Sorry for the late Nugz guys. Work is kicking my butt today.
- Fuller decided to extend Derrick Wells Day with this look at the award winning DB. He focuses in on just how unheralded a recruit Wells was (seriously, only Ball State and the Gophers gave him an offer) and how pleased the coaches are with his play.
"He did so many things well," Claeys said. "He's an All-Big Ten-type safety. I believe that. But he knows he has to communicate better. There were a couple routes he needed to keep better leverage on. He played very well. But we're going to play better people, and he's going to play better. He knows he can play better."
Just one more picked off pass in the season opener and Wells would have become the first Minnesota player with three interceptions in a game since 1970.
Can't say it enough...we need guys like Wells to make the most of the chances Kill gives them. Having the "unheralded" guys turn into big players is probably one of the best ways for Kill to maximize his success at MN early.
- Defensive linemen get some love from the dead tree press as well. First up is Phil Miller's story on RS frosh DT Scott Epke. Some fun facts in this profile.
Ekpe arrived in Minnesota last January, still 17 years old and all of 245 pounds, a virtual certainty to redshirt while he grew to a size more appropriate to his new responsibilities. But the Texan impressed his coaches with some high-energy play in spring ball, then surprised them by putting on almost 40 pounds in eight months.
The weight made Gophers coaches reconsider their plans. His athleticism convinced them that Ekpe was ready right now.
"He just outplayed everybody," Kill said.
Let that quote sink in. Scott put on 40 lbs in 8 months! Just, wow. I remember reading that he was killing the S&C program but I didn't recall it being that nuts. He's a young guy too, still only 18. And Kill would like to see him reach 300 lbs (since he's 285 now that seems doable).
PLENTY more Gopher football links, some nice national press for Andre Hollins, a bunch of news in the CFB world, and the problem free world of Tennessee fans, all hiding below the jump...
- Fuller keeps the DL focus going with a blog post on D.L. Wilhite.
Wilhite was credited with just one tackle against the Rebels. But he made sure to fluster UNLV’s redshirt freshman quarterback Nick Sherry on every opportunity. Minnesota’s defense recorded two sacks but also had 15 hits on the quarterback and accounted for eight quarterback hurries. That led to Sherry completing just 4 of 17 passes after halftime. He also threw three interceptions, which gave the Gophers just one fewer interception than they had all last season.
"When I heard that stat, it was shocking," Wilhite said about last year’s interceptions total. "Sometimes it’s got to be on us rewarding (the secondary) by getting pressure on the quarterback and getting him to make bad decisions."
Seeing D.L. step up against UNLV was nice to see and hopefully it's something that continues. As Marcus notes, the hopes for him to step up as a pass rusher have been around a while now.
- The Gopher O-Line was displeased by all the false start penalties.
- Sandell talks to team leaders and says they are serious about changing the mindset towards playing FCS teams. I sure hope so. Another nugget from his article? No captains were appointed again this season:
Team captains were not named in Kill's first season with the Gophers and that has been true again this year.
Instead, Kill appointed a council made up of players as voted on by the team - eight upper classmen and a representative from each of the underclass levels. The group, which includes Gray, senior linebacker Keanon Cooper, as well as freshmen Philip Nelson, meets each week with the coaching staff to discuss team happenings, from how practices have gone to deciding what uniforms to wear on game-day.
"It's something we've never had here before," Gray said. "It's a bunch of guys that get to voice their opinions to the coaching staff and they actually listen to us. We talk about other players, we talk about what we want to do, how guys are feeling. It's a big chance for us to voice our opinion to the coaching staff."
- Phil also talks to Andre McDonald about stepping up now that James Harbison is out with a knee injury. He also notes that Coach Kill took the intensity down a notch for Wed's practice after he got concerned that the team was wearing out following their long game in the desert.
- More WSR love. The Daily profiles A.J. Barker's story as a walk-on.
- I think most folks here know that I'm in favor of a decent to good non-con schedule. So though it is not the norm for me, I have to plug Reusse's latest column about the Kill's scheduling philosophy:
As a co-chair of the BUMS, I talked to Kill about scheduling this week. Even though he was the country gentleman as always, I felt like Jeff Bridges making his first visit to see the Big Lebowski and getting this message:
"Your revolution is over, Mister. Condolences. The BUMS lost."
After talking with Kill, I'm seeing Mason's 2002 menu as the close-to-perfect nonconference schedule in the Gophers' future: Texas State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Toledo and Buffalo.
I know why Kill favors this approach but as a fan and STH I am not in love with it.
- KICKERS! FSN talks about our young Aussie punter. Ever since I saw his film when word got out that Kill was pondering bringing him in I had hoped he would work. So far, he's adjusted pretty well:
The ball in the Australian game is also advanced forward by kicking, which is why almost all Australian-rules football players are adept kickers. Even so, Eldred wanted to improve his kicking ability, so he worked with ProKick Australia, which helps players who aspire to play college or pro football in America. The program has produced several Division-I punters, including Eldred. Punter Jamie Keehn recently joined LSU, while Tom Hackett is walking on at Utah as a freshman this season.
- MOAR KICKERS! Sid reminds us that Wettstein never got the chance to kick in HS despite always wanting to. Glad to see things working out here at MN.
- It's the time of the week when a lot of predictions come out. Both Rittenburg and Bennett have us beating UNH, Jacobi concurs but his description of a blowout doesn't match his 6-3 score (mistake or sarcasm?), and CBS Sports has the most optimistic take with the Gophers winning by 14.
- TICKETS! GET YOUR TICKETS HERE! A flurry of ticket sale stories. First, Mike Kaszuba reminds us all why he is a horrible hack of a journo as he delivers another "U STUDENT TICKET SALES SUCK" article. Oddly enough, he still fails to include the context (last year's sales at this time) that would let folks know that things are nearly as super sucky as he makes them out to be. This isn't hard. There is a real problem. Just report it while offering a full context. Would literally take one extra sentence. I DEMAND MORE QUALITY PHIL MILLER PREVIEWS AS A PENANCE FOR YOUR FAILURES STRIB EDITORS! Also, try to find a new photo of TCF Bank Stadium to use when Mike stops by to drop a turd of a story on the sports section.
- Anyway...the Daily also looks at ticket sales and highlights the recent move to give all 5,500 incoming freshmen a free ticket to this weekend's game. Not a bad idea. PiPress has a similar story that manages to have the simple context sentence. Nice work Marcus! Hopefully the Gophers put on a show to turn some of those free tickets into season tickets.
- In other moves by our new AD, it appears that he is really cultivating the relationship with T. Denny Sanford:
Gophers athletics director Norwood Teague was encouraged after recently returning from the University of Nebraska with philanthropist billionaire-Minnesota grad T. Denny Sanford. The pair toured the Cornhuskers' basketball and football facilities.
"It was enlightening," Teague said. "We're progressing. We've got to get some conceptual designs done for both."
Teague plans to bring in a consultant, probably within the next 10 days. He said Tuesday that most basketball practice facilities cost between $15 million and $25 million.
"Football depends on what you put in it. I've seen some at $20 million, some at $75 million," he said.
Funds would have to be raised privately. Teague said it's realistic to consider both and that Sanford plans to help financially.
Teague and Sanford chose Nebraska to peruse because of proximity, the fact that it's a member of the Big Ten and is improving its basketball and football facilities.
Emphasis mine. If Shooter's birdies are to be believed (HUGE grain of salt) it sounds like T. Denny is on board with ponying up some dough. How much? Who knows. But if true, a continued interest in financially supporting the program from him would be huge given his U connections.
- The WWL blog says the stock for Minnesota's pass defense is going up.
- Gopher Football Weekly with Coach Kill premieres today.
- Pet of the Game? Why not.
- Neat timelapse video of the U freshman forming the Block M at TCF:
- In a great bit of national pub, CNNSI's Luke Winn selects Andre Hollins as the #2 on his list of sophomores most likely to have a breakout year:
Last season, the Big Ten had a freshman point guard that everyone talked about -- and it wasn't Hollins. It was Trey Burke from Michigan, the three-star prospect who broke out before anyone saw fit to predict it, and is one of the big reasons Michigan is a top-15 team heading into this fall. Hollins was promoted to the Gophers' starting lineup for their final 10 games, when they rose from the dead and made a run to the NIT final. He had four 20-point games during that stretch, used possessions at an even higher rate than Graham did, and locked down the first-team point guard job for 2012-13. It wouldn't be surprising to see his 8.7 points-per-game average jump to the 13-15 range as a sophomore, even if he'll be sharing shots with Rodney Williams and sixth-year senior Trevor Mbakwe. As coach Tubby Smith said of Hollins after last season ended, "He's got all types of potential. I think he's comfortable now in our offense."
- Tubby talks with Mike Grim about Mbakwe and Walker's road back from injury.
- Gophers volleyball heads to Texas to take on the #4 ranked Longhorns. The Gophers are ranked #14.
- Non-conference scheduling was in the news at the conference level this week, as Barry Alvarez suggested that the B1G would start urging members to schedule better non-con slates:
University of Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez raised some eyebrows Thursday when he said that Big Ten Conference schools have been urged to include two Bowl Championship Series teams in non-league schedules starting in 2014.
This is something that will make a lot of folks happy. WWL Blog is on board.
- For some reason (which I'm sure is stupid) both OSU and PSU are eligible to be the East division champs even though they cannot go to the B1G title game or a bowl. Just...lame.
- Off Tackle Empire brings us the first of many great B1G Power Polls. A very well executed theme as always.
- I'm a little late in mocking this, but it's worth pointing out that Mississippi State players didn't have a problem running out of the tunnel before Tim Brewster arrived. FBT also goes after Brew for his coaching acumen.
- Brian from MGoBlog released his first "This Week in Schadenfreude" article on the SB Nation mothership. Way to stay off his radar this week Gopher fans. Some TDG readers were not so successful last season.
- Pre-Snap Read also reranks all 124 FBS teams. The Gophers move up a few spots.
- Story to keep an eye on...more accusations against USC and improper benefits for FB players. If this pans out they could be in a world of hurt as a repeat offender.
- Empty seats aren't just a Minnesota problem by the looks of this Pat Forde article.
- Speaking of ticket sales, Cal had a bit of a DERP moment with tickets for the renovated Memorial Stadium.
- Washington practiced with a live tiger to prepare them for LSU. Why? Because...
- Ga Tech continues a vadalistic but awesome tradition with Va Tech.
- Texas A&M fans troll hard in Gainesville with this billboard.
- Aggies aren't the only ones trolling Florida.
- Purdue will honor alum Neil Armstrong with a helmet sticker.
- Iowa State has a pretty sweet schedule poster. This comes via The Wiz of Odds' yearly schedule poster roundup. I already submitted the Gophers poster so keep an eye out.
- Cars.com offers a list of the 10 best tailgating vehicles (based strictly on standard options/space). Anyone else find it sad that minivans rank so highly? Stupid useful space in a minivan.
- So...this is a real picture from the Tennessee game: