Joe Christensen covered Major League Baseball for 15 years, including three seasons at the Baltimore Sun and eight at the Star Tribune, before switching to the college football beat. He’s a Faribault, Minn., native who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1996. He covered Jim Wacker’s Gophers for the Minnesota Daily and also wrote about USC, UCLA and the Rose Bowl for the Riverside Press-Enterprise before getting this chance to cover football again.
Email Joe to talk about the Gophers.
CHICAGO -- The Gophers may be a consensus pick for last place in the Legends Division of the Big Ten, but one member of the media disagrees.
Some TV talking head named Tim Brewster.
"I think it's very evident they have a lot of talent there," said Brewster, who recruited much of it before being fired as Minnesota's head coach last Oct. 17. "I was very much looking forward to coaching that team this year, because I felt like it was going to be our best team. It's a really talented group of kids."
Instead of coaching them, he'll be watching them from afar, as he focuses on his new life as a sideline reporter for Fox. Brewster, who went 15-30 in four seasons at Minnesota, will work a college game each week and probably an NFL game or two. "I'm really excited," Brewster said as he helped with the network's coverage of the Big Ten media day. "It's the first time in 25 years I won't be coaching, but I'm really looking forward to meeting with coaches, watching games, going to practices. I'm going to try to offer an analytical approach to football."
Seven months after his tenure at Minnesota ended, Tim Brewster is finally breaking his media silence.
"I poured my heart and soul into that situation in Minnesota and I was disappointed with how it ended," Brewster told Naples (Fla.) Daily News reporter Woody Wommack in a story posted on the paper's website Friday. "But I'm a positive guy and you're not going to keep me down long."
That he's been quiet this long is surprise enough. The former Gophers coach, fired Oct. 17 after a 1-6 start to the season, has refused all interview requests from Minnesota reporters since that day, content to remain out of sight at his Naples home.
But the 50-year-old Brewster, who will apparently be out of football this fall for the first time since 1985, has been visiting high school spring football practices in Fort Myers lately, and told Wommack "I want to get back into coaching."
He was a finalist for the head-coaching job at Texas State in January, a job that went to Dennis Franchione, who coincidentally was the football mentor to Brewster's Gopher successor, Jerry Kill. Now Brewster, 15-30 in 3 1/2 seasons with the Gophers, plans to stay in Florida until jobs come open again at the end of the year.
Brewster and a couple of other fired coaches, ex-Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez and former Kansas coach Mark Mangino, traveled around the state last week watching high school practices, the newspaper said, and Brewster said he was impressed with what he saw.
He even addressed the players at Immokalee High, lecturing them on the importance of academics.
"I've tried to get out to see some of the top players down here," Brewster told the Daily News. "I've got a little free time, and it's been a lot of fun to get out and watch."
Thomas Hammock served as Minnesota's co-offensive coordinator on Tim Brewster's staff last year. In order to pursue a similar job, Hammock has decided to leave the Gophers.
Hammock, running backs coach at Minnesota since 2007 and the only assistant coach retained after Brewster's firing, has been hired at Wisconsin after realizing, according to new Gophers coach Jerry Kill, that the stability of Kill's staff means he likely would not have a chance to assume that role again anytime soon.
"It had to do with advancement in his career," Kill said in a statement released by the university that also announced the promotion of Brian Anderson to fill Hammock's role with the running backs. "Thomas felt the stability of our coordinator situation meant that the opportunity to advance from running backs coach to offensive coordinator would come quicker at Wisconsin."
"Thomas is a coach I have watched grow," Badgers coach Bret Bielema said of Hammock, who was a graduate assistant at Wisconsin from 2003-04. "I first met Thomas when I was the defensive coordinator at Wisconsin eight years ago, and I have been impressed with his coaching ability and work ethic ever since."
Hammock had a reputation as a strong recruiter, and took over the offensive coordinator role by himself when Jeff Horton was promoted to head coach after Brewster's firing.
The departure means Kill has found a slot on his coaching staff for Anderson, who has been one of his on-field assistants since 2001 at Southern Illinois. Anderson has coached wide receivers and tight ends for Kill in the past, but accepted a job as defensive quality control assistant when Kill was hired at Minnesota.
"Brian had every right to be upset with me when I asked him to take an off-the-field position here," Kill said. "But he swallowed it up for the team. I told him if he came here and something like this happened, then I don't have to worry about the transition."
-- Hammock wasn't the only ex-Brewster assistant hired Wednesday. John Butler, who handled linebackers and special teams for the Gophers for four years, accepted the special-teams coordinator job with South Carolina.
I've been a little surprised that Tim Brewster hasn't been hired somewhere yet, particularly since NFL jobs are being filled now. Perhaps he's been holding out for a head-coaching job, since he reportedly came relatively close to being hired at Texas State last month.
But Brewster, whose resume as an assistant coach before he came to Minnesota is impressive no matter what happened here, may be close to finding work for next season. According to Tom Dienhart, who closely follows coaching moves for rivals.com, Brewster is a candidate for a vacancy on Nick Saban's staff at Alabama.
The job is as wide receivers coach, a reasonable fit since Brewster has plenty of experience teaching tight ends. The job was rumored to be going to former Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom, but he decided last week to remain with the St. Louis Rams. Now, according to Dienhart, Brewster is a candidate along with four others -- one of whom is Mike Groh, Louisville's quarterbacks coach and a former Alabama graduate assistant. The Tuscaloosa News calls Groh the "leading candidate."
Also a candiate, according to Dienhart: former Clemson offensive coordinator Billy Napier, Crimson Tide quality-control coach Derrick Crudup, and former Alabama receiver Lance Taylor.
The first installment of meet-the-coordinators was in the paper today, and thanks to those who wrote me about it. Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys gets the mini-profile treatment tomorrow.
They're a fascinating pair, alike in many ways, right down to their ages -- they were born a month apart in 1968. They also have been with Jerry Kill for a decade, even though each has been approached for other jobs (including an NFL offer for Claeys), and both say would be happy to finish their careers at Minnesota. (Limegrover told the offense recently that the days of changing coordinators every offseason are over, good news considering he'll be the fifth offensive coordinator in six years.)
They're both lineman-sized, too, or as Kill put it, "I don't need a trooper to protect me after a game -- I've got all the muscle I need with my coordinators." Kill also said "if they wanted to, they both could be head coaches, and that's what makes my job better. I trust them completely. I can concentrate on the little things and trust that everything will get done."
Limegrover's background is especially varied; he did internships with the White Sox and Pirates ("Running around Three Rivers Stadium, making sure every gate had enough Pirate Parrot giveaways," he said) and also with Arena League football, acting as assistant to all five members of the the league's front-office staff. "Finance, media, players, venues -- I learned it all," he said.) And after college, he earned some extra money by doing legal research for a few Chicago law firms. Eventually, he chose football, first at his alma mater, the University of Chicago.
You think recruiting to Minnesota is hard? Try finding players for an elite academic institution.
"The (academic) entrance requirements were nearly impossible, and the school wouldn't even let recruits know until April whether they got in," Limegrover said. "We'd sign a guy, then wait a few months until they called us to say they got a letter from the registrar. You're not getting five-star guys. But we still got a few players."
Claeys was focused on football from a much earlier age; he knew he wanted to coach before he got to Kansas. He's got a Minnesota connection already; while he was a student assistant for the Jayhawks, Glen Mason was hired to coach the team. Mason sent Claeys a congratulatory letter last month, "which meant a lot to me," Claeys said. "He's still one of the best coaches around, considering the places where he's won."
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