If you're killing time in your favorite retail store, you've probably noticed that the preseason college football magazines have hit the racks. They're filled with interesting lists, predictions, and wild guesses as to what the 2010 season holds.
If you're looking at lists of coaches whose jobs might be in jeopardy, you'll probably find Gopher coach Tim Brewster's name on those lists.
Personally, I'd like to see Brewster coach the Gophers one way or another next season, just to give him a fair shake with a roster comprised of players that he recruited to be Gophers.
Unfortunately, I don't think he's done enough as head coach to cement himself in the position no matter what happens this season. There are several scenarios that probably lead to a new Gopher coach in 2011.
Brewster hasn't won a trophy game as of yet and he doesn't really have a big win to hang his hat on.
From the day Tim Brewster was hired, several prominent members of the Twin Cities media (most of whom take delight in ripping the Gophers football program) have been clamoring to run Coach Brewster out of town. If things don't go well, they might get their wish.
From most accounts, Brewster was given the job based on his reputation as a recruiter. He was hired awfully late in the year to make an impact in 2007, but the 2008 class was highly ranked by most reputable recruiting services.
The most-hyped recruit in 2008 was dual-threat quarterback MarQueis Gray, but the biggest "get" might have been the last of four recruits that Brewster brought to Minnesota from Dallas in linebacker Keanon Cooper.
Cooper looked like he was headed to Texas Tech, but a last minute switch brought him to Minneapolis with high school teammates Spencer Reeves, Troy Stoudemire and Da'Jon McKnight. They were dubbed "The Skyline Four" and formed the backbone of the most anticipated recruiting class Gopher fans had seen in a long, long time.
The list of Texas high schools stars who have gone on to become collegiate standouts is endless. Tapping a pipeline into the Dallas area was one of the reasons Brewster was hired.
The Skyline Four personified the change in philosophy for Gopher football. The Gophers were going to become faster and more athletic. Three seasons later, it's time for that philosophy to produce results on the field.
McKnight and Stoudemire are and entering their junior seasons, Reeves and Cooper are red shirt sophomores. All four will be counted on to contribute heavily during the upcoming season.
Keanon Cooper has the makings of a star. As a true freshman, he was a bit small for a Big Ten linebacker. A redshirt year helped him gain some mass.
Last year, Cooper flashed the big play potential that Gopher defenses have been missing. In limited playing time, Cooper finished seventh on the team in total tackles and blocked two punts.
Spencer Reeves probably won't open the season in the starting lineup, but he should provide the linebackers with adequate depth, working his way onto the field more as the season wears on. Heavy turnover from the 2009 defense means Reeves will be counted on to back up the linebacking corps and continue to contribute on special teams.
Troy Stoudemire should be an integral part of the Gophers offense as a slot receiver and seeing a few carries on reverses, but special teams are where he will shine.
The first time I saw Stoudemire run a kick back, I knew Brewster had found a special player. I'm still shocked that he hasn't taken one all the way back yet, but he gives the offense great starting position almost every time he returns a kick.
Eric Decker's not going to be easy to replace, but the frontrunner has to be Da'Jon McKnight. After Decker's injury last season, it was McKnight who stepped up and looked like he'd become quarterback Adam Weber's favorite target.
McKnight was the lowest-rated member of the Skyline Four, but he's made a lot of progress. He still needs to work on his hands, as he's dropped a few catchable balls along the way, but McKnight has the size and speed to be a dangerous downfield receiver.
Most "experts" don't expect much out of the Gophers this season. Every prediction I've seen thus far places them at the bottom of the Big Ten. If they prove the experts wrong and enjoy some success on the field this season, it will be due to these four former Skyline Raiders.
I fully expect the Gophers' best offensive, defensive and special teams players to be McKnight, Cooper and Stoudemire. Throw in Spencer Reeves and Brewster's recruits might will the team to enough wins to keep Coach Brewster around for one more season.
Then it's on to a softer schedule in 2011 with a senior-laden squad that just might give Gopher fans that magical season they've spent an eternity waiting for. Hey, it could happen.
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