I’m moving

Posted on August 20th, 2009 – 4:45 PM
By Kent Youngblood

 Greetings. Just so you know: I’m moving. Blog-wise, anyway. Our Blog system is moving to a different place. I do not understand the technical aspects of the move other than this: if you want to find me I can be reached here: www.startribune.com/gridirongold.  I’m told you will need to update your RSS readers, though I don’t know what an RSS reader is. And you will have to log in to post your genteel comments. Bear with me during the move. It will probably take me a while to figure it out. Thanks.  

Adam Weber on Manning Award Watch List

Posted on August 17th, 2009 – 6:31 PM
By Kent Youngblood

(Myron P. Medcalf filling in for Kent Youngblood.)

What’s up, everyone?

Gophers QB Adam Weber is on the watch list for the Manning Award, created in honor of the distinguished careers of Archie, Peyton and Eli Manning. The watch list was released Monday. Weber threw just eight picks in 410 attempts as a redshirt sophomore last season.

Weber joins Big Ten quarterbacks Juice Williams (Illinois), Terrelle Pryor (Ohio State), Darryll Clark (Penn State) and Ricky Stanzi (Iowa) on the watch list. The award has been around for four seasons and is sponsored by the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

-Tim Brewster told reporters Monday that the morning practice session was so scrappy he had to stop it a little early.

Thoughts on the DBs

Posted on August 15th, 2009 – 1:01 PM
By Kent Youngblood

Greetings
I have a few notes from this morning’s full-pads practice. But first, somebody asked for my take on the Gophers’ defensive backs situation, specifically Kim Royston.

 Fact is, I haven’t been able to see a whole lot of him this summer. The Gophers only let us watch a half-hour of practice each day. But I have talked to a few folks and the general consensus is that he has stepped in and filled the shoes of Tramaine Brock.
  Now, I know Badgers fans, including those who share their opinions with us on this blog, will say that Royston left Wisconsin because he wasn’t going to play there. I can’t speak to that.
  But the folks I’ve talked to say he’s a strong leader in the backfield and an extremely hard hitter. He put a hit on Brodrick Smith — who has since left the program — during spring practice that is still being talked about.
  So I think he’s going to get folks lined up right in the backfield and he’s going to be strong in run support. But what about pass defense? I’m told he’s fast enough, but I haven’t seen it yet, so we’ll see.

  I think he’ll have to be above average in that department, because his fellow safety, Kyle Theret, is probably better supporting the run than in coverage. Theret is a very heady player who takes very good angles, which allows him to do things someone with his speed usually wouldn’t do.
  Bottom line is I think the Gophers are at the very least adequate and could be much better than that at safety. Though, to be sure, neither Royston nor Theret are very big. Theret is listed at 5-10, 186 and Royston is listed at 5-11, 182.

 Backing these guys up are sophomore Tim Dandridge and true freshman Kerry Lewis. Brewster has lauded both of these guys. Particularly Lewis, who has come to camp and acted much older than his years.

  Starting cornerback is a strength. Seniors Traye Simmons and Marcus Sherels, if they both stay healthy, could be one of the better CB combinations in the conference. Sherels has a year of experience to go with his natural instincts at the position. Plus, he’s healthy, his injured shoulder surgically repaired. He has the ability and the knack of playing off a receiver then breaking on a ball. I look for big plays from him. Simmons is a good bump-and-run defender.
  There is not a huge amount of game-ready depth behind these guys. Veteran Ryan Collado and true freshman Michael Carter — the highly-recruited Pompano Beach (Calif.) product — are currently the top backups. If I were to guess at this point I’d say Carter would end up as the nickelback. But, perhaps, not right away.

  Carter would appear to be the heir apparent at one of the corner positions next season, when Simmons and Sherels are gone. I think the Gophers already have a couple of cornerback recruits on the docket. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the coaching staff targets a junior college player to come in and provide instant experience at the position.

 Bottom line? I think, in terms of starters, the Gophers secondary should be OK. But how well the defense plays will depend on whether the front seven can consistently pressure the quarterback. But, then, that’s always the case, right?
 

 That’s about all I have to say about that. I’m sure a number of you will file exhaustive comments on the subject, reiterating your feelings about the job Brewster is doing. I’m sure those comments will eventually move away from actual discussion of the position and move towards well-entrenched ideas about the state of the program, ultimately descending into name-calling. But what else is there to do on this hot weekend?

 Some other notes from practice while wishing I was in Chaska watching the PGA:
 
  –Brewster said just about all the offense had been installed. That process should be done in the next two days. After that it will be repetition and repetition.

–The Gophers are working very hard on certain situations: short-yardage, especially near the goal line; third-down, etc.

–Gary Tinsley returned to action after missing yesterday with a sore hamstring.

Two-a-days start tomorrow

Posted on August 14th, 2009 – 7:09 PM
By Kent Youngblood

Greetings.

A good while after practice Friday Lee Campbell came out of the Gophers’ locker room. He raised his hand and said, ”I have the record.”
  For what? For weight lost during a full-pads practice in 90 degree heat. Friday was the Gophers’ first full-pads practice, and the heat only made it more intense, leading to Campbell dropping nine pounds during the session. No problem, of course. The players work hard to get to maximum hydration before going out on the field and work hard to pound fluids after coming off of it.
  ”I’ll be back up by tomorrow,” Campbell said.
  It was warm. After practice the lines for the ice tubs were long.

Here are some other Friday tidbits:

–Linebacker Gary Tinsley was held out because of hamstring soreness. It’s not a big deal, coach Tim Brewster said. The team just didn’t want it becoming a nagging issue.

–As was the case during spring ball, Brewster said the Gophers defense has been ahead of the offense during the first week. But the offense, Brewster said, executed well in goal-line sets Friday.

–Tomorrow is the first of two-a-days. The Gophers will practice in the morning in pads, in the afternoon either in shells or just helmets. Tomorrow afternoon’s workout will be at TCF Bank Stadium. ”It will be fun for all of us,” Brewster said. ”It’s a special place, and some of our guys still haven’t been in there. It will be the first opportunity for the team to go in there as a group and get a feel for it.

–Brewster said freshman punter Dan Orseske has displayed impressive leg strength. ”Very powerful leg,” Brewster said. ”He’s in competition with Blake Haudan, but he has the potention to be an outstanding punter. He’s been well-coached. He came in ready to go.”
That’s about it. Have a good weekend.

Full pads tomorrow

Posted on August 13th, 2009 – 7:12 PM
By Kent Youngblood

Greetings, again.

 I know it’s late. But practice doesn’t usually end until after 6:30. Then there are interviews to do, a story to write. It’s usually well past eight before I sit down to add to the blog.

 –Tomorrow will be the first full-pads practice. Now, given the way the team practices in shells, it won’t be a huge transition to full pads. But coach Tim Brewster will make sure to get after them today. ”There will be a little added excitement tomorrow,” he said Thursday. ”We’ll have some live scrimmage stuff. We’ll end the practice with a goal line drill, which is always good for some good excitement. They’re competing like crazy. I like the tempo of our practices.”

  –Running back Shady Salamon returned full-go to practice after being limited by a hamstring pull. There are only two players not practicing right now: Offensive lineman Ryan Wynn and defensive end Derrick Onwuachi.
  My esteemed co-worker, Sid Hartman, wrote today that Wynn was out for the season with a back injury. Tonight Brewster said he still felt Wynn could contribute this season. We’ll see how that plays out. As for Onwuachi, he was on crutches Tuesday, limping mightily on Wednesday. But, just three days after spraining his left knee on the opening day of workouts, Onwuachi’s limp was much reduced this afternoon.

–The Gophers appear set at starting cornerback with Traye Simmons and Marcus Sherels — who, by the way, made his first interception of camp during a goal line drill Thursday. But what about the nickel cornerback? Brewster lauded veteran Ryan Collado but also talked up true freshman Michael Carter.
  ”I’ve been very impressed with Michael Carter,” Brewster said. ”He has done an outstanding job. He’s a very mature kid for a true freshman. He comes in here with a sense of confidence about himself.

–At linebacker, the Gophers are looking for Nate Triplett to take the speed he showed as the team’s best special teams player last year to the outside linebacker position. Brewster said Keanon Cooper is fighting hard for playing time. The speedy redshirt freshman is up near 220 pounds.
That’s about it. Talk to you tomorrow

Day 3 in the books

Posted on August 12th, 2009 – 7:33 PM
By Kent Youngblood

 Here are some post-practice items I couldn’t fit into my daily story. 1. Coach Tim Brewster said receiver Hayo Carpenter is really ”starting to pick it up.” Carpenter, the highly-touted JC transfer, is three practices into his Gophers career.  ”He’s done a nice job,” Brewster said. ”He’s understanding the offense. What you see with him immediately is his speed. He can really run.”   Special teams coordinator John Butler said Carpenter might be looked at as a return man. 2. Brewster is very much looking forward to watching the team hold its first official practice in TCF Bank Stadium. That will happen Saturday morning, when the team goes to two-a-day practices. the team i s scheduled to hold a Game Day Preview in the Stadium Saturday Aug. 22, which will be open to season ticket holders. Not wanting to give any secrets away Brewster said that the Gophers will go with a limited package on that day. 3. I was intrigued when talking with Adam Weber for last Sunday’s story about how coordinator Jedd Fisch has decided to have the quarterbacks call protections rather than the center. Here are his thoughts on that:  ”Some of the best offenses around do that,” he said. ”Like the (New England) Patriots and the (Indianapolis) Colts, the (New Orleans) Saints. They all have the quarterback direct the protections. We’ve coached Adam to the point where he has a great command of the offense an an understanding of the protections. One guy has his head down, the other has his head up. Why not have the guy with the head up make the decision.”  Now, this isn’t exactly rocket science. It has a lot to do with knowing how many defenders are in the box, where the hot reads might be. But both Fisch and Brewster agree that if a quarterback is rote on those things as well as the offense it can only help with execution.  ”The most critical thing for a quarterback in protection is to know where he can be hurt,” Brewster said. ”And only he knows that. So, him knowing the protections so well he can call ‘em, it gives him an advantage.” 4. Butler said there is a spirited competition between incoming freshman Dan Orseske and Blake Haudan for the punting job. That probably won’t be decided until right before the opener.   That’s about it. Have a good night.

Decker on Biletnikoff Award watch list

Posted on August 12th, 2009 – 12:01 PM
By Kent Youngblood

Greetings. Before I head off to practice — the Gophers will be in shells today after going two days without any padding other than helmets — here’s a quick update:

Wide receiver Eric Decker has been named to the watch list for teh 2009 Biletnikoff Award, given annually to the top wide receiver in college football.

Decker, who was a finalist for the award last year, is one of 37 players on the watch list.

Onwuachi will not require surgery

Posted on August 11th, 2009 – 7:51 PM
By Kent Youngblood

That was the word from Brewster following Tuesday’s practice. Onwauchi has sprained his left knee, but will require only rehab and not surgery.

As for an expected return? Brewster wasn’t sure about that. He said the hope was to get Onwuachi back in time for the season opener in Syracuse.

That means there’s not a whole lot of experience at defensive end right now. I wrote a story on McKinley for tomorrow’s paper. He’s coming off a strong bowl game last season and has added  some significant weight to his 6-5 frame.

One other note: New Hampshire Football Report said today that UNH would be playing at Minnesota in September of 2012. Gophers athletic director said no official contract had yet been signed, but it would fill a hole in the Gophers’ 2012 slate.

That’s about it. Have a good night.

Onwuachi out

Posted on August 11th, 2009 – 5:11 PM
By Kent Youngblood

Greetings. Just a quick note to say degensive end Derrick Onwuachi was on crutches with his left knee in a brace while watching practice today.

He was injured late in Monday’s practice. I will update you later with coach Tim Brewster’s comments. Anthony Jacobs worked with the first team Tuesday.

Post-practice update

Posted on August 10th, 2009 – 7:53 PM
By Kent Youngblood

Just thought I’d pop on with a few quick updates before heading home.

–By all accounts it was a very crisp first practice today; Adam Weber talked about how few mistakes were made and how well the team moved through the drills and sets. That can only be a good sign. There is a lot of experience on this team, with veterans at nearly every position.

–Defensive end Derrick Onwuachi hurt his leg during the team portion of the workout. Brewster said he’d have a better idea how serious the injury was by Tuesday but indicated it shouldn’t be that bad.

–Eric Decker admitted that he’s a little behind the curve when it comes to the Gophers new offense after missing spring ball while playing baseball. By the way, Decker is up around 222 pounds, and it all looks like muscle to me. That’s up from the 212 he played at last year way up from the 207 he was at for baseball.

–Jeff Tow-Arnett is looking good coming back from knee surgery last winter. One reason, he said, was a multiple-day rolf session he and his brother Nick underwent near the end of July. I’m not an expert on Rolfing, but it is a heavy-duty method of deep tissue manipulation that Tow-Arnett is now a big fan of.

As for the comments. I’m not really interested in being a blog policeman. On the other hand, I don’t like some of the stuff that gets posted in the comments. Thing is, most of the folks who write the crummy stuff do it under emails that don’t really exist. So I’m thinking I’m just going to do my best to get rid of anyone who crosses the line. I think a one-strike rule is the best anyway.

That’s about it. I’ll get back to you tomorrow after practice.