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Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
|AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt|
|After going 1-11 his first season as coach, Tim Brewster brought in juco transfers to push his starters.|
CHICAGO -- When Tim Brewster arrived at Minnesota, he talked about canvassing the state's high schools to land top talent. His recruiting exploits at Texas and North Carolina were well-known, and he quickly brought several elite prospects to Minneapolis.
But after going 1-11 in his first season and seeing the Gophers defense set records for futility, Brewster looked elsewhere for help. He found it in the junior-college ranks, signing seven transfers, six on the defensive side. Brewster's primary objective was to find "immediate impact players," but he also put his returning starters on notice.
"We're not going to bring juco kids to provide depth," Brewster said. "They're going to hopefully help us immediately. ... Football's a game of competition, and you can't worry about getting your feelings hurt. These players know that if you don't come in and compete on a daily basis, I'm going to put somebody else on the field. We don't concern ourselves with last year's guys. It's all about us winning today."
Several of the transfers are projected to start after strong spring performances, including hard-hitting safety Tramaine Brock, cornerback Traye Simmons and linebacker Rex Sharpe. Defensive end Cedric McKinley, who teamed with Brock at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, will see significant playing time.
Senior linebacker Steve Davis took a help-is-on-the-way attitude toward the influx of junior-college transfers. The defense needed a facelift after finishing last in the nation in yards allowed (518.7 ypg) and 109th in points allowed (36.7 ppg). But the arrivals have also spurred the holdovers in new ways.
"It's something that Minnesota needs because there really wasn't that much competition," Davis said. "For (Brewster) to bring all these juco guys in, it says, 'Hey, they can come in and take your spot at any time.' It makes you play harder and do better so that you can play. Your job's at stake."
Brock is already drawing excellent reviews.
"Tremendous speed, toughness," Brewster said of Brock. "I like what he's brought to our defense."