The Gophers don't know exactly who will be in charge of their Meineke Car Care Bowl opponent later this month, but they don't expect it to make much difference. Texas Tech's passing attack wasn't really Tommy Tuberville's doing anyway.
"I go back to Coach [Mike] Leach -- he started that offensive juggernaut there. They haven't really changed," Gophers coach Jerry Kill said of the Red Raiders' aerial game, which ranked second in the nation this season. "They change quarterbacks and receivers, but it's the same system. ... It presents some difficult challenges, and it's very fast. They don't give you a lot of time."
Tuberville, known as a defensive specialist during his decade at Auburn, resigned as coach of the 7-5 Red Raiders on Saturday in order to become Cincinnati's new coach. Athletic director Kirby Hocutt said Tuberville's staff would coach the Red Raiders during the Dec. 28 bowl game against the Gophers, and he planned to name an interim coach sometime early this week.A revitalized group
The Gophers were noticeably more energetic during the start of bowl practices, Kill said Saturday, after having two weeks off.
"We're moving much better. We've got our legs underneath us," the coach said. "It's amazing what a couple of weeks will do for your body and legs. We've been re-energized a little bit."
The time off has allowed offensive linemen such as Ed Olson, Tommy Olson and Jon Christenson to recover from ankle sprains that kept them from playing at various times over the season's final month.
But the Gophers definitely won't have linebacker Brendan Beal, defensive tackle Roland Johnson or receiver Marcus Jones available for the bowl game, Kill said. All have undergone surgery to repair knee injuries.
Jones' surgery was Saturday and repaired ACL damage that wasn't as serious, Kill said, as a similar injury in his other knee a year ago. "He recovers pretty quick," the coach said. "Hopefully, we'll have him toward the end of spring [practice] or at least get him moving around like we did last year."Almost like two-a-days
The Gophers are practicing in shifts this month, with the starters and primary backups on the field for 75 minutes or so, Kill said. Then the veterans are dismissed, and the redshirts and other young players remain for a half-hour of work on their fundamentals.
"We kind of treat it like two-a-days, except it's just one practice," Kill said. "It's very valuable time for the young guys to get some work, and for us to evaluate them, to let them know exactly where they stand. It's like [having] two spring practices."
Logistics are a problem, though. The Gophers' practice-facility locker room is being renovated and is torn apart at the moment, so the players get dressed at TCF Bank Stadium, then take a five-block bus ride to and from the Gibson-Nagurski complex for practice.
That means the equipment staff is constantly shuttling uniforms and other items between the sites, too.
The overhauled locker room should open again by mid-January.A gracious offer
Northern Illinois athletic director Jeff Compher and new coach Rod Carey called Kill last week to invite the Gophers coach, his wife and daughters to Miami as their guests next month. The Huskies will play Florida State in the Orange Bowl on New Year's night, perhaps the greatest accomplishment in NIU's football history.
"It was a tremendous gesture," said Kill, who coached in DeKalb, Ill., from 2008 to 2010 and recruited many of the players who carried the Huskies to a 12-1 record this year. "Coach Carey is a good guy. He's an offensive line guy. I always root for those offensive line guys."Hope he drew my name
MarQueis Gray on the 32-inch flat-screen television that each Gopher will receive as a gift for participating in the Meineke Car Care Bowl: "I've got a TV. I'm going to have to give mine to someone for Christmas."