While speculation continues in the media about the Vikings' perceived weakness at quarterback, Steve Loney -- who was a Vikings offensive line coach under Mike Tice from 2003 to 2005 and now has the same job with the Rams -- is confident new quarterback Sage Rosenfels will solve the problem.

Loney, who also was offensive line coach and offensive coordinator for the Gophers in 1998 and '99, was offensive coordinator at Iowa State from 1995 to 1997 during part of Rosenfels' college career there.

"I was happy that he went up there," Loney said. "You guys will like him. I think he's good.

"The thing about him is that he's more athletic than people really probably gave him credit for. When you watch him play, he had more athleticism than people really anticipated him having. He did things with the ball."

Iowa State was 9-3 during Rosenfels' senior year (2000), and the Cyclones went to their first bowl game since 1978.

"We went to the Insight.com bowl game down in Phoenix and played Pitt," Loney recalled. "We won. I can't state any statistics, but he played well."

Rosenfels completed 23 of 34 passes for 308 yards and two touchdowns in the 37-29 victory over Pitt.

"He's a big guy, too, a big, physical guy," Loney said. "We won out at Colorado in 2000; that was one that was a big game his senior year. That's the game that kind of sticks out. And, of course, the bowl game."

Loney said Rosenfels was very much a leader.

"He commands respect. He's what you look for in those things," he said. "When he came in, Iowa State wasn't winning a lot of games. Like I said, his senior year we went 9-3. That really turned it around because from that point on, in six of the next eight years, Iowa State went to bowl games. He was a big part of it."

Opener sold out

The Twins' final opener in the Metrodome on April 6 is already a sellout. The Twins already have sold 1.2 million tickets for the 2009 season.

There will be a significant on-field tribute to the late Carl Pohlad, the Twins owner who died Jan. 5, before the start of the opening game.

Dodge has been the primary advertiser in right field at the Metrodome for years. They will be replaced this year by Stanley Tools.

Kaat on the air

Jim Kaat, who retired from the Yankees' broadcast booth after the 2006 season, will be back on the air for the Major League Baseball Network this season. He's going to do some studio work at the network's headquarters in Secaucus, N.J.

"I'm also going to be doing a dozen games on the network with Bob Costas," Kaat said. "I'm really looking forward to doing those games."

Kaat worked six games in Puerto Rico during the World Baseball Classic. "I got to see Bert [Blyleven] there as the pitching coach for the Netherlands," Kaat said. "I still can't believe what I saw -- the Dutch beating the Dominican [Republic] twice."

Gophers football lineup

It might not mean anything this early in spring practice, but here is how the first teams lined up in Gophers football practice Thursday.

On offense were quarterback Adam Weber, running backs Duane Bennett and DeLeon Eskridge and wide receiver Brandon Green and Da'Jon McKnight. (Two other receivers who will start or play a significant amount weren't there. Eric Decker is playing baseball and junior college transfer Hayo Carpenter isn't here yet.)

On the offensive line were tight end Nick Tow-Arnett, guards Dom Alford and and Matt Carufel and tackles Matt Stommes and Jeff Wills and center Trey Davis.

The defensive line was Cedrick McKinley and Anthony Jacobs and tackles Garrett Brown and Eric Small. The linebackers were Simoni Lawrence, Lee Campbell and Nathan Triplett.

In the defensive backfield were safeties Kim Royston and Kyle Theret (Mike Rallis was first team Thursday instead of Royston on Tuesday) and cornerbacks Traye Simmons and Ryan Collado. (Two potential starters weren't there -- Mike Sherels is hurt and Michael Carter is not on campus yet.) Sam Maresh, who has been unable to play because of heart surgery and a calf injury, was a third-team linebacker.

Of this group, running back Bennett was hurt last year. Newcomers starting on offense include wide receivers Green and McKnight, guard Carufel and tackle Willis.

Defensively, the newcomers include defensive ends McKinley and Jacobs and safety Royston.


The story about Tubby Smith being a candidate for the Virginia basketball job is reported to have started with some big-money Virginia boosters not connected with the school willing to pay big bucks to lure the Gophers coach from Minnesota.

Mark Setterstrom, the former Gophers offensive lineman who didn't play at all for the Rams last year after hurting his knee in a preseason game, has received a clean bill of health and will be a starter this year, according to Loney. Former Vikings offensive lineman Adam Goldberg is still with the Rams and doing fine.

Southwest Minnesota State's baseball team is off to the best start (10-1) in school history. The Mustangs are coached by former Gopher Paul Blanchard, who is in his 13th season as the Mustangs coach. Blanchard is the son of former Yankees catcher Johnny Blanchard, who passed away last week.

The Steelers won the Super Bowl the past year, but none of three Gophers on the team made the big money, when their salaries are compared to some of the high-paid players in the NFL. Tight end Matt Spaeth signed a three-year contract worth $1.68 million when he was drafted in the third round of the 2007 draft, a deal that included a $564,000 signing bonus. Spaeth will make $460,000 this fall and be a restricted free agent in 2010, as will fellow former Gophers player Gary Russell, the running back who began last season on the active roster, was waived and placed on the practice squad after two games but then was signed back to the active roster Oct. 1. The third former Gophers player on the Steelers roster, safety Tyrone Carter, signed a three-year, $2.5 million contract in March 2007 and will make $745,000 in 2009. He can become an unrestricted free agent in 2010.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on his Podcast once a week at www.startribune.com/sidcast. shartman@startribune.com