Hartman: Del Rio could be an ideal fit for Vikings

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 12, 2014 - 12:23 AM
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Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio went 3-1 standing in for head coach John Fox this season when Fox needed heart surgery.

Photo: File photo by Ed Zurga • Associated Press,

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Former Vikings linebacker Jack Del Rio, now defensive coordinator for the Broncos, has been rumored to be one of the Vikings’ head coach candidates interviewed by General Manager Rick Spielman.

With the Broncos still involved in the playoffs, Del Rio could not be hired by any other NFL team until after the Broncos either lose or play in the Super Bowl. That might be a negative, because the Vikings might not want to wait that long to name a coach.

However, the former Jaguars head coach and Ravens linebackers coach has all the qualities the Vikings could be looking for.

He served as interim Broncos head coach for four games this year when John Fox had to undergo heart surgery and Denver went 3-1, with the lone loss being in overtime at New England. Del Rio has a great personality and was one of the most popular players to ever play for the Vikings.

He was an All-Pro and Pro Bowl linebacker in 1994, playing four seasons here between 1992-1995.

He worked for two years as strength and conditioning coach for the Saints before becoming linebackers coach in 1999 under Brian Billick when he was with the Ravens. When Del Rio left Baltimore to become defensive coordinator for the Panthers in 2002, then-Vikings coach Mike Tice wanted to hire Del Rio as his defensive coordinator. The two had played together with the Vikings for three years in the ’90s.

Tice told ESPN reporter John Clayton at the time: “Jack’s a student of the game. He’s bright and he commands instant respect in the locker room. I played with four guys who I thought would end up being great coaches and probably head coaches. Del Rio was one.”

Del Rio became head coach of the Jaguars in 2003 and stayed with the club through 2011, posting a 68-71 record with two playoff appearances (and one victory) in 2005 and 2007.

ESPN reported this week that the Vikings had requested to talk to Del Rio and Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase, but if they are to hold those interviews, they had to complete them before Sunday’s Broncos-Chargers playoff game.

Gophers blew chance

The Gophers basketball team hasn’t won a game at Michigan State since 1997. And since 2000, their overall record against Tom Izzo is 5-22.

Richard Pitino has brought national attention to the Gophers with their 13-4 record, especially after beating Penn State on the road Wednesday.

They certainly could have built on that momentum had they not lost their shooting touch in the second half, going nearly 13½ minutes without a basket in the 87-75 overtime loss. The Gophers held a five-point lead heading into halftime (41-36) after shooting a tremendous 7-for-12 from the three-point line and 51.9 percent overall, but after taking a 10-point lead (53-43) with 15:57 remaining, the Gophers offense stalled. Michigan State went on a 15-0 run over the next 7:51 to take a 58-53 lead.

But despite that lack of offense, the Gophers still had a chance to win the ballgame with 51 seconds left in regulation when they brought the ball down the court trailing 67-66. But a turnover by Austin Hollins gave the fifth-ranked Spartans the ball back, and that led to a two-point lead before DeAndre Mathieu’s last-second layup sent the game to overtime.

Once the game went into overtime, it wasn’t a contest. The Gophers just didn’t have any answers in the extra period, as the Spartans scored the first nine points, five of them from the foul line. The Gophers were outscored 16-4, making only one basket and two free throws.

That was another tough part of the game for the Gophers to swallow, as the Spartans attempted 40 free throws on 26 Gophers fouls while Minnesota had only 24 attempts on 17 Michigan State fouls.

Lights set for Siebert

The University of Minnesota hasn’t yet raised the $190 million needed for new facilities, but an unnamed group or individual has come up with $400,000 to install lights on new Siebert Field. The lights will be installed soon.

The Gophers athletic department not only plans for the lights to be used for Gophers baseball games but also for other evening events, including high school and other college baseball games.

Walk-ons help

The Gophers football program will continue to recruit walk-ons with the incentive that they could qualify for scholarships if they do well in the classroom and on the football field.

This year’s team had five players who originally were walk-ons who earned scholarships. They are fullback Mike Henry, offensive linemen Jon Christenson and Caleb Bak, defensive lineman Cameron Botticelli and wide receiver Derrick Engel. Look for some walk-ons on the 2014 squad to be rewarded with scholarships.

Jottings

• One situation that will put more money in the pockets of the Wilf family, owners of the Vikings, is that the family of the late Mike Lynn will no longer get a check for over $500,000 each season when the new football stadium opens. It was Lynn’s idea while working for the Vikings to put in the suites, and he got a percentage of the suite income every year. In fact, the Wilfs went to court to try to stop paying it without success.

• Lane Kiffin, the former Bloomington Jefferson star who was dismissed from the Southern California football coaching job, has landed a well-paid, prestigious job as offensive coordinator job for Nick Saban at Alabama. Former Crimson Tide OC Doug Nussmeier will hold the same position at Michigan.

• Cretin-Derham Hall defensive end Jashon Cornell, who is ranked by many high school scouting services as the top junior football player in the country, could be one of the first top-rated St. Paul football players to go to the University of Minnesota. Cornell has a good relationship with the Gophers staff.

• There is a good chance former Prior Lake center Carson Shanks, who has left the Utah State basketball program, will enroll at Minnesota this spring quarter. The 7-foot center redshirted this season after averaging 12 points and eight rebounds as a senior at Prior Lake.

• Former Gopher linebacker Mike Rallis is talking about joining a circuit of the Mixed Martial Arts fighters group.

• Dimonic McKinzy, the Kansas City Wyandotte quarterback who committed to Minnesota, will enroll in time to take part in spring practice. In his senior year, McKinzy passed for 2,527 and 26 touchdowns. He also is a good runner and rushed for 519 yards and nine touchdowns.

• In a recent issue, USA Today rated different college football programs on how well they did in 2013. The Gophers got an A; Purdue and Michigan were given D’s.

• Former Gopher Thomas Vanek had his 10-game points streak broken for the New York Islanders on Friday.

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