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Interview With The Daily Gopher


"I don't see anything gold on that gopher at all!" via

Let's be honest.  It's an honor and a privelege to have our Bear be Golden.  Also, sturdy.  And its freaky that he drinks through his eye.  But thats neither here nor there.

However, for one game this year, it'll be a Golden-off to see which team's be-golded mascot will come out on top.  This year, we make the return date from the 2006 game against Minnesota and their golden gopher.  But this time, it's personal!

No, wait, it's not personal.  The twist to this sequel is just that it's over in Minnesota.  And so we were contacted by SBN's Minnesota blog, the Daily Gopher to do a "WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY too early, but we got like 3 more months to fill!"-style interview with them.  We sent our questions off to them and received great answers back.  Enjoy the answers after the fold.

1.  What type of offense does Minnesota run? What type of defense?


Offensively the Gophers are trying to change their stripes.  For the last two seasons we have had the Mike Dunbar spread offense (which Cal fans should be familiar with).  This achieved moderate success through the air but for various reasons it was a disaster on the ground.  So Coach Dunbar is no longer on staff, a run game coordinator was hired away from Alabama and a shiny new offensive coordinator was hired from the NFL.  What exactly we will be running is a bit unclear but we will likely be running.  OC-Jedd Fisch has no hands on experience as an offensive coordinator so what his offense will look like is a mystery but he has had success in the NFL at developing receivers and was intimately close to the Denver Bronco's run game.  He has received high praise from his former bosses (Mike Shannahan and Brian Billick) and I for one am excited to see what he brings. 





Defensively I wish I could say we at least know what we'll be getting here, but the Gophers have a habit of bringing in a new DC every season just to keep things fresh.  This new hire comes back to the defensive booth after a year off.  Prior to his year off Coach Cosgrove was the defensive coordinator for Nebraska.  His tenure there was dubious and if you mention his name to a Husker fan, you may want to stay outside of arms reach.  Cosgrove is technically a co-defensive coordinator along with coach Cross who has been on staff since Brewster's first season in 2007.  So I do not know exactly what type of defense we will see on the field in 2009.  The level of aggresivness and the frequency of nickle or even 3-4 packages is a mystery.  What I do know is that we return 8 or 9 starters (depending on the academic status of one) and this should be good defense, improving on what was a solid 2008 defense.

2.  Does the coach like to run or pass the ball more?


I can't answer that, but I do know many offseason changes were made with the intent of re-establishing a power-run game.  Will we run the ball with great success? I don't know, but they will certainly try.  But you can't forget the passing game, especially when our most talented players on offense are the QB and WR.

3.  Your team is returning many of its starters; how much do you believe that depth will translate into better on-field production in 2008?



I have always been a firm believer in returning starters making a huge difference in college football.  With both sides of the ball getting new coordinators, having the familiarity and continuity of lining up next to the same guys should make the transition smoother.  Offensively our QB is heading into his third year as a starter, he has an All-American candidate who he loves to throw to, he has a crop of young-talented receivers who will greatly benefit from being a year older and the offensive line should be solidified to provide some bette protection.  Behind these older returners (on both sides of the ball) are a couple of highly ranked recruiting classes to give some athleticism, speed and depth.

Defensively I hope the experience and depth will help these guys out.  2008 saw this defense generate a lot of turnovers while giving up a fair amount of yards.  I do not expect a +12 turnover margin again this year so teams will have to be stopped on third down more often.


4.  Has your team seen 3-4 defensive alignments?


There are no Big Ten teams who employ the 3-4 on a regular basis.  Fortunately for the Gophers they have scheduled teams that play the 3-4 in back to back weeks.  Prior to Cal coming to Minneapolis, the Gophers will host Air Force who also used the 3-4.  So this team is not intimately familiar with the 3-4, but they will get a week to practice, a game to see it live and a week to tweek their schemes before facing Cal



5.  Who is your star player on offense and defense?


Offense is a combo of QB-Adam Weber and WR-Eric Decker.  Weber is a junior who has started every game he has been eligible for and Decker is a potential All-American who will set several Minnesota receiving records assuming he stays healthy.  The two are roommates and when a big play is needed Weber usually finds Decker to get it done.  On the other side of the ball we are lacking big time standouts.  If I had to pick one, I would go with CB-Traye Simmons.  "Big Play Traye" was a JUCO transfer who had a very good year last year as a junior.  His name is not likely recognizable to other Big Ten fans but Adam Rittenberg of ESPN's Big Ten blog recently ranked him as the 25th best player in the Big Ten and believes he will be a first team All-Big Ten selection to start the year. 


6.  What types of adaptations did Dunbar bring to Minnesota's offense, and how many of those adaptations should be present in this year's game?


What Dunbar brought to the Gophers compared to what we had seen in the years prior was a complete turnaround.  Before he (and Brewster's) arrival we were a dominant rushing attack, producing guys like Marion Barber and Laurence Maroney.  He brough his spread and tried to implement it with personnel recruited to run the ball.  After two seasons he is no longer around and I would expect you will not see a lot of Dunbar's fingerprints on this offense.



7.  Say I were going to travel to the game. As an opposing fan, what events should I check out?


If you are lucky maybe you can go ice fishing or snow mobilng.  Just kidding, in early September the weather here will be beautiful and warm.  In year one, the thing to check out will be the stadium.  Cal will be the second opponent to ever play in TCF Stadium.  From 1982 - 2008 the Gophers played off campus in a dump of a stadium.  So traditions and game day staples will be re-created this year as they move back to campus.  The stadium is going to be tremendous and everyone here is eagerly anticipating the season.