Hartman: Assistant Williams has no edge on Colts

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 14, 2012 - 6:10 AM

The new Vikings defensive coordinator worked in Indianapolis, but their roster has changed dramatically.

Vikings defensive coordinator Alan Williams spent 10 years on the Indianapolis Colts coaching staff, including seven under head coach Tony Dungy. On Sunday he will get an opportunity to watch the Vikings offense try to outsmart star pass rushers Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis and safeties Antoine Bethea and Jerraud Powers -- players who developed a great deal under his coaching.

You would think that, with the years he had coaching these Colts defensive players, there would be an advantage because Williams should know their strengths and weaknesses -- but he says that is not the case.

"No not at all, not one bit," he said. "The team has changed so much in the last few months that I really don't even recognize half the roster. No advantage."

Last season, Williams was the defensive backfield coach on a Colts team that won only two games, one fewer than the Vikings in 2011. Unlike the Vikings, the Colts didn't really compete that well.

Favoring the Colts is that they have never lost a home game to the Vikings, going 9-0 (the Vikings are 7-5-1 vs. the Colts at home), although the Vikings did win a preseason game at Lucas Oil Stadium in 2009 when Brad Childress was the coach and Leslie Frazier was the defensive coordinator.

Williams -- who knows the Vikings have to improve defensively from their 26-23 season-opening victory over Jacksonville -- thought the Colts looked good last Sunday, even though they lost 41-21 to the Bears and gave up 428 yards. Top draft choice Andrew Luck passed for 309 yards against a defense that's better than the Vikings.

"It got away from [the Colts] a little bit, but a few things to tweak here and there and they would have been in the ballgame and competing until the end," Williams said. "I think they're playing hard. They're not too far off in terms of being who they're supposed to be. They're working at it and playing extremely hard."

Asked for his scouting report on Luck, Williams said: "He's going to be as advertised, which means he's going to play like a first-rounder and the No. 1 pick in the draft."

Asked about the fans who attend games in the Colts' stadium, which opened in 2008, Williams had nothing but praise.

"The crowd always gets into it. It's a sophisticated crowd in terms of they know football and they know when and how they can affect a ballgame, and they usually do," he said. "Great fans in Indianapolis."

This is a big game for Williams and the Vikings. A victory on the road would mean a 2-0 start and that would be just the third time in the past 10 years that a Vikings team has started perfect through two games. And it comes against a team they should beat if they're going anyplace.

Respect for WMU

Bill Miller, the Gophers linebackers coach, was the defensive coordinator at Western Michigan in 2007 under current Broncos coach Bill Cubit and played a part in the recruiting of the team's great quarterback Alex Carder. He led the team to 631 yards of total offense in their 52-21 victory over Eastern Illinois last week.

"The year I was there we beat Iowa and played West Virginia, so they play a tough schedule," said Miller about the Gophers' foe here Saturday.

Miller left before Carder played his first game, but he did spent a night recruiting in the home of the quarterback that CBS Sports lists as a quarterback who they believe will be selected next year in the NFL draft. Miller has watched Carder on film and has a lot of respect for him. Broncos tight end Blake Hammond caught six passes for 94 yards and two touchdowns last week.

"Cubit has done a good job there," Miller said. "They've been to a number of bowl games and usually been in the hunt for the championship in the MAC."

Incidentally, the opening Las Vegas odds had Western Michigan a 1 1/2-point favorite, but now the Gophers are favored by 2 1/2.

Jottings

• Gophers QB MarQueis Gray was asked how it feels to be a father:

"Oh, it feels great. I'm a lot more mature now. I'm thankful. I'm a blessed parent that I have both healthy boy babies and they're huge babies, too. Everywhere they go, they get people to look at them. They think they're older than what they are because of their size. They're only nine months and they're wearing 30 pounds apiece, so I have some good, healthy babies."

• One of the freshmen who Gophers football coach Jerry Kill is very high on is former Wayzata tackle Ben Lauer, who is being redshirted. Kill looks for Lauer to be great when he starts playing next season. ... The Gophers game at Iowa on Sept. 29 will be the Hawkeyes' homecoming game; Northwestern is the Gophers' homecoming on Oct. 13.

• The NCAA has some funny rules when it comes to the recruiting. For instance, coaches are only allowed to call a recruit once a week. Compare that to college basketball, where coaches can call a recruit every day of the week.

• Good news for the Gophers basketball team. Trevor Mbakwe told me Thursday, while working out with the team, that he is confident he will be cleared for contact on his surgically repaired knee, which will allow him to scrimmage the first day of regular practice Oct. 12.

• Cullen Loeffler has snapped on six of the seven longest field goals in Vikings history. Loeffler was the snapper in 2005 when Paul Edinger kicked one for 56 yards against the Packers; a 55-yarder by Blair Walsh last Sunday; another from 55-yarder by Ryan Longwell against the Bears in 2007; 54-yarders by Longwell in 2008 at Jacksonville and at Green Bay; and another 54-yard kick by Edinger against Chicago in 2005.

• Former Gopher and NCAA champion wrestler Cole Konrad recently gave up mixed martial arts fighting. He was fighting with Strike Force and now he's getting into the workforce.

• Former Gophers heavyweight wrestler Tony Nelson just won at the University World Team Trials and will wrestle in Finland at the university world championships in early October. Zach Sanders, who was a senior last year for the Gophers at 125 pounds, has earned a spot as well. Zach is training to make the U.S. Olympic team.

• The Gophers wrestling team opens the season at home Nov. 9 against Hofstra, one of the nation's college wrestling powers.

Sean Ferguson, a Gophers offensive lineman from Philadelphia recruited by ex-coach Tim Brewster, is no longer a member of the team.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com

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