Next year for Gopher football

49-578281042Next year will be an important year for the University of Minnesota Gophers.  Right – when is “next year” not important for any football team?  Well next year is more so than the usual for the Gophers because it will be the third year for head coach Tim Brewster, making it something of a turning point.  In addition, there is a remarkable crop of high-schoolers coming up in the state of Minnesota coming of recruiting age.  It will be extraordinarily meaningful to the future of the team if Brewster can continue this year’s success in closing the borders to intrusions by raiders from Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and even California.  One of those prize recruits will be the likely number one recruit in the country, 6-8 300-plus offensive lineman Seantrel Henderson.  Seantrel has been referred to as a “once in a generation program-maker for Minnesota high-schoolers.”  Landing a talent like him would help make other 4-star and 5-star recruits take the program seriously.

Next year’s recruiting targets (and the fans in Gopher-nation) will judge the Gopher season mainly by two criteria:

1.      What results do the Gophers post for the season?  Another 7-6 season won’t be thrilling, but it will be acceptable, considering the tougher schedule.  Achieving it the same way as last year– going 7-1 followed by to 0-5 will likely be a turn off for potential recruits.  They will want to see an exciting and productive offense from the new Offensive Coordinator, and folding the way last year’s offense did will like putting vinegar in the punch – discouraging.  For the offense to step up, the new O-line coach will need to produce to the level his credentials suggest.  The offensive line may be the most important factor, since the top recruiting target will want to see that his position is well coached.

2.      How does Brewster’s first class of recruits perform in their second year with the team, either as sophomores or redshirt freshmen?  Do they show the effects of good coaching?  Do they have the speed and athleticism they were touted as having and that is needed to improve the overall athletic ability of the team?  This will show fans and potential recruits that the program is headed in the right direction.

Not blowing the doors off in either of these two areas will not be a disaster, but dropping the ball in either will likely be highly detrimental for Brewster’s and the team’s future.  Stepping up on offense and maintaining the level of defense are well within reach. 

46-287951284One of the major problems last year was the amount of youth on offense, particularly across the front line.  The offense line was composed almost entirely of redshirt freshmen and sophomores.  The only senior on offense was Jack Simmons and the only seniors this coming year will be Eric Decker and the Tow-Arnett brothers.  It should help that the new Offensive Coordinator does not plan an offense so complicated it takes a Rhodes Scholar to learn it in less than 4 years.

On the defensive side, the Golden Gophers were not as young last year, but even there, with only 3 seniors graduating from among the regulars, the defense should be much improved.  Next year will be a different matter, with at least 8 seniors graduating.  But that topic can wait till next year..

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