With 1-11 year officially in the past, Brewster looking ahead

Brewster said he won’t soon forget the past and will instead learn from it.

Luke Middendorf

With a 1-11 season now in the rearview mirror, Minnesota’s head football coach Tim Brewster spoke with a fresh tone at the start of spring football practice Tuesday.

While Brewster said he would continue to be positive because that is who he is, he also repeated the saying, “Those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it,” a phrase that he said has stuck in his mind since the conclusion of the worst single-season record in the history of Gophers football.

But in the process of watching film and talking with the returning players about the problems on last year’s team – ranking 119 out of 119 teams in the nation in total defense and winning only one game (in triple overtime) – he also said that his returning players and new recruits are starting out this season with a new attitude.

Changes that Brewster said have already taken place are more competition in daily workouts, adding more muscle through strength training and bringing in what most recruiting services consider one of the top-25 recruiting classes in the nation.

While Minnesota waits for 26 of its 31 2008 recruits to show up in June, Brewster said the key during spring practice in improving from a 1-11 season is heated competition at every position.

“I truly believe that the only way that you are going to improve as a football team is to work your best players against your best players,” Brewster said.

Changes on offense

The battle for starting quarterback will be intelnse this spring and even more so this June with the arrival of highly recruited MarQueis Gray of Indianapolis.

Returning starter and 2007 All Big Ten freshman team honoree Adam Weber is the favorite for the job, but junior college recruit David Pittman – who Brewster said will also play wide receiver, defense and return kicks – is right on his heels, along with Clint Brewster, who took a redshirt last season.

“Any person on this team that can help us win, I’m all for it,” Weber said of the competition and Pittman’s versatility. “He (Pittman) is definitely going to help us win.”

Offensive line starters should become clear after spring practice, and the Gophers will have lots of depth there in 2008.

Wide receivers will be “thin” this spring, said Brewster, as their top returning receiver sophomore Eric Decker, is playing baseball. In waiting for Decker and more talented receiver recruits to show up this summer, freshmen Tray Herndon and Ralph Spry will have a chance this spring to solidify a starting spot in 2008.

All-Big Ten freshman team running back Duane Bennett will be with the first team this spring while sophomore Jay Thomas recovers from a knee injury.

Changes on defense

According to Brewster, the biggest addition to the defense this spring, other than new defensive coordinator Ted Roof, is junior college transfer Tramaine Brock, who should start at safety.

Junior defensive end Willie VanDeSteeg will be counted on to pressure the quarterback more this season, while juniors Deon Hightower and Steve Davis will lead the linebacking core. Junior college transfer Rex Sharpe will also see time at linebacker.

Freshman Anthony Jacobs, junior Eric Small, sophomore Garrett Brown and junior Barrett Moen have all put on a significant amount of muscle and weight to help anchor the interior of the defense line next season, according to Brewster.

“In order for us to get to where we want to go, the intensity has got to increase in practice and workouts,” Davis said. “It has already started by guys getting bigger this off-season.”