago Tribune report indicated that it wasn't a package deal, and even if Green had picked the Illini, for instance, the Gophers still wanted to sign Johnson, a two-star quarterback/defensive back. Johnson would play in the defensive backfield with the Gophers.

To be thorough, Green also indicated he liked the U's diverse campus and its computer graphics program. It is nice to see a heavily recruited college athlete consider academics.

Coming off a 1-11 season, Brewster's sales pitch was obviously important. While Green isn't considered the premiere talent that someone like Michael Floyd is, getting a relatively highly coveted wideout from your conference foes was somewhat of a coup for Brewster. He clearly sold Green on an ability to contribute now and playing time, something West Virginia, Illinois and others couldn't provide.

So, what are are Gophers fans going to see next year? Well, Green could well move into a starting role alongside senior Eric Decker and will almost assuredly battle fellow four-star wideout newcomer Vincent Hill for a chance to see vast minutes on the field. The Gophers were so thin at wideout last season that there is room for both athletes and others.

Green is described by ESPN Insider as "one of the better athletes in this class at wide receiver." He would seem to be the ideal wideout for the spread coast offense Brewster and Mike Dunbar want to install. He's described as a deep threat and an "explosive threat with the ball in his hands after the catch, which is why he is so dangerous on screens and underneath routes." Green is also described as a wideout with good leaping ability, solid hands and a toughness that doesn't preclude him from running routes over the middle.

That last trait, speculates ESPN Insider, might make Green a prototypical slot receiver. He also could see time at punt returner, given that Harold Howell has been recently dismissed from the Gophers.

Essentials: Height: 6'0
Weight: 160-185 pounds
Position: Wide Receiver
High School: Chicago Robeson
Eligibility: Freshman
Rivals Ratings: 4-stars, #6 rated player in Illinois, #39 wide receiver nationally