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Continued: Take an early peek at emerging Gophers

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: April 7, 2010 - 9:53 PM

The Gophers football team will hold a scrimmage at TCF Bank Stadium at 2 p.m. Saturday that will be free and open to fans, and coach Tim Brewster says there will be a number of young players on display who will impress those who attend.

This will be the youngest Gophers team Brewster has coached with only 15 seniors, six of whom are starters. Nobody is predicting this team is going to win the Big Ten or anything like that, but this squad is also the fastest and most athletic that Brewster has coached here.

Among the new players who have impressed Brewster is Christyn Lewis, a 6-2, 175-pound junior-college cornerback from Citrus College in Glendora, Calif., who has been here for this semester.

"He has great speed. He's got to get stronger in the weight room," Brewster said. "He got to put some weight on, but I think he's a guy that can play man coverage. He'll help us in the secondary.

"I'm really pleased with the development. I think [defensive line coach] Tim Cross has done a good job with Ra'Shede [Hageman]. He really took advantage of his redshirt year. He's weighing 292 pounds right now, still runs extremely well, very active guy, is learning how to use his hands. I think potentially he's an outstanding player.

"It will be interesting to see Eddie Olson and Brooks Michel, two young redshirt freshman offensive lineman that we really think have talent. Both of them are hard-working kids, have done a good job in the weight room, and I'm excited to see those two kids this spring."

The Gophers could start two seniors on defense, but Brewster said he likes some of his young defensive linemen.

"I mean, look at [junior defensive tackles] Jewhan Edwards and Brandon Kirksey," Brewster said. "And a guy who I really think is going to be a heck of a player for us is [sophomore] D.L. Wilhite, a young defensive end. ... He really showed great speed off the edge. I'm excited about seeing [redshirt freshman defensive end] Matt Garin. I think Matt Garin is going to be a really good football player for us, gives us, again, great speed off the edge. I like the speed and athleticism of our kids defensively."

Injuries have sidelined Garin, who has a high ankle sprain, and running back Duane Bennett, slowed after a hard hit in practice. Both are expected to be ready for Saturday's scrimmage. Shady Solomon, who was a running back last year, could play some on defense this season.

Brewster also is happy about the addition of new offensive coordinator Jeff Horton.

"I think Jeff is really good, and his demeanor, I think, is a great fit for the quarterback position. I just like everything that he's brought to us," Brewster said.

Also part of Saturday's scrimmage will be Brew's Crew Youth Day, open to children in grades 2-8. The event beings at 2 p.m. with registration at the Cook County entrance of TCF Bank Stadium. From 3-4 p.m., Gophers football coaches will conduct practice drills with those who register, and at 4 p.m. those attending will be able to get photographs and autographs from with Gophers players.

The annual Gophers spring game will be held April 24 at 1:30 p.m. at TCF Bank Stadium.

Well, you can't beat the Gophers' competitive schedule this fall, with Southern California, Penn State, Ohio State and Iowa -- all Top 25 teams -- on the schedule.

Brewster is a born optimist, but this could be his best team and he might have his best coaching staff. He is confident he is going to fool the critics.

Jottings

Gophers basketball coach Tubby Smith is in Portsmouth, Va., where he will encourage NBA scouts to take a good look at Gophers senior guard Lawrence Westbrook, who was invited to the NBA tryouts there. Smith also tried hard to get senior forward Damian Johnson invited, but it didn't work out.

Two former Gophers -- linebacker Nate Triplett and wide receiver Eric Decker -- will be drafted by an NFL team, according to a consensus of Internet sources. The scouts liked how well Triplett played early in the season until he got hurt. As for Decker, he was one of the top five wide receivers in the country, and there is a shortage of receivers available in this year's draft.

Apparently there is a shortage of outstanding Minnesota high school senior football players this year, with the Gophers offering scholarships to only three players to date. The latest is tight end Peter Westerhaus of Holy Family Catholic in Victoria.

Jayson Ness, who won an NCAA wrestling title at 133 pounds in March, will work on his degree this year and not participate in world wrestling tryouts until next year. ... Former Gophers heavyweight Cole Konrad is out of the country working out for his next mixed martial arts fight. Brock Lesnar, the Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight champion who has been laid up because of health issues, is expect to renew his career in May.

In the March 28 Wolves game with Phoenix, Kevin Love totaled 23 points and 22 rebounds to become the first NBA player in 12 years to register a 20/20 game coming off the bench. According to basketball-reference.com, only 10 players have accomplished this feat since 1986-87.

Terry Steinbach, the former Oakland and Twins catcher, is now an assistant baseball coach at Wayzata High School.

Twins President Dave St. Peter said he is familiar with one complaint of fans at new Target Field: long lines and delays at concession stands. "Any time you bring 1,200 concession workers into a building for the first time, you're going to run into some training issues," St. Peter said. "It'll get better over time. Again, there's tremendous demand for some specific signature items. We need to do a better job of making sure that those items are available, perhaps in other places of the ballpark, to take some pressure off of certain stands, and we'll do that over time. Everything we saw in that regard we think is fixable, and we're working hard to do that."

Pitcher Kyle Lohse went 51-57 in six years for the Twins, but he has won 21 games in two seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals. "Well, he's got great stuff," Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan said. "He came over to our club and at the time he joined us, he really had lost confidence in his fastball. I think what we tried to do is encourage him to use it more. The more he started using it in the strike zone, the more effective his other pitches became and he won a bunch of games for us. He's a very good pitcher and he was hurt a lot last year -- a lot of different little minor injuries that really slowed the season down -- but he's healthy now and I'm expecting a big year out of him."

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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