March 20, 2008

Brewster keeps outlook bright for Gophers

Today's forecast in Minneapolis calls for a high temperature of about 36, gray skies and a chance of snow.

Except in Minnesota coach Tim Brewster's personal space. The sun always is shining and the mercury always is rising in Brewster's world.

A 1-11 record – including a loss to Division I-AA North Dakota State – in 2007 in Brewer's first season as coach might be alarming anywhere else. At the least, it would figure to curb enthusiasm just a bit.

Yet as Minnesota prepares to begin spring practice March 27, Brewster can't wait to get started. "We delayed spring football because we needed more work in the weight room," he said via phone. "But I'm champing at the bit."

The bit actually has been gnawed to nothing. The perpetually positive Brewster, who boldly proclaimed his mission was to win the Big Ten when he took the job, claims he's more optimistic, more encouraged and more enthusiastic than ever.

"I'm more excited today than when I was hired," he said. "The way we recruited after a 1-11 season, you've got to be excited. We had 45 kids in for official visits. Thirty-one signed. That's a 72 percent success rate. Very, very few schools in the nation have that success ratio.

"Some people said bringing in kids in the season would not work, but we had nine kids in for official visits when we played Ohio State, and on National Signing Day, all nine signed with the Gophers."

Rivals.com rated Minnesota's 2008 recruiting class 17th in the nation and third in the Big Ten, behind Ohio State and Michigan. The class featured seven four-star prospects, and it easily could have been eight if Brewster had played the parental card. His son, Nolan, a four-star safety prospect from Denver, chose to play at Texas. Tim Brewster was an assistant at Texas for four years under Mack Brown. Nolan remained in Denver when his dad took the Minnesota job; Tim Brewster had been an assistant with the Broncos.

"His dream was to play football at Texas," Brewster said. "He told me, 'Dad, tell me to come to Minnesota and I'm coming.' I said, 'No, that's not the deal. You're a grown man and I raised you to make decisions on your own.'

"I couldn't be more proud of him. And I couldn't be more excited about Keanon Cooper (a four-star safety from Dallas)."

Cooper won't be available for spring practice. In fact, only four players who signed in February will be participating in spring drills. But that doesn't mean the freshmen won't play.

"We're in a position here at Minnesota where we need speed, we need athleticism, we need nastiness on the field – and we need it now," Brewster said. "They need to play now. We don't need to wait for them to grow up.

"I think I have a tremendous eye to evaluate football talent. I think I do a great job identifying football players. We identified 31 kids we feel like are going to help us turn things around."

Another help in turning the program around is the construction of TCF Bank Stadium, a $288.5 million, 50,000-seat facility that will put football back on campus for the first time since the Metrodome opened in 1982.  Minnesota's Web site, www.gophersports.com, offers a virtual tour of the stadium and features a clock counting down the seconds until it opens Sept. 12, 2009.

If Brewster can assemble a top-20 recruiting class with the promise of a new stadium, it's not a stretch to think he can do even better when prospects actually can see it.

Brewster has said his goal of building Minnesota into a champion won't be done at all cost. He expelled four players allegedly involved in a sexual assault case.

"We work on speed in the morning and weights in the afternoon, and in between we have class and talk about off-the-field stuff that's important – not smoking marijuana or drinking alcohol and treating women properly," Brewster said. "Unfortunately, one in two marriages end in divorce, and in a large amount of homes we go into (recruiting) there is no father. I take my role as a father figure to 120 young men very seriously.

"We're not all deacons in the church, but I want to make sure our kids understand it's an honor and a privilege to wear the colors that represent the University of Minnesota. I don't have all the answers, but I have a good plan of how to conduct business at this level."

Trivia question

Since 1998, the year in which the BCS bowl system was created, four programs have won a BCS game and at least one game in the Final Four. Who are they? (Answer at the end of the column.)

Got Milk?

A lot of Tulsa fans did last year.

Last year, a local grocery store chain put a coupon on the back of Golden Hurricane season tickets offering a free half-gallon of milk when Tulsa scored on a play of at least 30 yards. Wide receiver Brennan Marion scored 11 touchdowns that covered the distance, prompting play-by-play radio announcer Bruce Howard to nickname him  "The Milkman."

There's no word on whether that promotion will continue this season.

Tech to Tech?

Former Georgia Tech starting quarterback Taylor Bennett took an unofficial visit to Louisiana Tech to explore the master's programs there, The Shreveport (La.) Times reported.

Bennett, who is expected to graduate from Georgia Tech, isn't a good fit in the offense of new coach Paul Johnson and is looking elsewhere for his final year of eligibility.

To be eligible this fall, Bennett would have to graduate and enroll in a masters program that isn't offered at Georgia Tech.

Quick hitters

  • Cal tailback James Montgomery, who was listed No. 1 on the depth chart going into spring practice, has been released from his scholarship at his request. The Golden Bears are looking for a new starting tailback to replace Justin Forsett.

  • Guy Morriss, who served as coach at Kentucky and Baylor the past seven seasons, has been named offensive line coach at Division II Kentucky State, a historically black school.

  • Colorado had two players arrested last week. Tight end Riar Greer and freshman linebacker Lynn Katoa were accused of assault stemming from incidents at separate parties.

  • Reserve Missouri linebacker Marquis Booker has been booted off the team after getting arrested last weekend on charges of carrying an illegal fire arm and an underage liquor violation.

  • Cincinnati will receive nearly $1 million to give up a home game against Ohio State in 2012. The game will be moved to Columbus.

  • Backup defensive back Kim Royston is leaving Wisconsin after two seasons and may transfer to Minnesota. But Wisconsin has not released him to play there, which means he could not receive a scholarship.

    Trivia answer

    Florida, Ohio State, Kansas and Utah. Florida won BCS bowls in the 1998, 2001 and 2006 seasons and posted Final Four victories in 2000, 2006 and 2007. Ohio State won BCS bowls in the '98, '02 and '05 seasons and posted a Final Four victory in '07. Kansas won the Orange Bowl after the 2007 season and won a Final Four game in 2003. Utah won the Fiesta Bowl after the 2004 season and posted a Final Four victory in 1998.

    Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.




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