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July 24, 2008

Tim Brewster


COACH BREWSTER: It's great to be back in Chicago. Starting a new season, a tremendous optimism, very excited about the challenge that we have at the University of Minnesota. As we look back at the 2007 season, what we found was this: Is that we had a group of kids that competed extremely hard each and every game and we weren't good enough to finish games in the fourth quarter and we lost a number of close, tight football games. And I'll tell you, it was unfortunate because our kids did really play their hearts out for the state of Minnesota, for the University of Minnesota.
What we want to do is we want to become a better football team, a more improved football team, and I really believe that we've taken the steps necessary to become a more confident, improved football team. We started out after last season and we went out and we recruited, and we feel like we recruited one of the top recruiting classes in the nation. They rated us 16th in the nation and 3rd in the Big Ten. We really feel like we added some football players that are going to help our football team become more dynamic. We needed more playmakers.
As everybody here knows, last year we were pretty solid on offense, did some pretty good things, scored some points, ran the ball fairly well. What we didn't do is stop anybody. We were a very poor defensive football team. From the head football coach to the defensive staff to our team, we went about correcting that situation and we went out and we recruited defensive football players. We brought in guys. 21 out of the 31 kids we signed are defensive football players and we really feel like good defensive football players, athletic kids, kids that can make a difference on the defensive side.
And as you look through the years at the University of Minnesota, University of Minnesota has had good offensive football teams for a long time where we would come up short on the defensive side. And without question there is a tremendous commitment for myself as the head football coach and for our football team to get better on defense, and we really feel like spring practice helped us.
We were extremely physical in our spring practice. We tackled as much as the NCAA allowed us to tackle. It was the most physical training practice that I've been around as an assistant football coach or part of any program.
Change is a difficult process. We changed head coaches, we changed systems. We changed a lot of things. We feel like at the University of Minnesota that our change is really going to benefit us as we move forward. I like to say we took two steps back so that we can take that one big step forward.
We all know that at the University of Minnesota we haven't won a championship in a long time. I think it's 47 years. We're committed to winning a championship, doing the things necessary to win a championship. Minnesota's gone to Bowl games, Minnesota's won a lot of games, but as I traveled the state of Minnesota, I feel the state's pain and the fact that we haven't represented the Big Ten in a long time in Pasadena. That's a tremendous challenge to myself, our staff, our school, everything that we stand for.
What's going to allow us to get there? We really feel like we've got tremendous leadership on our football team right now and it all starts to me with the quarterback. I couldn't be more excited about the guy we've got underneath the center in Adam Weber. He's an elected captain, was a red shirt sophomore last year. He took his lumps, took every snap, got banged around, got beat up every play, got back up and went to the huddle.
I think the most vital position on your football team is your quarterback, and we're very fortunate to have a young guy like Adam Weber who got the experience that he needed last year as a red shirt freshman, and we truly believe that he will do an outstanding job in leading us as we move forward. Big, strong kid, he's now weighing about 230 pounds, still runs 4-6 and makes all the throws, but the exciting thing about Adam Weber is he's a student of the game. He spent a lot of time with Mike Dunbar studying our offense, studying the ways he feels he can improve. I couldn't be more excited about Adam Weber. He's with us as an elected captain.
The other captains, we have with us Eric Decker from Cold Spring, Minnesota. He had an outstanding season last year. I truly believe Eric Decker is going to be one of the top wide receivers in America this coming season. The second thing about Eric is he's such an outstanding kid. He goes out, he hadn't played baseball his since his senior year in high school, and this spring Eric Decker went out for the baseball team at University of Minnesota and ended up being a draft pick for the Milwaukee Brewers. He's just an outstanding athlete. We really think he's going to be a tremendous player for us this season.
Steve Davis is also here. Young guy who made the transition from being a defensive end to a linebacker. He's much more comfortable playing on his feet. Really like his leadership. I think he's going to be an outstanding leader for our defense. He's got speed, he likes to play the game.
One of the big questions that I have for all of our kids is do you really love football? Because if you really love football, football will love you back. Steve Davis without question is a kid who loves football and is going to do a great job for us.
Willy VanDeSteeg, defensive end, is not here. He would have been here if we could have brought him. He's also going to be a captain for us. We really think he's going to get back to being the type of player that he was as a sophomore when he had ten and a half sacks and did some really good things in the Big Ten. We need a pass rush without question, and we think that Willy VanDeSteeg is going to help us there.
Again, as I said, the key in our improvement without question is our development as a defense. I'm really excited about Ted Roof, our new defensive coordinator, comes to us with tremendous experience, not only as a defensive coordinator but a head coach. Tremendous calmness about him, understands, has been in the heat of battle, and his imprint on our defense was strong this spring. I thought that he came in and really got after those kids and let them know exactly the style of play that we want to play, and again, it just goes back to our commitment to playing great defense.
We think our special teams is going to be very solid. Justin Kucek is a Ray Guy Award nominee, is one of the top runners in the country. We really think he's going to be an outstanding weapon for us. Last year he did a great job of getting punts downed inside the ten yard line.
We feel like Joe Monroe is going to be an excellent kicker for us. He hit a 54-yarder against Iowa for us. His kickoffs were outstanding, extremely strong-legged kid. He's got to hit a higher percentage of his field goals, but I think he will.
All in all, guys, I couldn't be more excited as we stand here today with the 2008 season getting ready to start. The University of Minnesota has made a tremendous commitment. Financially we're going to open up a brand new stadium next year. TCF Bank Stadium will open up September of 2009, and it will be just an amazing place for the Big Ten teams to come play, and it will help us. It will be a tremendous advantage for us in recruiting, helping us with our game day experience, and overall just allowing us to continue towards winning a championship.
But again, that's exactly what our goals are, to win a championship we truly believe that we can and will win a championship. We had a 1-and-11 season last year that was extremely painful to all Minnesota Golden Gopher fans, but again, like I said, I think we've taken the steps to rectify that and move forward towards a championship. Thank you.

Q. You mentioned --

Q. I know you. You mentioned about the emphasis on defense and trying to improve it and all that. How are you changing the defense in terms of style or scheme from last year?
COACH BREWSTER: You know what, I don't think it's at all about style. I don't think it's at all about scheme. I think it's about players, players having an attitude to swarm and attack. We talk about alignment, assignment and tackle, those basic premises which lead to playing good defense.
That's all we want to do. We're not going to try to do anything great, special, different. We're going to do a lot of things that everybody else does. We're just going to try to do it better. We're going to try to do it with kids that are hungrier, bigger, stronger faster. Cedric McKinley from Demopolis, Alabama, who's 6'6", 255 pounds, probably runs 4-6. He's going to make us a better defense. Tramaine Brock, a safety from Gulf Port, Mississippi, is going to make us a better defense. Rex Sharp, a linebacker 6'3", 225 pounds and can really run. It has so much more to do with personnel than it does can scream.

Q. You guys struggled with Big Ten play. This year it's not going to be easy. You're starting out with Ohio State, Illinois on the road and Indiana at home. How important is it for you to get off to a good start for a team that struggled last year?
COACH BREWSTER: It's really important for us that we get off to a good start in nonconference games that we start off. The most important game to us is August 30th against a Northern Illinois team that has a new coach, new staff, new way of doing things. That's all we're looking at right now.
At the end of the day on August the 30th our goal is to be 1 and 0, and to be quite honest with you, that's as far as we're looking. But you're 100 percent correct in that a team's psyche is fragile. We need to gain in confidence. We need to go out and play well early as we move into that game on September the 27th in Columbus.

Q. Can you talk about the recruiting class and whether or not you have some of the personnel to more effectively implement the spread offense?
COACH BREWSTER: I really think that we've added some players, some really, dynamic players. Tell you a quick story that to me it's what we're all about at the University of Minnesota, and as we move forward with these type of players it's going to allow us to compete for a championship. MarQueis Gray is a young guy from Indianapolis, 6'5", 220 pounds, extremely athletic. He has some similarities to a guy I recruited at the University of Texas named Vince Young. He went through the recruiting process and kids get told this, that and the other thing and how great you are, and somebody asked him, MarQueis, what are your immediate goals upon entering the University of Minnesota? And his response absolutely blew me away, our staff, and we knew we hit on something big, is he said his only goal is to be the absolute best teammate that he can be. And I just thought it was an unbelievably educated and mature response from a young man. And those type of guys are going to help us to become a better football team.
I wanted to say that about MarQueis because I have so much admiration for him and the way he responded to that question. We have a lot of kids, Brandon Green, a kid from Chicago, Illinois, from high school. He's an extremely gifted and talented kid who is going to help us immediately at this wide receiver position so we really feel good about some of the younger kids that are coming in.

Q. Hearing from you and having just heard before from Mark Dantonio and Bill Lynch, a number of young coaches who are taking over programs who aren't traditionally the Ohio State do you feel like you and these younger coaches can continue to balance the power in the Big Ten?
COACH BREWSTER: You're a young guy, right? You don't realize that the University of Minnesota has won six national championships and 18 Big Ten championships. University of Minnesota is truly one of the top schools in the Big Ten. Now it's been a long time since we've won a championship, but without question we believe that we can make an impact in the Big Ten, and that's why we're here. That's why we're doing the things that we do, and to me what's really exciting about the Big Ten right now is teams like Indiana what Bill Lynch is doing; teams like Northwestern, what Pat's doing at Northwestern is just outstanding. Outstanding football coaches. I think the Big Ten conference right now from top to bottom is as good a conference as there is in America, from top to bottom when you look at all the teams extremely competitive conference.

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