Breaking news out of Happy Valley: You don't have to be a linguist to figure out Joe Paterno said a mouthful this week after getting his ailing hip checked.
"I want to find out from (doctors) what needs to be done," Joe said, "and get it done as soon as I can after the season is over so I can get on the road to recruit."
Recruiting? For, like, 2009? There you have it, in case you're wondering if JoePa is going to hang up the white socks. The Penn State president's office had no comment. (OK, kidding on that last one).• Minnesota was a national embarrassment in 2007: 1-11, last in total defense. It couldn't get worse.
There was whispers that rookie head coach Tim Brewster was a colossal mistake. But the coach had yet to work his
"He's the best recruiter I've been around. Period," said Texas' Mack Brown.
The two had worked together for 13 years. There was a reason Brown kept him close. Brewster could charm Warren
Buffet out of his wallet.
"I'm just surprised he did it so early," Brown said.
It is more than a surprise that Minnesota 7-1 and ranked 20th. From the dregs of '07, Brewster now has the Gophers
in contention for the biggest I-A turnaround ever. The current record is an 8 1/2-game improvement. Hawaii improved
by that margin in 1999 (from 0-12 to 9-4). Minnesota is currently eight games better than last season. If it
finishes 10-3 it would tie the record; 11-2 and it break it.
The turnaround started, of course, with recruiting. Brewster says he brought in 45 players for official visits. Thirty-one signed, including a couple of jucos who provided immediate help. Defensive backs Traye Simmons, Tramaine Brock and Simoni Lawrence have combined for 7 1/2 tackles for loss, four interceptions, 17 passes broken up and three forced fumbles.
Quarterback Adam Weber matured. Receiver Eric Decker is tied for third nationally with 66
receptions. Defensive end Willie VanDeSteeg is back healthy from a broken wrist.
There are those who will tell you that for all credit Brewster gets for this season, he must bear some blame for
last season. The cupboard wasn't exactly bare when Brewster took over Glen Mason's 6-7 team in 2006 before the
bottom fell out. Six of the 11 losses were by a touchdown or less, two in overtime.
"It was gut-wrenching," Brewster said. "We had a lot of sad Saturday evenings, a lot of hard Sundays. There's been
nothing given to this team."
Minny has benefitted from a friendly schedule -- it misses Penn State and Michigan State -- but, hey, things were so bad last season that it isn't fair to put qualifiers on this turnaround. The defense is No. 1 in takeaways with 24.
"It's really different, especially from last year," defensive back Kyle Theret said. "We weren't even close to
shutting down people to six points, no touchdowns."
That was the result last week in a 17-6 over slumping Purdue. Northwestern is up this week and once again the
schedule is friendly. Wildcats quarterback C.J. Bacher is questionable with a hammy. Tailback Tyrell Sutton is out for the season.
With games left against Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa (combined record 11-13), the Gophers could pull a complete
turnaround and finish 11-1. A Jan. 1 bowl is not out of the question for a program that hasn't been to one since the 1962 Rose Bowl.
Brewster is one of those worker bees who finally got his shot. There were a lot of raised eyebrows when the Denver
Broncos tight ends coach got a Big Ten job. But Brewster came well recommended. He lists his biggest influences as
Brown, Mike Shanahan and Marty Schottenheimer. His son Nolan plays at Texas.
Armed with momentum, Brewster can't let it slip. TCF Bank Stadium, the result of a long-time Mason crusade, opens
next season. It will be a palace, the first new Big Ten stadium built in 49 years. Open-air football in Minnesota
sure beats the Metrodome no matter what the temperature.
"It's just not a collegiate environment. It's a pro environment," Brewster said. "The average game day temperature
at the University of Minnesota through November 15 is 64 degrees. It's way overplayed. Winter's winter. Cold is cold. You know what? That's a good thing."
• Handicapping the Washington job.
1. Jim Mora, Jr., Seattle Seahawks secondary coach. His head says hang on to replace Mike Holmgren. His heart says
go to the alma mater. Please, Jim, take the U-Dub job. You are the most passionate candidate available. Mora also
comes armed with head coaching experience, something this opening desperately needs.
2. Chris Petersen, Boise State. Has to be the No. 1 choice if Mora says no, doesn't he? Petersen can recruit
California and can't accomplish much more in Boise. It's time for him to take a step up.
3. Gary Patterson, TCU. Defensive master-mind who, with the right offensive coordinator could be perfect for the job. Part of the Mountain West overthrow of the Pac-10. Completely happy at TCU but someday he will listen. Will he take Washington's call?
4. Pat Hill, Fresno State. Pat would improve the defense and the get the media back but he has never won so much as
a WAC title. Petersen's younger.
5. Troy Calhoun, Air Force. NFL experience, Pacific Northwest roots. Run-based offense that some Washington loyalists want to see return to Husky Stadium.
6. Lane Kiffin, unemployed. Still having problems identifying what Lane has actually done. The list of failed
Raiders coaches goes out the door. Supposedly, he can coordinate an offense but this job needs soooo much more.
7. Dave Christensen, Missouri offensive coordinator. Somewhat of a flavor-of-the-month. DC has been there for eight
years. Missouri's offense has been on the national scene for two. Christensen looks cool riding his motorcycle and
has U-Dub ties but doesn't this opening deserve a guy with head coaching experience?
8. Mike Leach, Texas Tech. Leach wants it. Does Washington want him?
9. Gary Pinkel, Missouri. He ain't going so forget it.
• The finalists for the Draddy Award, also known as the academic Heisman
Andrew Berry, CB, Harvard -- You would expect nothing less from this former Goldman Sachs interim who participated in
Harvard's first night game last season.
Ryan Berry, QB, South Dakota State -- Pre-med and American Dairy Association basketball clinic participant.
Chase Daniel, QB, Missouri -- Heisman candidate and business administration major who counts Warren Buffet among his close friends.
Brian Freeman, OT, Carnegie Mellon -- three-time student employee of the year finalist. Rock on, Brian.
Casey Gerald, CB, Yale -- Accepted to Harvard Business School and applying for Rhodes scholarship. Thank goodness
the football thing hasn't gotten in the way.
Graham Harrrell, QB, Texas Tech -- You can't touch him (4.0 in first semester of graduate work) and you can't touch
him (sacked only three times this season).
Quin Harris, LB, Louisiana Tech -- Graduated magna cum laude in clinical kinesiology.
Jeff Horinek, LB, Colorado State -- Seems to have mastered in football his areas of post graduate interest:
nutrition and biomechanics.
Ryan Kees, DE, St. Cloud State -- Pride of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.
Alex Mack, C, Cal -- Pancakes, knockdowns and magna cum laude in legal studies.
Ryan McDonald, OL, Illinois -- Aerospace engineer major. Career should lift off. Thanks, I'll be here all week.
Greg Micheli, QB, Mount Union -- Quite the mathlete. Division II All-American and physics major.
Darryl Richard, DT, Georgia Tech -- If this guy can play for Paul Johnson, he deserves for to be on this list.
Brian Robiskie, WR, Ohio State -- Not everything about Ohio State is overrated.
Louie Sakoda, P/K, Utah -- Laser Foot who can drop punts inside the 20 with the best of them.