With the graduation of Willie VanDeSteeg this year, the Gophers are without a true experienced star on defense.
So when the team had to pick its team captains, and things were too close to call on the defensive side, head coach Tim Brewster had to break his own standard by electing four defensive captains as part of the six captains for the 2009 season announced earlier in the week.
The offensive captains are, not surprisingly, quarterback Adam Weber and wide receiver Eric Decker. On defense, senior tackles Eric Small and Garrett Brown were picked along with senior linebackers Lee Campbell and Simoni Lawrence.
“I could not be more pleased with the selections the team made with these six young men,” Brewster said in a release. “These guys exemplify what it means to be a captain and have displayed true leadership with both their actions and their words.”
Brewster, like many other coaches, typically picks two captains from each of the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, but said that the race was too close among defensive players. The captains are picked through a team vote.
Decker hasn’t participated in spring practices or the team’s spring game because he is playing with the Gophers baseball team this fall. But he will likely again be the biggest part of the team’s offense, as he was a Heisman Trophy Candidate early last season and could be a contender again, though Brewster has said there will be more of a focus on running the ball with new offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch.
Decker has Minnesota’s single-season reception record two years in a row and was a finalist last season for the Biletnikoff Award, which is given to the nation’s best wide receiver.
Weber will be quarterbacking under his third offensive system in as many years as a junior next season and just completed his second spring in a row without having Decker to throw to. The will-be junior broke the team’s single-season passing yards record as a freshman and, after undergoing surgery on his non-throwing shoulder this offseason, said this spring that he is 100 percent healthy.
Brown and Small were part of a defensive line last season that led the Big Ten in sacks (34, tied with Northwestern). However, the two combined for just five of those, and both have started fewer than 20 games for the Gophers.
Simoni Lawrence became a captain after just one season with the Gophers. The junior who came to the Gophers as a transfer impressed last season, finishing with 66 tackles and 10.5 tackles for losses despite not starting most of the year. Campbell led the Gophers in tackles last year with 80.
Two weeks removed from hosting the NCAA men’s gymnastics championships, the team announced its team awards and captains for next year at an Awards Picnic on Sunday.
The Most Valuable Gymnast went to junior Aaron Fortunato, who took fifth place in the all-around this year and was a first-team All-Big Ten selection. The captains are juniors Fortunto, Colin McGuire and Thomas O’Brien.
The Gophers didn’t make the final round of the gymnastics championships held at the Pavilion, getting edged out of the finals in the last rotation of qualifying April 16.
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