By Kent Youngblood
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.