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Sunday, January 24, 2010
Minnesota gets its man in Horton

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

I just got a chance to catch up with Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster, who on Friday tabbed Detroit Lions quarterbacks coach Jeff Horton as his new offensive coordinator.

Horton is the team's fourth offensive coordinator in five years and the second consecutive coordinator to join Brewster's staff from the NFL. Jedd Fisch came in from the Broncos and left after just one year in Minneapolis to join the Seattle Seahawks staff.

Horton
Jeff Horton takes over a Gophers offense that finished last in the Big Ten in total yards, points per game and touchdowns scored in 2009.
The NFL connection might concern Minnesota fans, who don't want to see a repeat of the 2009 offense -- which ranked last in the Big Ten in rushing, scoring and total yards -- during the 2010 season. It's hardly surprising Brewster looked to the NFL, as he wanted to keep a pro-style offense in place and not many college teams run one anymore.

Where Horton differs from Fisch is in his vast experience at the college level. Horton has logged 22 years in college football, beginning his career as a graduate assistant at Minnesota. While Fisch certainly had the youth and the enthusiasm of a college coach, his system and its complexities seemed much more suited to the NFL. There's only so much that college players can process, especially in limited time with the coaching staff, and Minnesota's players looked liked victims of information overload at times this season.

Horton should have a better grasp of what his new players can handle.

"Jeff Horton really loves college football and wanted very badly to get back into college football," Brewster said. "His time in the NFL was very well spent. He learned a lot. But he wanted to be here. ... He understands everything about the university, everything about the landscape here. All that makes it a perfect fit."

Horton needs to prove himself as a playcaller after serving as a position coach in both college and the NFL since 1998. But he boasts a strong track record of developing quarterbacks, a position where Minnesota needs more consistent results in 2010.

Horton had good success as Wisconsin's quarterbacks coach from 1999-2005, helping signal-callers like Jim Sorgi, John Stocco and Brooks Bollinger operate a system geared toward the power run and ball control. Wisconsin's quarterbacks managed games and limited costly errors, two qualities Minnesota wants to see from Adam Weber and MarQueis Gray in 2010.

"He's really been a great developer of quarterbacks," Brewster said. "That was really important to me. He's got an extremely calming influence on quarterbacks with his demeanor. He'll do a great job of coming in and helping us identify exactly what our strengths are and play to those strengths."

Horton also has familiarity with several Gophers assistants from his Wisconsin days, including offensive line coach Tim Davis and running backs coach Thomas Hammock.

"A lot of our guys have worked with Jeff before," Brewster said. "It'll be a very seamless transition offensively. Without changing the offense, Jeff will be able to come in and assimilate to what we want to do every easily. I wanted it to be obviously a player-friendly transition, and that's what Jeff gives us."