Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A New Year, Another OC For Gopher Football

As expected, the Gophers lost offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch to the NFL last week. Unexpectedly, the team moved quickly to fill the position and will continue the offensive schemes put forward by Fisch last season which led to much pain and consternation among the Gopher faithful.

Fisch took off to be the QBs coach for the Seattle Seahawks last week, joining Pete Carroll's all-star staff in the Pacific Northwest. Gopher coach Tim Brewster moved quickly and hired Detroit Lions' QBs coach Jeff Horton to fill Fisch's position in Minnesota. Horton had a wealth of experience in the pro and collegiate ranks, serving in the NFL the last four seasons with the St. Louis Rams (2006-2008) and last season in Detroit. He spent six seasons as a Division I head coach at Nevada (1993) and UNLV (1994-1998), compiling a 20-48 mark over that span. Joining Barry Alvarez's staff at Wisconsin, Horton spent seven seasons as a QB coach in Madison, enjoying much success, and gaining familiarity with several current Gopher assistants.

In the StarTribune piece linked above, Brewster is quoted as saying that Horton will be expected to learn Fisch's complicated multi-formation pro-style offense instead of installing his own for the sake of continuity. Of course, continuity is a strange phrase for a program which has hired its fourth offensive coordinator in five seasons. Fisch's schemes were extremely complicated and the team clearly struggled with the system, having been shut out twice and went without an offensive touchdown during the season's final two games - one of which was against BCS subdivision team South Dakota State. Then, there was the business of changing QB Adam Weber's release point. The three-year starter severely regressed last season. Many blamed the coordinator for the struggles. Few Gopher supporters believe that Fisch's system deserves any continuity whatsoever.

Brewster is obviously trying to prevent a situation where everything is changed overnight, creating more chaos in a program which is used to it but starving for continuity. The spotty offensive line play last season prevents Brewster from instituting a power running attack many are clamoring for in Gopher Nation; a system which proved successful for Brewster's predecessor, Glen Mason. However, the O-Line play was absolutely brutal last season and the lack of protection was one of the main reasons for Weber's struggles. 

For now, expect more of the same from the Gophers on offense, with some play action schemes sprinkled in among the cutesy formations instituted by Fisch's charges last season. It will also be very interesting to see how Horton views the team's QB situation and if he and Brewster will truly create an open competition for the spot next spring between senior Weber and sophomore Mar'Queis Gray. If the offensive line does not improve next season, any new wrinkles will be moot and the team will struggle. Of course, if those situations manifest themselves, Brewster will be gone, and the program will hire yet another offensive coordinator.  

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