Posts tagged Golden Gophers football
Posts tagged Golden Gophers football
What can we really tell from team-by-team National Signing Day recruiting rankings? Are recruiting rankings a predictor of future success? Or are they swayed toward big-time, big-name programs and prospects in Texas, California and Florida?
Photo credit: Jim Gehrz, Star Tribune
(Ed. Note: I wrote this back in March, while staying in Zimbabwe. I held off publishing it to possibly use it in hopes for a different blog, but rather than let this continue to sit, I’d like to get it out there. To kick off Gopher camp, I figured I would bring it out, as well as some more regular posts in the coming days. EM)
In early 2008, the Minnesota Golden Gophers had just wrapped up an atrocious season, one that would have gone completely winless if not for an early season win in triple overtime against an under .500 team from the Mid-American Conference. But later next February, there the Gophers were, sprinkled between Texas A&M and Virginia Tech within the top 25 recruiting rankings. Coach Tim Brewster and company brought the excitement of the Dinkytown faithful to a level never before reached in the short history of the Rivals.com lists on National Signing Day.
Even though Minnesota was once the class of major college football, those championship banners were raised decades ago, long before these incoming 17 and 18 year-olds had been born, and likely before even their parents had been born. It was what Brewster, an unproven hire, had been brought in to accomplish, to bring in players that otherwise tabbed Minneapolis as a cold Omaha. The dandy of a recruiting ranking, which seemingly dominated anything that Brewster’s predecessor Glen Mason accomplished recruiting wise, had Big Ten and Gopher football message boards alike buzzing.
“This class is phenomenal. Minnesota has to be one of the biggest stories nationally,” said Tom Lemming, possibly one of most well-known and thorough national recruiting analysts, at the time to the Star-Tribune in Minneapolis. “I believe Tim is one of the Top 10 recruiters I’ve ever seen and he’s showing why with this class. Recruiting is all about perception and nobody does it better than Tim. I’ve been doing this since 1978 and this is the best class that Minnesota has brought in when you talk about pure athletes.”
For those who aren’t ardent Saturday football fans, you’ll probably remember Lemming from a brief cameo in the film adaption of “The Blind Side.” The reviews poured in from other recruiting analysts as well, from credible sources who make a 9-to-5 living off of scouting players and analyzing them for college programs.
“There’s no question that Minnesota’s class goes down as the biggest surprise in the nation for me,” said Jeremy Crabtree, Rivals.com national recruiting analyst. “We knew he could recruit when he was at Texas and other places, but the job that he did this season with the results on the field is amazing. He’s surrounded himself with great assistant coaches that work just as hard as he does, and the end result is a class chock-full of impact guys that should help them out right away.”
Meanwhile, Zach Johnson, recruiting editor for Rivals-based GophersIllustrated.com, told a Star-Tribune reporter that it was the best recruiting class in Golden Gopher football history.
At his first press conference a few years earlier, Brewster promised such recruiting victories, which he said would not only leads to wins against the hated Wisconsin Badgers and Iowa Hawkeyes, but also to the Rose Bowl, the “Granddaddy of ‘Em All.”
“We’re going to win the Big Ten championship and we’re going to take the Gopher Nation to Pasadena,” Brewster said at the time to the cadre of reporters. “That’s my dream, that’s my goal and that’s my belief. It will happen here sooner rather than later.”
Brewster’s first true class delivered according to the experts. The Gophers now had the athletes to compete with upper echelon schools. But less than three years later, two offensive and defensive coordinators each had abandoned ship, the Gophers never won more than seven games in a season and Brewster was fired in the midst of a 1-6 season. Even in the seven win season when the team had briefly reached the top 25, they ended the season on a five-game losing streak, including a 55-0 loss to Iowa at home. During his tenure, Brewster’s team never beat a team ranked in the top 25; they hadn’t even beaten a rival in a trophy game. Brewster inherited a team that played Texas Tech in the Insight Bowl. He left a team that, at the time, hadn’t won a Big Ten conference game.
What happened? Is a recruiting ranking an indicator of future success? Were the Gophers victim to some unlikely circumstances or was Brewster unable to coach these talented players to their potential?
Why didn’t the Gophers improve their Big Ten position?