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January 1, 2008

West Notebook: Not an easy decision

SAN ANTONIO - First-year Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster is regarded by many as one of the best recruiters in college football dating all the way back to his days at Texas when he helped the Longhorns sign quarterbacks Vince Young and Chris Simms.

The Gopher head coach has closed the deal on several top flight recruits over his coaching career, but maybe the biggest recruit he let get away was his own son Nolan Brewster, who is one of seven Texas Longhorn commits in San Antonio at this week's U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

Tim Brewster arrived to San Antonio on Monday and caught his first Army practice on Tuesday. Even though his son Nolan won't be following him to Minnesota next season, he said there are no hard feelings in the Brewster household that he'll be playing his college football in Austin instead of Minneapolis.

"He's been a Longhorn fan for a long time," Tim Brewster said during Tuesday's West practice. "I coached at Texas for four years and Nolan really has a very strong appreciation for the University and the state of Texas. He's made a decision to be a Longhorn for those reasons."

Being the son of a football coach, Nolan Brewster has lived all across the country, but he said something about his time in Austin as young boy had a major impact on him picking the Longhorns over the Gophers.

Tim Brewster worked under Mack Brown as a tight ends coach from 1998 to 2001, and during that time Nolan Brewster said he spent countless hours around the Texas football program.

"I remember running out and actually getting the tee on kickoffs when my dad coached at Texas," Nolan Brewster said. "That was great. I remember watching Ricky Williams play and hanging out with him was probably one of my favorite memories.

"It was a tough decision. With my dad having a tough season and the defense struggling, he wanted me up there pretty bad. I just always wanted to go to Texas and he knew that, but he wanted me at Minnesota. It was tough, it was real tough to tell him no. He just wants what's best for me."

During Nolan Brewster's senior season, both he and his mother actually lived in Denver so he could finish up the year at Mullen. Nolan Brewster currently lives in a two bedroom apartment in Denver with his mother, but the family goes back and forth to Minneapolis to be with his dad.

"For Christmas we had five people living in a two bedroom apartment," Nolan Brewster joked. "That's just how it goes sometimes. We had to make a few sacrifices to make everything work this year."

As for things at Minnesota, Tim Brewster continues to build the Gopher program, and it's pretty clear things are headed in the right direction with a new stadium and top 25 recruiting class in the horizon.

Tim Brewster said he's just happy to be in San Antonio this week to get the opportunity to watch his son play.

"It's a special opportunity for him to showcase his ability with the best in the country," Tim Brewster said. "It's a unique opportunity for me as a father and also the head football coach at the University of Minnesota to be able to come here and watch him.

"I've seen most of his games his whole life, but unfortunately this season, his senior season in high school, I was in Minnesota and he was in Denver, Colorado. I didn't get a chance to see him play as much as I would've liked, so I'm really taking advantage of this opportunity to watch Nolan this week and spend time with him."

The 'Mouth of the South'

If there's been one consistent thing through two days of practice for the West, it's been no matter when or where, Allen (Texas) wide receiver Dan Buckner is always talking.

West head coach Bob Jones joked that Buckner has even developed a nickname for himself this week in San Antonio.

"They throw him the ball so much because he talks all the time," Jones joked. "The only way they can get him to be quiet is to throw the ball to him. He told me his nickname is the 'mouth of the south', and I agree. He's a non-stop talker, but he's a player too."

Buckner has got it done this week with his big-bodied frame. He's been a constant mismatch for the West secondary and he's hoping that will transfer over to Saturday's game.

"I like singing too," Buckner said laughing. "Yesterday I started singing and everybody else just joined in with me. Today I tried singing again, but nobody else started singing with me, so I guess I picked the wrong song. I'll try again tomorrow."

Buckner is a December graduate and he'll enroll early at Texas this Monday, following the U.S. Army Bowl. During his career at UT, Buckner is hoping to be an impact player right away.

"I definitely want to be the big-bodied guy for them," Buckner said. "But I don't want to be the Limas Sweed type, I want to be the Dan Buckner type. I want to be the guy everybody talks about and I want to set my own thing."

Katoa has big day

It took Salt Lake City (Utah) Cottonwood linebacker and Colorado commit Lynn Katoa a day to get acclimated in San Antonio, but it was clear after Tuesday's practice that he's emerged as the top linebacker on the West squad.

Katoa was constantly in the backfield blowing up plays in both the morning and afternoon practices on Tuesday and he definitely caught the eye of Jones.

"Katoa reminds me of Chris Galippo from last year's team," Jones said. "He is just everywhere. When you look at him, he's a nice looking athlete, but he doesn't look like he's anything special. But he is just everywhere and he makes plays."

Katoa said the two NFL linebackers he looks up to are Teddy Brushi and Junior Seau of the New England Patriots.

Katoa considers Brushi and Seau complete linebackers and that's how he hopes to play when he gets to Colorado next season.

"They are just really smart and fast and they hit hard," Katoa said. "They are all-around players, and that's the kind of guy I want to be."

Washington has been a tough blocking assignment

One of the more exciting players to watch on the defensive line this week has been Keller (Texas) Fossil Ridge defensive end R.J. Washington.

During one-on-one work, no player has given the West's stellar group of offensive tackles more fits than Washington.

However, the biggest adjustment for Washington in San Antonio is getting used to going full speed on every single play.

"They're all tough match-ups," Washington said. "Usually I go through practice at about 85 to 90 percent speed, but coming down here, you have to go 100 percent. If I don't go full speed, I'll get pancaked out there.

"I've never had to try this hard, and it's not like the offensive guys are that much better than you. It's just whoever tries the hardest is going to get that play."

Injury update

On Monday, the West team suffered two injuries to Denver Mullen offensive lineman Bryce Givens (broken hand) and Muskogee (Okla.) wide receiver Jameel Owens.

When the injuries first took place on Monday, Jones wasn't very optimistic that either Givens or Owens would be available for Saturday's Army Game, but as things turn out, both players should be ready for Saturday.

Givens did break his hand, but he is going to have a hard cast put on it and he should be back at practice by Thursday. Jones also said Owens made it through all of Tuesday's practice, but continues to battle the pain of his nagging hip injury.

"Jameel Owens practiced today and he's fine," Jones said. "With Bryce, they're going to wait and let the swelling go down and they are going to cast it up and club it up and he'll play on Saturday.

"Hopefully he'll practice a little bit on Thursday and in the walk-thru on Friday. He'll be alright and he needs to watch it, but he's a smart kid and he'll be fine."

Quick hits

• Wednesday is scheduled to be a scrimmage day for both teams in the Alamo Dome, but Jones said he will not put his team through much full-scale live scrimmaging.

"We'll probably have an intense practice tomorrow in the Alamo Dome, but we won't do a live scrimmage," Jones said. "We'll probably let the backs take some pops, but the only scrimmaging we'll do is in our regular team periods of practice. It's all about them being ready to play on Saturday and it doesn't have anything to do with them scrimmaging on Wednesday."

• For Kaneohe (Ha.) Castle prospect Solomon Koehler, the change in climate on Tuesday was a little bit of a culture shock. In less than 24 hours, the weather in San Antonio went from the upper 70's to the lower 40's.

"He was dying," Jones joked. "I told him you guys have mountains in Hawaii, so it has to be cold there sometimes. But it was a beautiful day and Solomon was fine, we were just having fun with him."

• Tim Brewster made it pretty clear that his intentions of being in San Antonio are not to talk with potential recruiting targets.

"I don't look to reach out and talk to the guys here," Tim Brewster said. "I'm just spending time with Nolan, but I do know some of the other kids in this game and some of them have come up and said hi to me. I'm not looking to create an edge for Minnesota by me being here, I'm just really enjoying being around my son."

• Buckner has had a hard time telling quarterbacks Blaine Gabbert and Dayne Crist apart this week in practice, so he's developed his own name for them to get their attention.

"I just say 'hey Dayne-Blaine'," Buckner said laughing.

• Both teams will take part in the Army skills competition on Wednesday morning in the Alamo Dome from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. There is a media luncheon set from 12 to 1:30 p.m. and then both teams will hold practices in the Alamo Dome from 2 to 5 p.m.


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