Herald Journal Columns
September 18, 2006, Herald Journal

Unfortunately, same old Gopher football

By Aaron Schultz

A new year of college football, and another column from me on how frustrated I am with Gopher football. Big surprise, ah.

I can’t help it, they drive me insane with their mediocrity.

Let’s start from the beginning of the year – 2006.

While no year are the expectations all that high for the Gophers, at least from me anymore, I really looked at this year as being a rebuilding year for the Gophers, and how couldn’t you?

They lost three All-Americans in offensive lineman Gregg Eslinger, and Mark Setterstrom, and first round pick, running back Laurence Maroney.

And that is from an offense that was the strength, by far, of the team.

They did that while not bringing in, or having any, big name recruits to step in their place.

Of course, I might have a little more faith in the offense if Gary Russell could have managed to show up for class and be eligible for the season. But, that was not to be.

The Gophers do bring back senior quarterback Bryan Cupito, who was going to stabilize the offense, and help them overcome all the losses.

Yet, I have a funny feeling that Cupito is going to end up being a middle-of-the-road Big Ten quarterback, which is all he has been to this point.

Should we start the chant for Hutchinson’s own Tony Mortensen already?

While I have been, and am still, a little concerned about the offense, it doesn’t worry me nearly as much as the defense, once again, does.

They were really bad last season, and there is no reason, entering the 2006 season, to think that they would be any better.

The defense just doesn’t have any impact players, and they also lack many consistent players.

Okay, we can’t forget that they have Silver Lake’s own Willie VanDeSteeg starting at defensive end as a sophomore, but what else do they have?

Fellow sophomore Steve Davis is pretty good at the other defensive end, but is undersized.

After that, there is sophomore Dominic Jones at safety, and not much else.

There has been a lot of talk about the linebackers, but once again, they don’t even look average to me.

And that was before the California game Sept. 9.

In the loss to California, the Gophers, and the linebackers in particular, couldn’t tackle anything. It was pathetic.

I didn’t watch the entire game (the Twins were also on, and I wanted to watch a winning team), but did catch enough of it to see a bunch of missed tackles.

I lost count of how many missed tackles the Gophers had – it was sick to watch.
Meanwhile, the Ohio State Buckeyes (the nation’s top-ranked team) defeated the defending national champions, and the second-ranked team in the land, Texas.

In the Buckeyes’ win, Minnesota native, sophomore Jared Laurinaitis, led Ohio State’s defense with, by all accounts, an outstanding game.

Hmmm, maybe Mr. Mason should have landed this prize recruit for his defense?

It probably wouldn’t have mattered for the Gopher defense if Laurinaitis would have chosen Minnesota, Mason would just move him to running back anyways.
That is what he did with Alex Daniels.

Daniels was one of the top high school linebackers in the country, and for some reason, he picked the Gophers.

After an up-and-down year as a true freshman, I was ready to watch him become what us Gopher fans have been waiting for, a dominant linebacker.

Mason then stunned me when I heard he was moving Daniels to running back for the upcoming season.

Daniels did very well against Kent State (or should we call them the sisters’ of the poor?), but was just alright against California.

He may turn out to be the next great running back at the ‘U,’ but I wanted him to become the next great linebacker.

Although I couldn’t tell you who was the last great linebacker at Minnesota, maybe Karl Mecklenberg?

It doesn’t matter right now, because, other than Daniels, I don’t see anyone on the Gophers’ roster capable of becoming even a legitimate Big Ten linebacker.

That brings me to a recent quote from my favorite college football coach, and this is what he said, “We’re still in the developmental stages of this program. Some people will say, ‘Ah, baloney, you’ve been here 10 years.’ Wait a minute. I’ve always maintained that you don’t put quality into a program overnight, nor do you take it out overnight. I’m trying to put it in as fast as I can, but I didn’t take it out.”

Okay, I had to take a minute to stop chuckling before I could start writing again.

If Mason is going as fast as he can, I am guessing he isn’t very good at it, and should be shown the door.

Oh wait, he just got a new contract last year. Great!

Hopefully, Mr. Mason’s time line for turning in a success college football program happens sometime before the 2020s.

Hey, at least we were able to watch almighty Temple come to town this past Saturday, and later in the year, the North Dakota State Bison come to the humpdy dome.

And then, there is the new on-campus stadium on its way, I think by 2009.

Hopefully, Mason will have found a new excuse to use for having a mediocre team by then. Playing in the dome and off-campus has always been one of his favorite excuses for poor recruiting. I wonder what the new excuses will be?

I guess I’ll just have to wait until 2009, year 14 of the rebuilding process.