Brewster era begins at Metrodome

The defense looked far ahead of the offense during the annual Spring Game.

Mark Remme

During spring practices, members of the Minnesota football team admitted the offense fell way behind the progress of the defense.

Through much of the Spring Game at the Metrodome on Saturday, that proved to be true.

False starts, turnovers and consistent incomplete passes on routine throws riddled much of the contest for both the first and second team offenses while the defense looked sharp.

But because it’s so early and new offensive coordinator Mike Dunbar’s system is so complex, no one is throwing up red flags. On the contrary, team members think they might be on the right track.

“I feel like we’ve got the basic concepts (of the offense) down,” freshman quarterback Adam Weber said.

Weber, who at this point is in a battle with junior Tony Mortensen for the starting job and is waiting to see what competition incoming freshman recruit Clint Brewster will bring to the table, said summer will be crucial for refining the schemes learned in practice this spring.

“(Today) certain things went well and others didn’t,” he said. “But there’s definitely a lot to strive for.”

In the midst of a sometimes inconsistent offense, one receiver and two running backs showed their worth.

Sophomore wideout Eric Decker looks as though he’ll fill the void left by Logan Payne, the team’s go-to receiver last season lost to graduation.

Decker recorded four receptions for 80 yards and one touchdown but also drew a pass interference call early in the game that could’ve resulted in another big play.

Coach Tim Brewster stressed the importance of having four capable receivers in Dunbar’s new spread offense, and he said Decker is pivotal to the team’s air attack success.

“(Decker)’s got good hands, focus and toughness,” Brewster said. “He’s going to have to be that type of player for us.”

Decker agreed with the importance wide receivers play in the system. When defenses spread out to defend the pass, the middle opens up for the run.

“In a spread offense, the receivers have to make the plays,” he said.

But as a viable complement to Decker’s showing in the passing game, junior Amir Pinnix and sophomore Jay Thomas showed they might be a reliable one-two punch out of the backfield this season.

The two running backs each scored a touchdown while Thomas averaged 7.6 yards per carry on the day.

Still, the offense didn’t look like it ever achieved a solid rhythm in the contest. There were five tackles for losses, four interceptions and one fumble.

And much of that was due to the defense, which swarmed the offense and looked sharper than past editions that wore the maroon and gold.

“At this point we know the defense,” senior linebacker Mike Sherels said. “The biggest two differences from last year are first the intensity level and secondly the way we approach studying. We’re looking more into the academic side of football.”

Whether the defense can stand up to perennial Big Ten power offenses is yet to be seen, but the squad and its coaches showed excitement toward the defensive unit’s progress.

And in order to fulfill lofty goals Brewster instilled when he took over as coach earlier this year, significant strides on both sides of the ball need to be met during summer workouts. Brewster said he knows the time between now and the Sept. 1 opener against Bowling Green is crucial.

“We need to get into the weight room and get bigger, stronger, faster and nastier,” he said. “The process is ongoing. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”