Season in Review: Minnesota

The Gophers began the season with a win over Middle Tennessee and closed it with victories over Illinois and Iowa. Between the wins came nine straight losses, the firing of head coach Tim Brewster, injuries to key players and enough other headaches to last three or four seasons, let alone one.

Here's some advice for Minnesota's video department: Save all video from Games 1, 11 and 12 for the archives. Then burn everything in between. The 2010 season can be looked upon as a tough learning experience. On the other hand, it might be best to forget the whole thing as quickly as possible.

It's hard to pick the lowest point of the season. It started to spin out of control with a Week 2 loss at home to South Dakota, which plays at the FCS level, and got worse from there.

Brewster was fired on Oct. 17 when the Gophers were 1-6, and he was replaced by offensive coordinator Jeff Horton. Three more losses followed, but the coaching staff and players never gave in to the negativity. Minnesota rallied from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter for a win at Illinois and then stunned nationally ranked Iowa in the final game, Minnesota's only win at TCF Bank Stadium this season.

The biggest offseason news will come with the hiring of a new head coach. The new man will inherit a 2-10 team so, obviously, he will have a big job on his hands, both in upgrading the talent and getting the returning players to believe they can win.

NOTES, QUOTES

GAME OF THE YEAR: Minnesota 27, Iowa 24 -- As thrilling as the win over Illinois was, the Nov. 27 victory trumped it. The Gophers beat one of their rivals, ended the season with a two-game winning streak and, on top of all that, won back the Floyd of Rosedale Trophy. Not only did the Gophers come up with a victory, but it was a game that featured a major role reversal. The Gophers had been shoved around for most of the season, but this time they were the ones who did the shoving.

Minnesota rushed for a season-high 216 yards, which was also a season high allowed by Iowa. Duane Bennett's touchdown run with 4:31 put the Gophers ahead, and cornerback Troy Stoudermire made a crushing hit to force a fumble on Iowa's last drive and save the win. Minnesota broke a four-game losing streak against Iowa and beat the Hawkeyes for only the second time in the last 10 years.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: QB Adam Weber -- The fifth-year senior can go out with his head held high. As everything around him crumbled, Weber still performed at a high rate and put up numbers that were good enough to win more than two games. He completed 55.7 percent of his passes for 2,679 yards for 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Going into the season, he was listed as one of the team's question marks, but he was one of the mainstays when all was said and done. Weber ends his career throwing for 10,917 yards, and he made his 50th consecutive start in his final game, a Big Ten record for quarterbacks.

FAST FORWARD: Most of the attention will center around hiring the new coach. School administrators have conducted a nationwide search for the new man and hope to have someone hired by the holidays. Among the possible candidates are San Diego State's Brady Hoke, Air Force's Troy Calhoun and Houston's Kevin Sumlin. Quarterback Adam Weber, safeties Kyle Theret and Kim Royston, who missed his entire senior season because of a broken leg, guard Matt Carufel and fullback Jon Hoese will be among the key players who will need to be replaced.

RECRUITING TRAIL: Several players who committed when Tim Brewster was the head coach may change their minds. Defensive back Samuel Oyenuga, wide receivers Devin Crawford-Tufts and Cameron Brown and offensive lineman Russell Haughton-James have indicated they may reconsider their commitment to the Gophers. Twin brothers Luke and Kyle McAvoy, who are both offensive linemen, said they would stick with their commitments.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It was a long month and a half, but the guys stayed through it and found a way to get it done. The coaches, I can't say enough about them. I mean, the uncertainty and coming every week and keep preparing and trying to help come up with a great game plan." -- Minnesota interim coach Jeff Horton, after the Gophers' victory over Iowa in the final game of the season.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

PLAYERS TO WATCH IN 2011:

WB/QB MarQeuis Gray -- The multi-talented sophomore came to campus as a quarterback, but he didn't see much action in his freshman season. The coaches decided it would a waste to have him on the bench for another year, so they moved him to wide receiver. That decision paid off, as Gray became one of top targets in the passing game and made several big plays. Gray saw some action at quarterback in the last three games, which is where he's expected to play next season. Few quarterbacks in the conference will have his running ability. He can become a complete quarterback if he can pass the ball efficiently.

CB/KR Troy Stoudermire -- In a topsy-turvy season, he had more highs and lows than anyone. Stoudermire began the season as one of the Gophers' top receiving threats. He was then suspended, announced he was leaving school, changed his mind, asked for a second chance and was reinstated as a cornerback. The junior adjusted well to defense and soon became a dangerous kick returner. To his credit, he made the most of his new opportunity.

LB Gary Tinsley -- The junior was one of the few players on defense to make an impact this season. He led the team in tackles with 90, including 9 1/2 that resulted in a loss of yardage. Tinsley showed the ability to get into the backfield and also make plays down the field. He'll be counted on again to be a leader in 2011.

PRO PROSPECTS

QB Adam Weber -- His numbers and his leadership ability should at least get him a look at the next level. Weber can operate a short-passing offense, and he is adept at the play-action pass and reading defenses. His arm strength will come into question by NFL scouts.

OL Jeff Willis -- At 6-foot-7 and 350 pounds, he certainly has the size NFL scouts are looking for when they build an offensive line. Willis became an immediate mainstay on the Gophers' line the last two seasons after transferring from a junior college.

DB Kyle Theret -- Although his size (5-foot-10, 193 pounds) will work against him, his aggressiveness can't be disputed. Theret is a hard hitter and has a nose for the ball. Those abilities can't be taught.

ROSTER REPORT:

--TB Donnell Kirkwood had hamstring and calf injuries and will get a redshirt year. He played in four games and gained 112 yards on 27 carries.

--CB Michael Carter, a sophomore, and defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman, a redshirt freshman, were suspended for the final three games to concentrate on academics.

--DL Austin Hahn, a sophomore, played in eight games before having surgery to repair a torn meniscus.

--OT Ed Olson, a redshirt freshman, missed time with injuries, but he is expected to be ready for offseason workouts.


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