Brewster Lives Up To Recruiting Hype

Gophers coach Tim Brewster came to Minnesota with a reputation for being a first-class recruiter, and his first class of recruits reflects that despite coming off a 1-11 season.

Gophers coach Tim Brewster promised to upgrade recruiting efforts in his first season, and he kept his word.

In one of the biggest recruiting surprises in college football, Brewster landed a top-25 class nationally, despite a 1-11 record in his first season.

Brewster's 2008 class includes seven four-star prospects, according to rankings. By comparison, from 2002-2007, the Gophers signed only four four-star recruits total and had an average national ranking of No. 54.

The Gophers landed two Kentucky recruits, four high school teammates from Dallas, seven junior college transfers (six of whom are defensive players) and the No. 1 player in Indiana — four-star quarterback MarQueis Gray, one of the nation's top dual-threat quarterbacks.

Brewster and his staff were able to address specific needs on both sides of the ball, specifically at wide receiver and in the secondary. They also landed help at running back, added size along the defensive line and upgraded the overall speed and athleticism, particularly on defense, which was woefully inadequate last season.

It is easily the highest rated recruiting class Minnesota has attracted in years, and it could have been even better had Brewster been able to lock down the state, which he mandated upon arrival. Instead, Brewster landed only one of the top five players in Minnesota, Champlin Park linebacker Sam Maresh.

But to Brewster's credit, he managed to offset those instate losses by getting blue-chip talent from other states. The class includes recruits from 16 states, which is a wide net cast by this staff.


QB MarQueis Gray, Indianapolis, Ind. — Four-star recruit is one of the nation's top dual-threat quarterbacks. He has good size (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) and speed, but he missed most of his senior season because of a broken left (non-throwing) forearm. He appears to be the perfect fit for Minnesota's zone-read spread offense, but it's unclear when he will see the field. Sophomore quarterback Adam Weber set a host of school records as a freshman and likely will keep his starting job next season.

WR Brandon Green, Chicago — Explosive talent headlines an impressive group of receivers in this class. He's not very big (6 feet, 167 pounds), but the coaching staff loves his speed and play-making ability. He had numerous BCS offers and figures to start as a true freshman.

LB Sam Maresh, Champlin Park, Minn. — Prototypical middle linebacker who has a chance to start as a true freshman. Rated a top-five prospect in Minnesota, he's a physical player (6-2, 245 pounds) who is also a state champion wrestler. Brewster called him the most important recruit in the class.


  • Starting DE Willie VanDeSteeg was arrested and charged with two counts of fifth-degree assault after an altercation outside a bar in late December. VanDeSteeg was accused of assaulting two men who were left with "visible physical injuries," according to documents filed by the McLeod County Sheriff's Office. Gophers coach Tim Brewster said he has talked to VanDeSteeg about the incident and it is being handled internally.

  • The Gophers had little attrition after Brewster's first season. The Gophers lost no returning starters, and their key loss was backup OT Matt DeGeest, who elected not to play his senior season.

  • MLB Deon Hightower had offseason shoulder surgery and will miss spring practice. Hightower was arguably the defense's most improved player last season.

  • RB Jay Thomas' rehab is on schedule after he tore an ACL late last season. Thomas, who already has had one ACL surgery, will miss spring practice but is expected to be ready for fall camp.

    SPRING AHEAD: Will the defense be any better? It should because it's hard to imagine it being any worse. The Gophers had one of the worst defenses statistically in recent NCAA history in 2007. There is a good chance that the unit will feature as many as eight new starters next season, including all four in the secondary. The coaching staff hit the junior college circuit hard, and it won't be surprising to see three junior college transfers starting in the secondary.


    WR Ernie Wheelwright — Talent has never been an issue with Wheelwright, and his size (6-5, 215 pounds) and physical ability are sure to impress scouts. But Wheelwright's inconsistency and frequent drops were maddening to Gophers fans. He could go in the later rounds if he has a solid performance in his pro day workout.

    SS Dom Barber — The younger brother of Dallas Cowboys tailback Marion Barber was easily Minnesota's best player on a horrible defense last season. He is a smart player who is a decent tackler and understands the game. Speed is the No. 1 issue for him. He is not particularly fast, but neither was his older brother coming out of college. Dom needs to run a reasonable time at either the combine or his pro day.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's very rewarding to see the results of a lot of hard work. It was a great effort by the staff, and we were able to accomplish a lot of our goals, especially in the area of upgrading the overall athleticism on the team. I just can't say enough about the job the staff did. I think they proved they are the best recruiting staff in America." — Coach Tim Brewster after landing a top-25 recruiting class despite a 1-11 record in his first season.

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