Big Ten: Shady Salomon
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Here's the second half of my interview with Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster. (For part I, click here.)
Have the junior college guys set a new tone on defense?
Tim Brewster: We ask this singular question of our players: Are you a great teammate? We spend a lot of time talking about what a great teammate is and team camaraderie and those types of things. We really feel like we're growing together very closely. I just have a really good feel for this group of kids. They genuinely care about each other, and that will take you a long way.
Recruiting is obviously a big part of what you do and have done. What has it been like so far recruiting to Minnesota?
TB: I really felt like this was one of the best-kept secrets in college football, the Twin Cities, the facilities we have here, the facility commitment, brand-new stadium. I think that last season's recruiting success is just the tip of the iceberg. We're going to continue at a very high level each and every year. It's something that's very important to me and our staff. We work really hard at it, and the biggest thing is we really enjoy the recruiting process. Minnesota's not a hard sell at all. Last year, we had 45 kids in on official visits; 31 of them signed scholarships with us. That's over a 72 percent success ratio. That's amazingly high.
Leadership starts with the quarterback spot. How has Adam [Weber] come along in camp and where do you see him progressing?
TB: Adam has got a chance to be one of the better quarterbacks in the Big Ten. He's got tremendous physical characteristics. He's got a great mind. He's really adapted well to the spread offense. The thing I'm most excited about is his leadership capability. He's verbalizing leadership, he's really taken command of our football team and in particular, our offense. We had some pretty good numbers last year, but I think we'll be much improved on that side of the ball as well.
Is the running back spot a position you need to get more from? There were some injuries last year and a lot was on Adam's shoulders.
TB: In our offense, the quarterback is a designed runner, so it wasn't by accident that Adam ran so many times. He'll run the ball quite a bit this year as well. We really think Duane Bennett's going to be an outstanding player. We've got some really good young kids: DeLeon Eskridge, Shady Salomon, Jay Thomas comes back healthy. So we think that tailback is going to be a position of strength for us.
Adam and Eric [Decker] developed great chemistry last year. Are some other guys stepping up at wide receiver to provide a second option?
TB: Brandon Green is going to be really an outstanding football player. Brodrick Smith is really making an impact on our team. Xzavian Brandon is doing some nice things. So under the leadership and guidance of Eric Decker, that group is really coming along nicely. We're really going to have to expedite the learning process with those guys because we need 'em from Game 1 to be performers for us.
So in terms of junior-college guys and freshmen playing this fall, are you thinking 15-20 guys?
TB: I don't necessarily put a number on anything. There'll be a lot of new faces, especially on the defensive side of the ball and there'll be some new ones on offense. Collectively, we've got a chance to be a much-improved team.
You've been a little banged up on the offensive line, which has some new starters. How is that group coming along?
TB: The line has really done a nice job. We've got some real workmanlike guys, nothing flashy about those guys. I just really like their work ethic. A young guy, Ryan Orton has really stepped in and played extremely well at left guard. Dom Alford has been a solid Big Ten football player. Ryan Wynn has really done a nice job and Ned Tavale, Chris Bunders. We've got some youthfulness there, but we also have some outstanding talent. It's a nice group.
With the players feeding off your optimism, what are their expectations for the season?
TB: It's hard to say. I think our team is a confident group. They feel good about themselves, and they should. Last season was a very painful one for all of us, but our team, the investment they've made in improving themselves physically, off the field, in the weight room, has been amazing. Summer camp has gone very well. We want to make certain that we honor the game the way we play it. I think our kids are going to do that, without question.
BIG TEN SCOREBOARD
12:00 PM ET Iowa Pittsburgh 12:00 PM ET Eastern Michigan 11 Michigan State 12:00 PM ET Western Illinois Northwestern 12:00 PM ET Southern Illinois Purdue 12:00 PM ET Bowling Green 19 Wisconsin 12:30 PM ET Maryland Syracuse 3:30 PM ET Utah Michigan 3:30 PM ET Rutgers Navy 4:00 PM ET Massachusetts Penn State 4:00 PM ET San Jose State Minnesota 4:00 PM ET Texas State Illinois 4:00 PM ET Indiana 18 Missouri 8:00 PM ET Miami (FL) 24 Nebraska