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GOPHERS AT MICHIGAN

2:30 p.m. Saturday • Ann Arbor, Mich. • TV: ESPN Classic

Trio of freshmen start in secondary

  • Article by: Chip Scoggins
  • Star Tribune
  • October 24, 2007 - 1:08 AM

Gophers football coach Tim Brewster admits it makes him a little nervous, but he announced Tuesday that he will start three true freshmen in the defensive secondary Saturday at Michigan.

Kyle Theret has moved from safety to cornerback and will replace senior Jamal Harris, who was benched for the second half last week. With Curtis Thomas at free safety and Ryan Collado at right cornerback, the Gophers will start the three freshmen together for the first time this season.

"That makes the head coach a little nervous, and it also makes me very excited for the future," Brewster said. "We have three talented young kids who are getting a lot of experience, and it's going to do nothing but help us as we move forward as a football team."

Theret took over for Harris in the second half of the Gophers' 27-21 loss to North Dakota State. Harris started all eight games this season and 31 games in his career. But he missed several tackles in the first half last week and lost his starting job.

"We're going to play the players that we feel give us the best opportunity to win," Brewster said. "As we've looked at the season, we're a 1-7 football team, and we're realistic about where we're at. At this particular time we feel that Kyle Theret starting at corner gives us the best chance to win."

The timing is interesting when you consider Michigan has an extremely talented receiving corps, led by Mario Manningham, and this will be the freshman trio's first trip to the Big House.

"It's going to be a great test for us," senior strong safety Dominique Barber said. "Three freshmen, that's unbelievable. But we have a lot of confidence in our freshmen, and they're going to have to step up because Manningham is one of the premier receivers in the Big Ten and the nation."

In the Big House

The Gophers have 11 freshmen, including eight true freshmen, in their two-deep charts this week. This will be their fourth road game, but they haven't exactly experienced a difficult environment yet.

The team's first three road games were against Florida Atlantic, Indiana and Northwestern. The average attendance for those games was 22,027. The attendance Saturday at Michigan Stadium will be in excess of 100,000.

"I think it will be unbelievably exciting for our kids," Brewster said. "I don't anticipate them being in awe. It's a football field. It's 100 yards long."

Senior linebacker John Shevlin said he isn't worried about how the young players will react.

"You can curl up under a rock or go out and shine," he said. "That's why I came to Minnesota, to play Big Ten football. That's the epitome of Big Ten football."

Etc.

• Brewster said junior defensive end Willie VanDeSteeg is "just a beat-up young guy." A broken right wrist and shoulder injury have limited VanDeSteeg's playing time and production.

• As expected, sophomore tailback Jay Thomas is out for the season because of a right knee injury.

Chip Scoggins • ascoggins@startribune.com

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