It's Thursday....you're hungry....it's POTLUCK TIME!
That's right, it's OTE's weekly segment where the writing staff provides a dish (i.e., a question about the Team of the Week -- Minnesota), we all feast on the delicious knowledge, and then make Penn State clean all the dishes (non-Midwesterners ALWAYS get shafted with dish duty -- plus, it's fun to watch them complain that they never should have joined our potluck/conference). So follow us after the jump to re-live the Tim Brewster Failegacy, debate whether Minnesota might return to glory (and not just the decidedly mediocre, Glen Mason-type of Pizza Pizza Bowl level glory), and consider whether any coach more resembles his school's mascot than Jerry Kill.....
1. Appetizer: Ding Dong, Tim Brewster's Gone! (Although on his self-edited Wikipedia page, in addition to denying the Iowa 55-0 game, it probably says he "Chose to leave Minnesota to pursue awesome achievements in footballness elsewhere.") Give us your explanation for Timmy Brewster's biggest failure as Minnesota head coach, and why you're hopeful that Coach Kill (god what a name) will not repeat that particular failure.
Ted Glover: He was a victim of two things: Expectations and a glaring inability to coach. Glen Mason got the Gophers to a level of respectability that they had rarely seen in over 30 years, but the program had stagnated, and Tim Brewster told ‘Gopher Nation'he was taking us to Pasadena. It became pretty obvious that although he could recruit, he was unable to turn that talent into wins on the field. He went through offensive and defensive coordinators faster than a baby goes through diapers, and could never decide what his philosophy was going to be. Hint: if you can't get along with all 33 of your offensive and defensive coordinators, and the common denominator is the coach, maybe it really wasn't the coordinators. He started off as a spread offense guy, recruited for it, then decided he wanted to be a tackle to tackle power running team. And then a spread offense guy, then some hybrid combination that left quarterback Adam Weber learning a new offense every season. In retrospect, Brewster was nowhere near ready to be a head coach, and it showed.
2. Salad Course: Speaking of Coach Kill, he's part of a proud tradition of Big Ten coaches that came to the conference after succeeding as head coaches in the MAC, a list that includes Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, Ara Parseghian, Randy Walker, Glen Mason, John Pont, Bill Mallory, and Terry Hoepnner. Which of these "MAC-to-Big Ten" coaches do you think Coach Kill will most emulate, and why? Or, alternately, what level of "success" based on his MAC-to-Big Ten predecessors would Coach Kill need to approach for this to be a good hire for Minnesota?
Chadnudj: Since my team (Northwestern) is now joining the Gophers in the Legends division, I'll admit this -- this question terrifies me. It terrifies me for the simple reason that I firmly believe Jerry Kill has the EXACT MAC-style DNA to take a talented, but under-coached and undisciplined Gophers team to a much higher level than we've ever seen. I mean, even in the relative Golden Age of Glen Mason at Minnesota, that team was STILL undisciplined, and guaranteed to mentally breakdown at completely inopportune times. I honestly don't think we'll see that happen again with Jerry Kill....hence, terror. I'd put him online with Randy Walker as his worst case (the guy understands coaching up football players and wins everywhere, and, frankly, Minnesota is a sleeping giant in terms of Big Ten football if you ask me...see my question below), and frankly something bigger than that as his best case. I only hesitate to say "Jerry Kill" and "Woody Hayes" or "Bo Schembechler" in the same sentence because, frankly, the Big Ten is much tougher than the Hayes-era (he won without 85-scholarship limits, etc.). I doubt Kill will ever get to the Woody/Bo level, simply because reaching that level is impossible in the modern B1G.....but win? Yeah, I think (and frankly fear) that Kill will win....frequently.
Ted Glover: I think Jerry Kill is his own guy and will chart his own course. If there is a similarity, I would think it's somewhere between Randy Walker and Bill Mallory, although I think Kill has more to work with now than either Walker or Mallory had when they took over their respective programs. These last few years have been Northwestern/Indiana like, but the Gophers did make it to a couple of bowls under Brewster, so I don't think the program is at a historically bad level from a talent perspective. In terms of what would be considered a success, that's tough to say. He's already successful in that he's putting as much distance between him and the Tim Brewster era as is possible, and that's a great thing. Is it wrong to think that in a couple years Minnesota can be competing for a New Year's Day bowl and finish in the top half of the Big Ten? No, I don't think so.
3. Potato/rice dish: True or False: Minnesota is the biggest "sleeping giant" in Big Ten football. While answering this question, consider the massive facilities upgrade they just completed, their proximity to a big city with all of its assorted benefits, a passionate and large alumni base, the fact that they just hired a coach who is actually competent at coaching from all appearances, and the fact that they did win 6 national championships, albeit before college football began in 1995 (Editor's Note: Starting year of college football based on the Northwestern/Fitzgerald calendar.)
Bama Hawkeye: False. It's Illinois, and it's not even close. You could argue that Minnesota has spent the better part of the last 50 years sleeping. However, the giant aspect needs to be brought into question. Let's start with the currency of college football: talent. Over the past five seasons, there have been 8 players from the state of Minnesota that have been graded as a 4-Star recruit by Rivals.com. The Gophers have managed to capture 4, or 50%, of those recruits. As securing the borders goes, a fifty percent clip on the most elite talent is pretty good. Now, let's look at Illinois. In the last five years, the Land Of Lincoln has produced 37 players graded as a 4-Star recruit. The Illini have captured 9 of them. That's not even 25%. That's not good. In fact, the amount available, paired with the poor capture rate, tells me that there is quite a bit of room for growth, i.e. a giant that is sleeping.
Looking at the other factors mentioned, I'm not sure how many are true for Minnesota. Facilities upgrade? Yes, but where does it put them in comparison to their peers? They're in a 50,000 seat stadium while the schools that care about football are all in stadia between 20,000 and 60,000 seats larger. They are close to a big city; I'll give you that one. "A passionate and large fan base." Heh. Never before have those words been said about the Gophers'fan base. It wasn't passionate enough to sell out the dome. It wasn't passionate enough to bring a decent traveling group to the bowls that Glen Mason was able to get the Gophers into. And, it wasn't even large enough to fill the 50,000 seat stadium in last Fall's games against OHIO STATE AND PENN STATE! That sounds like a small and dispassionate fan base to me. Competent coach? Could be. Of course, we all thought that Tim Brewster was much more than just competent 7 games into his reign, so let's hold off a bit on our judgments. Long ago championships? Check. Of course, that just gives them something in common with Southern Methodist, Dartmouth, and Lafayette, nothing more.
And after looking at this list, maybe the Gophers haven't been asleep. I'm beginning to think that they've been awake, and this is all that there is. Sleeping giant? No. Awake Gnome? Interesting thought.
Ted Glover: True, but those aren't the reasons why. If you've followed my rantings and diatribes over at the Minnesota Vikings blog The Daily Norseman, or if you follow the Vikings, you know that they are struggling to get a new stadium. With their lease at the Metrodome expiring after 2011, there is nothing keeping the Vikes in Minnesota at the end of the 2011 season. Unless something dramatic happens in the next few weeks, there will be no stadium bill passed, and it saddens me to say I think the Vikings will relocate. When that happens, the white hot football spotlight in Minnesota will turn to the only program that can fill the void of the Vikings leaving, and that's the Gophers. Yes, the facilities are in place, the right coach is in place, and if the Vikes leave, the Gophers will move front and center in into the consciousness of the Minnesota football fan, and there will be a lot of pressure to make Gopher football as competitive as the Vikings generally have been over the last 50 years.
4. Hot dish/Meat dish: The only thing worse than Minnesota's offense last season (23.2 points per game, 89th in the nation) was its defense (33.0 points allowed per game, 98th in the nation). The defense gets safety Kim Royston back, and will have a full season of CB Troy Stoudermire (who switched to CB from WR midway through last year). On offense, MarQueis Gray takes over for Adam Weber (who may have been unfairly maligned given that he played for 3 separate offensive coordinators in 4 years). Are these changes enough to turn Minnesota into a winning program? In other words, what's reasonable in terms of expectations for the 2011 Gophers?
Graham Filler: It's a long offseason. Fans get bored and hyped up on coffee, leading to weird hallucinations and dreams of winning seasons, victories over rivals, etc. Many Gopher fans will mistake these dreams for reality in 2011, and I'm willing to allow them a few of these dreams because of one reason: The schedule. It's favorable. The home game against Nebraska is winnable if the Cornhuskers pull a 2010 and lose the ability to pass. The away games against Michigan, Purdue, and NW are all tossups thanks to the questions surrounding those programs. What I'm saying is that even a blind squirrel with improved coaching, morale, and team defense finds a nut sometimes...and it doesn't hurt if other programs are rebuilding at the same time. If we're completely honest on OTE, which we are, we'll tell you that Minnesota 2011 is not that much different talent-wise as Minnesota 2010. But a cozy schedule and the inevitable "new coach bump" could make for a 6 or 7 win Gopher squad.
Ted Glover: The changes come from the mindset that Jerry Kill is instilling. He calls it 'The Minnesota Way', and it's all about working and doing what you're supposed to--you're going to go to class, you're going to hustle all the time, and you're going to earn everything that's given to you as a member of the Gopher football team, or you're not going to play. It's a shock to the system, much like having ice water thrown on you, but the only way he's going to turn it around is to completely change the mindset that Brewster let fester.
As to expectations for 2011, I think there's more talent on this football team than the 3-8 record would have you believe. Once this team got a coach that knew what the hell he was doing and a little bit of confidence, they beat two bowl-winning teams at the end of the year, and in fairly dominating fashion. I'm not trying to say that this is a team that will be playing for the Big Ten Championship, but when you look at the schedule, you can chart a path to six wins and a bowl. And that, in and of itself, would be one hell of an accomplishment.
5. Dessert:Coach Jerry Kill and Goldy the Gopher bear a remarkable physical resemblance. Nominate another coach who resembles his school's mascot (official or unofficial) as much as Jerry Kill looks like Goldy.
Chadnudj: That is an uncanny resemblance between Kill and Goldy. Truly, there is only one competitor to Jerry Kill in the "Coach-to-Mascot Resemblance" contest that I can think of:
Yeah, that's right.....I said it -- Lane Kiffin resembles a condom. He's even slippery/lubricated like one.