New Minnesota Golden Gophers OC: Jeff Horton Is a "Who?"
Once again, the Gophers have concluded their offensive coordinator search, ending with a name that makes me ask the question: Who is this guy?
The guy is Jeff Horton. I'll freely admit I'd never heard of him.
But upon further inspection, it seems like this might be a decent hire for Tim Brewster.
When Jedd Fisch left the Gophers for the Seattle Seahawks last week, several names surfaced. The ones that intrigued me the most were Oklahoma Sooners QB coach Josh Heupel and Oklahoma State co-offensive coordinator Gunter Brewer.
As the search intensified, Chris Meidt's name started to come up more and more and I bought into the hype. For those who aren't familiar, Meidt was a former star high school quarterback for the Minneota Vikings.
No, that's not a typo, there's actually a town called Minneota, Minnesota.
Meidt most recently worked under Jim Zorn with the Washington Redskins. He had previously worked at two local Division III schools, first at Bethel, where he made his mark as an offensive coordinator. He became head coach at St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN. In 2007, his team's offense averaged nearly 50 points per game.
The more I read and heard about Meidt, the more I liked him. He had previous coordinator experience and he'd had success in places that hadn't been effective in some time. He was a local boy, so he might actually stick around if he had a little success here.
For recruiting purposes, it was critical for Brewster to act quickly; I had no idea he'd act as quickly as he did.
Fisch's departure was official on Wednesday, and his replacement was hired on Friday.
But it wasn't who I thought it would be. Out of nowhere, Jeff Horton was named the new Gophers O.C.
Horton's last job was as QB coach for the Detroit Lions. There were worse quarterbacks in the NFL than Matt Stafford last year—I'll give Horton credit for his development.
Horton also has worked in the Big Ten, working as QB coach at the University of Wisconsin. The Badger quarterbacks during his tenure (Jim Sorgi, Brooks Bollinger, and John Stocco), rank first, second, and fourth in Badgers history in passing yards—more credit for Horton.
He does also have previous head coaching experience, although it was a rather unsuccessful run at UNLV (13-44), following a one-year stint at the University of Nevada, where his squad went 7-4.
I look at Horton's hire this way: It can't get much worse. When your offense ranks at or near the bottom in nearly every statistical category, there's nowhere to go but up. Whoever wins the quarterback job this spring is likely to benefit from Horton's experience.
Brewster's choice of Horton will remind a lot of Gopher fans of Brewster's choice of Kevin Cosgrove as defensive coordinator. Cosgrove had struggled in his previous job, but he was a veteran coach with Big Ten experience. Anyone who watched the Gophers in 2009 knows that the defense was the team's strength. Cosgrove and co-defensive coordinator Ronnie Lee should get a lot of credit for that.
Horton will have his work cut out for him. Will promising MarQueis Gray or veteran Adam Weber start at quarterback?
Does a running back emerge, or will the Gophers continue to use the committee approach?
Does the receiving corps continue to evolve without Eric Decker?
Spring practice can't get here soon enough. There's plenty of work to do on the Gopher offense, but Jeff Horton seems to have the knowledge and experience to fix it.
Time will tell if Brewster made a great decision or acted too hastily.
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