Program on the Upswing, Especially Recruiting

New Gophers coach showed his strong recruiting skills in a short period of time, bringing in a fistful of late recruits. Now it will be on him to prove his coaching skills in the fall.

Minnesota's program appears on the upswing after Glen Mason's hasty firing shortly after the Insight Bowl and the mid-January hiring of Denver Broncos tight ends coach Tim Brewster.

With essentially two weeks to put together a recruiting class, Brewster turned on his considerable charm and lured five players in the 22-man group made public at February's signing day.

While most of the recruits (including five junior-college transfers already on campus) committed to Mason before his firing, the fistful that Brewster brought in showed he plans to take a back seat to no one in years to come.

For starters, Brewster stole a four-star quarterback from Illinois less than 72 hours before signing day. Yes, the quarterback happens to be his son, Clint, but the youngster said even after his father's hiring that he was 100 percent solid with Illinois.

Brewster also gave the Gophers' athleticism an upgrade when he brought in 5-foot-8 Harold Howell from Jacksonville, Fla. Howell can be a cornerback, slot receiver, kick receiver — or a combination of all three.

The spring focus is to generate a sense of continuity. Brewster's background should make the noted Gophers' running game a cinch to be a strong point. The defense, though, is another story.

Nine defensive starters are back, but the unit was mediocre. It's one of the places where the Gophers suffered all of last year — never more so than during Texas Tech's 31-point comeback in the Insight Bowl.

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