Bieniemy, Peterson worked well together

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 31, 2010 - 2:14 AM

The coach, soon heading to coach at Colorado, and the Pro Bowl running back constantly drilled to limit fumbles.

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Vikings assistant head coach offense/running backs coach Eric Bieniemy

Photo: Jerry Holt, Star Tribune file

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After five years coaching the Vikings running backs, including Pro Bowler Adrian Peterson, Eric Bieniemy will coach his final game for the team when the Vikings face the Lions on Sunday. Bieniemy is moving on to become offensive coordinator at the University of Colorado, where he went to college.

Bieniemy, who was promoted to assistant head coach/offense in June by former head coach Brad Childress, is going to join new Colorado head coach Jon Embree, who Bieniemy has had a great relationship with since 1986. Bieniemy said he and Embree "played at Colorado University. We coached there; he coached there for a number of years. It's a great relationship, and it's important to us that we have an opportunity to go back and make our university right."

Bieniemy's move separates him from Peterson, whom he has known since recruiting him in high school. He has been close to the great running back from the day Peterson joined the Vikings as their top draft choice in 2007.

"It's been a great deal," Bieniemy said. "I mean, what better way to go out as a coach than to have [Peterson] and coach him for four years, and I've known him since he was a junior in high school. He's had such a tremendous career. He's helped impact my career.

"I've been very, very blessed and fortunate and you know, the only thing I can wish now is I can go out and find a couple of young Adrian Petersons coming up through the high school ranks to take to Colorado with me now."

Asked what Peterson's future is, Bieniemy said: "There is no limit. One thing about him is he's a kid that's going to work extremely hard because he's a driven individual and that's what makes him very special."

How would Bieniemy rank Peterson's season -- 1,267 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns -- with his previous three?

"He's had a very good, productive season," Bieniemy said. "I thought he's come out and done a great job of protecting the ball. I know he had [a fumble against the Eagles, his first of the season] this past week but he's done a great job of being consistent. He's matured a lot. He's done a great job on third downs.

"The unfortunate thing is he's just been nicked up here for the past few weeks. But I thought he did a heck of a job of coming off the [right ankle sprain] and playing a great role in helping us, leading us to a victory this past [Tuesday]."

Bieniemy has been hard on Peterson at times, especially upset with the 19 fumbles he had in his first three pro seasons. The two have worked hard on that phase of the game.

"We work a number of drills in practice," Bieniemy said. "I don't know if there was a No. 1 thing, but ... just making sure that I was overcommunicating the importance of focusing on protecting the ball, knowing where he was very, very vulnerable and just making sure that we held it high and tight at times."

What memories from his years with the Vikings will Bieniemy take with him?

"Drafting Adrian Peterson and having him go to the Pro Bowl for four straight seasons has been one of the great memories," he said. "Winning the NFC North. Obviously playing in the NFC Championship Game last season and then just all the trials and tribulations that we've gone through this season. And understand, there's been some ups and downs, but the whole five years have been a great wealth of experience for me."

Peterson and the Vikings will miss Bieniemy, who is a coach with a great personality and the ability to be tough when necessary. He is great at spotting talent, which will help Colorado's rebuilding efforts.

Twins help Gophers

Gophers baseball coach John Anderson talked Thursday about how the Pohlad family is always ready to step forward and help, after Anderson received a message from Twins President Dave St. Peter that Target Field would be available to the Gophers to play their schedule after April 1 if the Metrodome roof isn't repaired by then. The Twins are on the road in early April, when the Gophers open their conference schedule at home with Purdue on April 1-3.

The Metrodome's roof collapse is a bad break for the Gophers, who the coaches say had a great schedule lined up. Anderson and assistant Rob Fornasiere spent this week exploring ways to play their first 16 home games without the Dome available.

Logan Gerken, a 2003 U graduate and former Gophers baseball player, is an architect with the Kansas City, Mo., firm of Populous, the firm that built Target Field and TCF Bank Stadium. Gerken worked on both local stadiums.

Gophers baseball fall signees include Jake Bergren, an outfielder from St. Charles (Ill.) North; second baseman Tony Skjefte and pitcher Lance Thonvold, both from Eden Prairie; and pitchers Jordan Jess of Ripon, Wis., Ty McDevitt of Eastview, Ben Meyer of Totino-Grace and Drew Ghelfi of La Crosse, Wis., and Iowa Central Community College.

Jottings

Lions coach Jim Schwartz was a graduate assistant for the Gophers in 1990 under John Gutekunst. ... The Lions offensive coordinator is Scott Linehan, who was the Vikings offensive coordinator from 2002 to 2004.

Twins third baseman Danny Valencia was named to Baseball America's 2010 All-Rookie team.

Josh Sternquist, who was assistant recruiting coordinator under former Gophers football coach Tim Brewster, will have the same job under new coach Jerry Kill. Kill also kept graduate assistants Jesse Nelson on defense and Daryl Agpalsa on offense.

Kristine Hueber, daughter of Vikings assistant offensive line coach Jim Hueber, has been doing a internship with the Gophers football team and will soon join the Twins in a similar position.

Ex-Gophers basketball player Damian Johnson is having a good first season with the Oita Heat Devils in Japan, averaging 15.2 points and 8.4 rebounds in 27 minutes per game. Johnson has appeared in all 20 games for the 9-11 Devils. ... Another former Gopher, Devron Bostick, is averaging 11 points and 5.8 rebounds for Hasapis Omonia Nicosia through eight games in Cyprus.

Former Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, who was named head coach at Indiana University earlier this month, was on Randy Walker's staff at Northwestern and at the University of Miami (Ohio), when Joel Maturi was the athletic director there. Maturi had some good things to say about Wilson and believes he will do an outstanding job for the Hoosiers.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. • shartman@startribune.com

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