Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Hanging with the Gophers
By ESPN.com staff
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
How does a team spend the final 24 hours before kickoff? Minnesota gave me a chance to find out, and I tagged along as the Gophers went through their final preparations before last week's game against Cal.
One of the highlights included sitting in with offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch and quarterbacks Adam Weber, MarQueis Gray and Adam Lueck. Fisch is a sharp, young coach and incorporates a lot of technology into game preparation. The former Denver Broncos assistant brought much of the Denver offense to the Gophers, and since Minnesota hasn't run all the plays in games, the players watch tape from the Broncos' 2008 season to give themselves a better feel.
It was also interesting to see how the coaches don't overload players right before games. Meetings are usually 15 to 30 minutes, and head coach Tim Brewster's speeches to the team never lasted more than 3 or 4 minutes. There are several key points, an overarching theme or two, and that's it. No need to go overboard. The energy level among players and coaches definitely reaches a fever pitch on game day, and I don't think I've ever been on a quieter bus ride than the one from the team hotel to TCF Bank Stadium.
The new stadium, by the way, is a big hit. Big Ten fans are going to love it. Minnesota's ridiculously big locker room is very impressive. There are displays honoring the team’s national award winners -- Bobby Bell, Tyrone Carter, Greg Eslinger and Matt Spaeth -- lining one of the walls, and pictures of the team’s greatest players to don each jersey number encircle the room. Senior wide receiver Eric Decker is already considered the Gophers’ greatest No. 7, and he dresses only a few feet away from his picture on the wall.
Special thanks goes out to Minnesota's director of football operations Dan O'Brien for helping me out during the weekend.