There has been lot of speculation about the future of Vikings wide receiver Troy Williamson, the seventh overall pick in the 2005 draft out of South Carolina, who hasn't lived up the expectations expected of him.
However, if Vikings wide receiver coach George Stewart has a say, Williamson, who is under contract next season for $435,000, will get another opportunity to show what he can do for the team this fall.
Stewart made it clear that the decision on Williamson's future will be made by coach Brad Childress, who when asked about Williamson after the season said, "He is still under contract."
Stewart said he believes that it's unfair to judge Williamson and what he can do in the NFL, because he never has had the same position coach two years in a row. Prior to Stewart, Darrell Wyatt served as Vikings receivers coach in 2006 and Wes Chandler in '05.
"I'd love to get the opportunity to work with Williamson for another season," said Stewart, who will go down as one of the best receiver coaches to ever work for the Vikings. "Troy wants to be a success.
"No receiver wants to drop passes. If Williamson is not here, he will definitely get an opportunity with another team in the NFL."
While some experts don't consider the Vikings receivers capable of doing well in the NFL, Stewart disagrees.
"We had the best receivers in the NFL the past season when it came to perimeter blocking," Stewart said. "Bobby Wade did well catching more than 50 passes. Bob Ferguson did well when he joined us.
"Sidney Rice [a second-round pick last year] is going to develop into one of the great pass receivers in the NFL. Aundrae Allison [a fifth-round pick last year] is one of the more athletic receivers and made progress last season."
Listening to Stewart, you start thinking the people running NFL mock drafts that have the Vikings taking a receiver high this year might be wrong.
Gary (Cookie) Holmes, the former Gophers basketball player, has two sons attending Northern Illinois: Tony and Nico, both members of the Huskies football team.
Cookie said Tony was at the bookstore next door to Cole Hall on Friday when a gunman opened fire in a lecture hall, killing six people, including himself.
"Tony called us and told us that he and some football teammates were looking at some books when one of them looked outside and saw everybody screaming and hollering, so they started running too," Cookie said. "He didn't see what was going on, everybody was just screaming and hollering and running. So he said it was very chaotic."
The football players got away without getting hurt.
"They're all OK. They're trying to figure out who were friends of theirs that got hurt," Cookie said.
Northern Illinois will be the first Gophers football opponent this fall. Tony, a tackle listed at 6-6 and 304 pounds, played on the special teams last year but Cookie expects his son to start this year as a junior. Nico, who saw little action last year, will be a redshirt sophomore wide receiver this year.
Northern Illinois was 2-10 but they have a new coach in former Southern Illinois coach Jerry Kill and expect to be improved, according to Cookie, who has been working for Northwest Airlines.
His sons went to Woodbury High School. In addition, the Northern Illinois football roster includes Cory Hanson of DeLaSalle and Zach Larsen of Northfield, both starting linebackers; Jon Brost of Maple Grove, a three-year starter on the offensive line; wide receiver Matt Simon of Farmington; and offensive lineman Trevor Olson of Richfield.
Spielman knows Thomas
Rick Spielman, vice president of player personnel for the Vikings, was Miami Dolphins general manager for the 2004 season, and got a good chance to watch seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker Zach Thomas.
The rebuilding Dolphins released Thomas last week. Thomas, 34, missed most of last season to injury but was healthy most of his career before that and said he is healthy again now. So you wonder if Spielman will have an interest in signing Thomas.
Ryan Hoag, the only recent Minneapolis high school football player to get an opportunity to play in the NFL, has now been released 10 times by teams in the league. The former Minneapolis Washburn and Gustavus Adolphus wide receiver was "Mr. Irrelevant" of the 2003 draft after he was selected with the final pick by the Oakland Raiders.
Hoag, who briefly spent time on the Vikings active roster in 2004, has signed to play for the San Jose SaberCats of the Arena Football League, but he still has hopes to play in the NFL.
"Greg White [the former Gophers defensive lineman] was released 10 times, like me, by NFL teams, but this past year he got a real opportunity to play with the Bucs and led them in sacks," said Hoag, who spent 2007 training camp with the Redskins but didn't make the team. "... I hope I get lucky like he did."
Gophers men's basketball coach Tubby Smith is a vice president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches. This November, Williams Arena will be the site of an NABC-backed round-robin tournament. The other teams have not yet been lined up for the event. "We're hosting a tournament at our place ... it's not really a tournament, it's round-robin because you will know who you're playing," Smith said. "The NCAA allows you to play these type of [events] and credit it as one game."
Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi and football coach Tim Brewster spent some time last week in Naples, Fla., trying to raise money for the athletic department. Maturi said they had 181 people from Minnesota at one breakfast and the hope is to raise $500,000 or so from the trip there. ... You will see the first bricks laid on the new Gophers football stadium site on April 2. Meanwhile, if you drive by, you will see a lot of the steel has started to go up.
The other day, USA Today carried a story with the headline: "Globetrotters made history by beating Mikan's Lakers." Well true, the Harlem Globetrotters did beat the Minneapolis Lakers the first two times they met, in 1948 and '49 at Chicago Stadium. But the USA Today story didn't point out that the Lakers beat the Globetrotters six consecutive times after that, with four games in Chicago, one in Minneapolis and one in St. Paul. It was at this point Globetrotters owner Abe Saperstein called the series off.
Gophers guard Ryan Saunders, son of Detroit Pistons coach Flip, recently had a second surgery on his shoulder that will likely end his college basketball career. Speaking of Ryan Saunders, Smith said: "He is a smart kid who will make a good coach someday."