Darren "Doogie" Wolfson

Darren "Doogie" Wolfson has a passion for sports, but not a consistent forum in which he's allowed to spew his thoughts. Well, now he has one. Darren spent 12-plus years with KFAN Radio, wearing multiple hats - from producing and technically directing, to reporting and hosting. He spent a majority of his time working with Sid Hartman's son, Chad on the 'Chad Hartman Show.' Read more about Darren Wolfson.

Posts about Gophers coaches

Coaching staff cohesiveness not translating on the field for Gophers

Posted by: Darren "Doogie" Wolfson Updated: October 11, 2011 - 9:33 AM

The following few paragraphs are from a piece I did for 1500espn.com in February:

 
It's widely believed that Super Bowl-winning coach Mike McCarthy was not the Green Bay Packers' top choice in January 2006. In fact, if Brad Childress had gotten on an airplane to Green Bay for leverage in negotiations with the Vikings, he might not have left without signing a contract. It's a reminder that any team's top choice isn't necessarily the right one.
 
Take "U" athletic director Joel Maturi. When searching last winter for the right guy to take over the Gophers football program, he swung and missed on now-Michigan coach Brady Hoke and, word has it, did the same with now-Maryland coach Randy Edsall.
 
He ultimately landed Jerry Kill. And the decision reeked of cheapness after hearing about the contract Kill got -- just $1.1 million plus incentives in his first year, the same as new and first-time Indiana coach Kevin Wilson's deal. But after talking to numerous individuals since mid-December -- Kill's college roommate, Gerald Young; high school coaches; reporters who covered Kill at Northern Illinois; and college assistant coaches who have competed against him -- it has become clear Maturi made a good call.
 
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If you don't believe me on the above, talk to Gophers' defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys who has been with Kill for 16 years. Or, if you need an unbiased view, reach out to any number of journalists from his previous stops. When talking with Claeys in the offseason, I asked him if there's something that would surprise us about Kill.
 
His response: "When we went to Southern Illinois (in 2001), we all lived in the same apartment, including him. Four in one, four in the other. He wants to be one of the guys. That's why our staff is close. He's never separated himself from the assistants. When we got here, he asked for a locker down in the coaches locker room. He likes being one of the guys. He got a big raise after our first winning season at Southern (Illinois). After our second winning season, another school offered him a job, so Southern offered him more money. He said he wouldn't take another dime until the assistants were taken care of. Sure enough, he got us a really nice raise." That is  one of many examples of the cohesion that exists inside the team's facility. Kill's staff will do anything for him. They genuinely enjoy working for him, and more so, with him.
 
This is why I can't figure out how from the final points three weeks ago against North Dakota State through Purdue's 31-0 lead on Saturday, the Gophers were outscored 95-0. Over their last 11 quarters, they have a point differential of minus-106. 
 
There was an assumption, maybe foolishly, that this staff's experience would equal a level of respectability this year. That among the time with the players in January-March for conditioning, spring practices, instructions given for captain's workouts, and now August, September, and October practices and games, some sort of translation would show on the field.
 
I get that many inexperienced players are getting snaps, which they should at this point. I get that the fifth-year and sixth-year seniors have been through multiple systems and coaches. I get that many academic issues exist. I get that ex-coach Tim Brewster left a mess. But at what point can those justifications stop being used?
 
When Kill says, "this is not a one, two, or three-year fix," it's hard to disagree. But after paying good money for parking, tickets, and concessions, it is not unreasonable for the fanbase to expect at least minimal return. 
 
Halfway through the season, the team is regressing, not progressing, with a tougher schedule forthcoming. Homecoming is next vs. 5-1 Nebraska, and all I can hope for is that it doesn't resemble the bloodbath of 1983, when Nebraska won 84-13. Thankfully, it shouldn't mostly because the '83 Nebraska team is one of the best in the last 30 years of college football. 
 
But that's what this year has turned into for passionate Gophers' observers: optimism that it doesn't turn into the most memorable collection of inefficiency in program history.

Tubby's Ski-U-Blah season accepted

Posted by: Darren "Doogie" Wolfson Updated: March 8, 2011 - 11:07 AM

When Gophers coach Tubby Smith told the Star Tribune's Sid Hartman in Sunday's paper, "I'm not going anywhere… I'm going to finish my career here," my first thought was: why would Arkansas, Georgia Tech, or North Carolina State want a soon-to-be 60-year old whose worst professional stretch came this year? My second thought: did Sid hear Tubby correctly? For sake of this blog, I'll assume yes.

Fact: against everyone in the Big Ten except Iowa, Smith is 26-40. He also has yet to do what former coach Dan Monson could: finish a conference season in the top 4.
 
Opinion: the program is in far better shape than when he took it over, and to think that the "U" could do better is foolish (Flip Saunders hasn't recruited since the mid-80's).
 
It's just time to realize that Smith has had a really bad year. Not only did he miss out on top-flight recruit Cory Joseph (Texas), but he also swung-and-missed on Trevor Releford (Alabama), Ricky Kreklow (Missouri), and Alex Kirk (New Mexico). The freshmen he brought in who played – Mo Walker, Austin Hollins, Chip Armelin, and Maverick Ahanmisi - might have promising futures, but did little this season.
 
Center Colton Iverson regressed, while center Ralph Sampson III and forward Rodney Williams Jr. didn't improve.
 
Smith struggled mightily to design plays in clutch situations, failed to find the right balance countless times with his substitution patterns, and couldn't keep Devoe Joseph interested enough to not transfer.
 
If this blog sounds a bit negative, it is. By the end of Smith's fourth year, I expected at least one NCAA tournament win. But I also realize that a) the Gophers were two injuries - Al Nolen and Walker - from likely becoming the first team in program history to make three consecutive NCAA tournaments, and b) Smith is still a capable coach, in spite of what many have suggested in the last few weeks.
 
Maybe this season will rejuvenate Smith. Based on recent recruiting trips to California, Tennessee, and Illinois (more than normal over a two week stretch in-season), maybe the fire still burns; maybe he's not here just to collect large paychecks and allow his son, Saul, to work alongside him.

Maybe he'll eventually win an NCAA tournament game here.
 
I'd like to say next year is make-or-break, but it's really not. By the end of Smith's fifth year, the bar has to be raised at least a little. But I am willing to except this year as a hiccup. But know this: if Smith chooses, he can coach here until he retires. He is beloved by those above him. And would you really expect athletic director Joel Maturi to do anything drastic with his contract up in 15 months?
 
I am just curious if Smith's iconic, Hall of Fame-esque history will ever come to fruition while with the Gophers.

The "U's" real problem: Average Joel (Maturi)

Posted by: Darren "Doogie" Wolfson Updated: December 6, 2010 - 11:47 AM

Before we have even had a chance to turn our calendars, 1500 ESPN host Patrick Reusse's 2011 "Turkey of the Year" award already has a winner. With all due respect to James Sheppard, Adam Kelly, Don Lucia, Devoe Joseph, Zygi Wilf, Scott Ullger, and KFAN (what happened to that Paul Chryst hiring?), the winner is a no-brainer.

 

It's Joel Maturi.

 

Sunday night, while referencing his latest football hire, Maturi said "We cast a wide net in this search, but the name we kept coming back to was Jerry Kill." Really?? This from the same guy who said "We're out here to find a Tubby Smith . . . We're out here to find somebody that people can recognize, people have confidence in, and are going to bring instant credibility and notoriety to the football program." Why can't Maturi just keep it real? San Diego State's Brady Hoke said no, and so did others. The question then becomes, how far down the list was Kill?  

 

On Monday morning at 7 a.m., when Maturi addressed the team, he said, "If you've done your homework, you'll know that this guy has won at every place he's been." Please, not the homework line again, especially after the Tim Brewster fiasco. Maturi didn't do his homework then, so what makes us believe he did his homework this time?

 

This is not an indictment on Kill, who did the exact same thing anyone in his position would have done. Although, he'll have to deal with constant comparisons of "What would Mike Leach have done with this team?" Kill's resume is good despite a 2-12 record vs. FBS teams that finished above .500 in the last three years (2-13 if Illinois wins its bowl game). Also, he is 0-2 in bowl games and, while with FCS Southern Illinois, went 4-5 in playoff appearances -- never making it to the championship game. He also lost on Friday night as a 17-point favorite in the Mid-American Conference championship game to Miami (Ohio). For a chance to triple his salary and coach in the Big 10, it's easy to see why he said yes. Heck, he didn't have an indoor practice facility at Northern Illinois.

 

Northern Illinois improved in many areas under Kill's watch. Their penalty numbers went down in each of his three years, and this year finished in the top-10 in the FBS. That is good discipline. They have a plus-10 in turnover margin this year, 18th in the FBS, second in the MAC. Those who know him love him. He's the opposite of Tim Brewster. In other words, there won't be any Rose Bowl turf in the football complex, and he'll limit his use of "tremendous." He's a hard-nosed football guy, who relies on out-scheming the opponent.

 

I do worry about his health, though, especially when he'll have to deal with Sid Hartman on a regular basis. In 2005, he was treated for kidney cancer (best win of his career), and in September he collapsed at his home following complications from gall bladder surgery. According to the Chicago Sun Times, his father passed away at age 66 from pancreatic cancer.

 

But Kill deserves a shot. With home games against Iowa, Wisconsin, and Nebraska next year, he has a chance of winning over a negative fan base immediately.

 

Maturi? He's had his chance. In some ways, the harsh treatment of him may not be fair. It's the Kevin McHale syndrome. Once you screw up long enough, nothing can be accepted. But that's big-time athletics. In October, a high-profile booster destroyed Maturi in a phone conversation. At the time, I thought it was a bit harsh, but maybe he was right. I'll give Maturi one thing: on the day he fired Brewster, he was right when he said, "You're not following Vince Lombardi here."

 

The same will be said when Maturi's successor is hired. 

 

 

Men of Troy? One vote for Calhoun to be the next Gophers coach

Posted by: Darren "Doogie" Wolfson Updated: November 1, 2010 - 5:12 PM

It is safe to assume that the only person having a worse week than Gopher athletic director Joel Maturi is Charlie Sheen. 

The calls for Maturi's head on Saturday night at TCF Bank Stadium were minimal, but that is likely because there were 15,000 Gopher fans dressed as empty seats, and about 4,000 of those who were present were Buckeye fans. 

Let's be realistic: neither Georgia's Mark Richt, Stanford's Jim Harbaugh, TCU's Gary Patterson, or Boise State's Chris Petersen are coming here. Maturi should try, but it is likely that none would leave their current position for Minnesota. 

Air Force's Troy Calhoun probably would.

Few in Colorado Springs believe that he's there for the long-term. A recent Denver Post story on Colorado's eventual search for a new coach stated: Air Force knows that he won't be there forever. Yes, he's an alum, but he can feel good about leaving the program in better shape than when he got there. You have to believe that he wants a chance to compete at the highest possible collegiate level. His buyout is approximately $750,000. Steep, but doable. A 6-year/$15 million offer would probably be enough. That would give him a more than 300-percent raise. Would he really say no to that offer?

Calhoun makes sense for a number of reasons: 

  1. He's only 44-years-old.
  2. He's a winner at a service academy. Players going there know that they must dedicate four years of their life after college. Here's guessing that makes recruiting much more difficult. 
  3. He has an offensive and defensive background, including an extensive history being around a pro-style offense, so he wouldn't be married to his current scheme, the triple-option.
  4. He has the "it" factor. When you watch his teams, they are extremely well-conditioned and disciplined. He also carries himself as a successful head coach. 

Is Calhoun the perfect candidate? No. He has struggled against the Mountain West's big-3 of TCU, Utah, and BYU. Remember, though, that many BCS-schools have struggled against those schools. Also, he has a loss to Tim Brewster on his resume.

If Calhoun rejects the Gophers' overtures, option No. 2 should be Houston's Kevin Sumlin. His wife is from here. He has Minnesota ties -- was an assistant coach here for four years in the mid-90's -- and could put together a solid staff. His current assistant head coach, Tony Levine, has a stellar background and is a former Gophers player. He could bring back Minnesota's best defensive coordinator in the last 20 years, David Gibbs. He could also bring back Minnesota's best in-state recruiter in the last 20 years, Gordy Shaw. Most importantly, he has already won in a not-so-easy environment. If you're worried that he would run the spread offense, don't be. He coordinated a pro-style offense while at Oklahoma. He could blend together elements of both with the Gophers and succeed.

Is there any chance the "U" can land the perfect guy? No. We have to be modest with our expectations.

Both Calhoun or Sumlin would need at least two years to clean-up Brewster's mess (and the Rose Bowl grass clippings in the football complex). There are reasons why arch-rivals Iowa and Wisconsin continually dominate the Gophers: they are bigger, stronger, faster, and better coached. 

In the event that both say no, just don't hire Marc Trestman. If he does, Maturi might be worse off than Sheen.

Having the three worst losses in school history means it's time

Posted by: Darren "Doogie" Wolfson Updated: September 12, 2010 - 4:55 PM

What size battery does it take to beat Tim Brewster's team? Answer: I-AA


Congratulations, Coach. In four years, you have managed to guide the Gophers to the three worst losses in school history: 55-0 to Iowa, 27-21 to 1-AA North Dakota State, and now Saturday's 41-38 loss to 1-AA South Dakota. Memo to Joel Maturi: enough is enough. Nothing can happen the rest of this season to make-up for another loss to a middle-tier FCS team. Remember the Jeremy Foley theory: what should be done eventually should happen immediately. Nobody wants their work criticized, especially in public. But the nice monetary buyout Brewster would receive offsets that problem.
 
Most of Brewster's coaches are capable of finding work elsewhere. Defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove? Not so much. It is obvious now why he was a coaching free-agent for an entire season. It is also obvious now why Nebraska ran him out of town. Where was the press-coverage on the pivotal 3rd-and-4 at the end of the game? It was very clear that South Dakota was either calling for a slant pass or a quarterback keeper. Brewster went hard at the defense in his postgame interview on the Big Ten Network. While correct, let's not forget that he let Eric Ellestad, who couldn't make a 40-yard field goal all of last year, and missed two against Middle Tennessee State, try a 48-yard field goal. Predictably, the kick wasn't even close. The reason Brewster had only one timeout late was because they wasted one on offense. What was the 4th-and-2 pitch-back play call? Why not try an onside kick at the end? Realistically, what were the chances that the defense could force a three-and-out? Although, what were the chances that Ellestad would have executed the kick?

Here's what's hard to comprehend: Brewster had his team thoroughly prepared for the Middle Tennessee State game. What changed? I believe that the talent-level has increased the last few years. But there is zero evidence to suggest that Brewster knows how to coach that talent. Have they spent too much time game-planning for USC? Since they've been working on next week's game for a while, maybe so, but to not have the team then ready for South Dakota is on the coach.
 
Here is a portion of a blog I wrote in November after the loss to Iowa:

30 straight possessions without scoring a touchdown to end the regular season is not a punchline. It's reality. They have failed to score an offensive     touchdown in 17 of the last 24 quarters. If not for a garbage-time score against Ohio State third-teamers, Brew's bunch would've gone four games (Ohio State, Penn State, South Dakota St., and Iowa) without an offensive touchdown. Offense reigns supreme in college football. A 3rd-and-10 is a toss-up. Yet, the Gophers make this year's Cleveland Browns seem like the 1998 Vikings. Does a Tom Emanski-like offensive football video exist? If so, the Gophers should have watched it on their bus ride home from Iowa City. Brewster's motto all year was "Pound the Rock", but they will finish last in the Big Ten and among the worst in the country in running the ball. Calling back-to-back timeouts in the 11th game of the year is unacceptable. Asking for a fade pass for 5'8'' receiver Troy Stoudermire on third-and-goal from the 2-yard line is mind-boggling.

Brewster is now 0-9 in trophy games; 0-8 in games vs. ranked opponents. He also has yet to win a conference game in November and lacks a signature victory 37-games into his tenure. For a second consecutive year, his team will lead the Big Ten in penalties. Only twice all year did the Gophers not commit a personal foul penalty in a game. ESPN analyst Bob Griese used the word "undisciplined" when talking about the Gophers no fewer than five times today. That is embarrassing. Being the butt of jokes by Badgers and Hawkeyes fans has been getting old the last three years. 


Tony Dungy isn't walking through that door. Leslie Frazier isn't either. Nor is Boise State coach Chris Peterson or former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach. Side note: I am all-in for Leach, but fully realize that the "U" administration for myriad reasons would never, ever hire him.

Realistic options include Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell (knows Joel Maturi from their days together in Madison), Houston coach Kevin Sumlin (former "U" assistant), and Air Force coach Troy Calhoun.

When your players skip out on "Hail Minnesota" at the end of the game; when the TCF Bank Stadium crowd for three straight appearances -- remember the vitriol from the Illinois & South Dakota State games -- turns extremely ugly on the coach and the program; when some of Brewster's biggest supporters on the local rivals.com site and gopherhole.com turn on him; when it's hard to figure out if the team is any better today compared to when Brewster took over; when Brewster said the program was "light-years" ahead of when he took it over; and when Brewster called this his most athletic team to date, it's time for a change.
 
Off-the-field incidents? They can be sort-of excused. Recruiting violations? The same. But a loss to South Dakota is inexcusable.

 

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