Let's get this out of the way to start things: the end of the Michigan game was a disaster. Everyone associated with it has apologized profusely for how poorly it was handled. Except, of course, the B1G officials that missed Jim Harbaugh's crazy ass racing down the sidelines trying to get a timeout that would have saved the Gophers from themselves. But I digress, that clock management was poor and perhaps the only issue I've had with Tracy Claeys as Gopher Head Coach in either the interim or big swingin' headset capacity.
(Not) JERRY! (Not) JERRY! (Not) JERRY!
Tracy Claeys coached with Jerry Kill for the past 20 years, working his way up from a DL coach at Saginaw Valley St to be his Defensive Coordinator at Emporia State, Southern Illinois, Northern Illinois, and Minnesota. But make no mistake, they are not the same coach. The first huge warning flag to that should have been the catapulting of Matt Limegrover (more on that in a while) and Jim Zebrowsky. Kill prided himself on having his coaching staff being together for nearly forever, and then Claeys went and got rid of a guy who had been with him since 1999 and another that had come with from NIU because they weren't good enough at their jobs. Between this and the fact that Claeys is a little bit less "Aww shucks" and a little bit more "Aww &*!$@," and he's done quite a bit to warm the cockles of my heart. The other thing that may have been noticed in the time he's been running the show is that he's much more aggressive than Jerry Kill was. Claeys is willing to take shots downfield, go for it on 4th down, and take press for advantage in situations where it could pay off for the team. Will this bite him in the ass eventually and repeatedly? Sure, because he's Minnesota's coach. But it's refreshing to see someone take chances.
"He's going to be awesome because he's one of us!"
New Offensive Coordinator meets the biggest criteria to get some slack from local fans and media buffoons because he's originally from Lakeville, MN. This is far and away the most important part of being good at a job in sports in Minnesota. Following a playing career at Northern Iowa, he's worked his way through the ranks with stops at D1 schools Southern Miss, Louisville, Central Michigan, and Louisiana-Lafayette in addition to lower-level Augsburg College and University of Kansas. He is similar to Limegrover in that he's a run-first guy as well, but that's about it. Scouring youtube to watch his teams' games over the past few years has led to the following thoughts/differences/concerns: 1) He's far more up-tempo than Limegrover, but anyone that's leading a team that doesn't get multiple Delay of Game calls a game is more up-tempo than Limegrover. 2) RUTM (Run Up The Middle) is dead. 3) The shots downfield will actually be shots downfield, instead of 10-yard routes. 4) Please God, leave the pistol in the Fun Belt.
I don't know how to respond to this strange new world, but I'm willing to try to adapt.
We could always get more Defensive
Quick: name the 5 Universities to have DBs drafted in the past three classes. I'm sure you knew it was Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State, Virginia Tech, and Minnesota, right? Yeah, Jay Sawvel is a great DB coach. Minnesota fans knew that because we didn't have to hold our breath and wait for a flag or a touchdown on every obvious passing situation the last few years. It's an odd change to make. Hopefully his transition to Defensive Coordinator doesn't cause too much of a dip in form for the position. The big change he wants to address is 3rd down conversion rates, which were just atrocious last year. While the team was 11th against the pass and 25th in total yards allowed, there was too many situations where the defense didn't get off the field fast enough. Sawvel spent a chunk of time with Wade Phillips in the offseason, and if it leads to some 3-4 in passing situations it could lead to some fun. All I know is that there's no way we have a worst-case scenario, which would be a DC getting into it with the HC after the offense threw a pick-six to lose a game to Northwestern leading to a full-on meltdown of the team ending with a 55-0 loss to Iowa. But only because we don't play Iowa at the end of the season.