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Archive for Sunday, December 28, 2008

Minnesota QB his own worst critic

December 28, 2008

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Adam Weber is an optimist.

It’s ingrained, a part of him. Ask him about the future and he’ll smile. Weber, the University of Minnesota football team’s sophomore starting quarterback, travels the world with a half-full glass.

With one exception.

When Weber looks in the mirror he becomes a critic, an exacting task-master. Gophers coach Tim Brewster sometimes finds himself having to save Weber from himself.

“Adam is very hard on himself,” Brewster said. “He’s his own worst critic.”

This would explain the frown on Weber’s clean-shaven face. It was early in the Gophers’ preparation for the Dec. 31 Insight Bowl against Kansas University, and Weber was looking like a cherubic version of the man we saw most of the season, when he sported a goatee surrounded by a five-day shadow. Shortly after the Gophers finished the regular season with a one-sided loss to Iowa, Weber decided it was time to start anew.

“The beard wasn’t working, so I thought I’d try a different look,” he said.

A lot of things will look different when the Gophers play the Jayhawks. The Gophers offense will have been given time to heal with a dash of the power run added to the spread offense mix. Weber says you’ll see more out of the quarterback, too.

Despite going from one victory in his first year as a starter to seven this season, Weber grades his own performance harshly.

“I’d say below average, for myself, way below average,” Weber said. “I’d say I started the season pretty well. But I definitely didn’t help the team win some games. There was a lack of consistency. Maybe, I guess, a bunch of things factored in there. But I’d say, toward the end of the season, it wasn’t very good.”

Is he being too hard on himself?

The ultimate stat for a starting quarterback is wins, and he went from one to seven and a bowl berth.

This despite a running game that ran aground late in the season, despite being without a healthy Eric Decker for the final three-plus games, and playing in front of an inexperienced offensive line that resulted in Weber being sacked 27 times — more than twice the number from 2007.

“Last year he was surrounded by a veteran group,” Brewster said. “He had two (big-play) receivers (Decker and Ernie Wheelwright). He was playing with a very veteran offensive line. Last year the game was easier for Adam. Guys were getting open, the protection was there, we ran the ball better. This season we really did some positive things through the first half of the season, then we wore down.”

Weber will admit that overall he has played better than last season — “I know I did,” he said — but he expects more. Maybe, ironically, that’s because he knows the offense so much better than he did a year ago, well enough to know how much has been left on the table this season. Take the last-minute loss to Northwestern on Nov. 1. Weber looks back at that game and sees three touchdown passes waiting for him to make the play.

“You look back and you just say, ‘Shoot,’” he said.

Weber’s overall production is down: His passing and rushing numbers are down slightly as are his touchdowns. But his interceptions are way down, too.

As he looks forward, Weber’s confidence kicks back in.

He expects Decker to be back close to 100 percent for the Insight Bowl. Look at the point at which Decker got hurt and you’ll find the moment the offensive inconsistency became too much. To Weber, Decker was a security blanket, a no-worry guarantee.

“Eric allowed us to be inconsistent (and still succeed),” Weber said. “Because he was always consistent. We’d be inconsistent here and there and he’d make a play.”

Weber is excited by the prospect of a more efficient running game, something Brewster wants, even if it means moving the quarterback under center at times. He sees the new emphasis on the run as a way to flip the aggression switch on the entire offense. He sees growth among the freshman receivers.

He also sees more coming from the quarterback position. The bowl game against Kansas is important on many levels. It gives the Gophers a chance for eight victories — something the seniors never have had — and to end to a four-game losing streak. That could bring confidence into spring practice and next season. Weber also knows that he will be pushed by highly touted recruit MarQueis Gray once spring practice begins.

But that’s weeks away. Right now Weber sees a bowl game where a healthier offense could get well.

“I can still see a high ceiling,” Weber said. “You can’t even see where the ceiling is right now. We have so much untapped potential.”

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