Why Is The Minnesota Gophers New Defensive Coordinator Such A Tremendous Hire?
It’s been a busy week in the world of football. The regular season ended in the NFL, and there has been a lot of movement for coaches in both College Ball and the NFL.
Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban retired, Tennessee Titans Head Coach Mike Vrabel was fired, and Seattle’s Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick in New England “parted ways” with the teams they have guided for many years.
A lot closer to home, a Coaching move was announced that paled in comparison to the ones I listed and a few more. But, if you’re a Minnesota Golden Gophers fan, it’s quite possibly the most important.
The Gophers hired a new defensive Coordinator, Corey Hetherman. He makes the move to Minneapolis from Rutgers. There are a lot of stats that quite honestly you could look up for yourself about statistically how Hetherman's defensive units perform.
I can tell you what stats can’t, because I’m one of only a few people in the state that’s probably ever seen him coach up close and personal. Before Hetherman went to Rutgers, he was at James Madison University in Harrisonburg Virginia. I spent 7 years there, the last six as the Radio Play-By-Play Voice for JMU Football and Men’s Basketball.
I was at every practice and could get right up on the drills the coaches ran and watch, listen and learn. I remember when Hetherman joined the staff prior to the 2019 season, he came in with his deep voice and commanded the defensive room right away. Early in spring practice, I could tell that Coach Hetherman had already earned the trust and respect of the players.
When there’s a new staff member or is this case for JMU in 2019 a whole new staff, I would spend as much time at practice watching and listening to the new staff members as I would how the players performed.
I learned early on day one of watching Coach Hetherman, he was clear, direct, specific and intentional with the messages he gave his players. He wanted them to play with a speed and aggressiveness that would wear down the other team as the game went along.
When the defense and offense would scrimmage in practice, everyone heard Coach Hetherman, almost as if he was the only defensive Coach talking. I asked him one time if that was by design that he was the only defensive coach who talked during scrimmages and he said, “I never really noticed it before, I just want to make sure my guys can hear me and get the play call as quickly as possible”.
The defensive staff knew he could be the one voice speaking for their side of the ball. Trust me, that’s not always the case, I’ve seen plenty of coaches struggle with co-existing with other coaches.
As that first season rolled along, I learned how dedicated Coach Hetherman was to film study of not only the opposing team, but also of his own team, looking for issues that needed to be addressed as well as seeing if his unit was tipping their hand to the other team.
When I would ask specific questions of Coach Hetherman, trying to get a better understanding of the team JMU was facing that week, he gave such detail that I not only knew certain things to look for, but it helped me be a better broadcaster.
Coach Hetherman made great in game adjustments, helping to put his defense in the best possible position to win each week.
Corey Hetherman is intense, smart, hardworking, and revered by those in the coaching industry. In 2020 he was selected as one of the American Football Coaches Association’s 35 under 35.
He is beloved by his players and players want to play for him. Hetherman can be very creative in his blitz plans and defensive packages.
In college Coach Hetherman was a Quarterback, which is probably a good reason why he understands offenses so well.
And you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who is more passionate about winning. I’ve seen these things first-hand and I’m excited to see what Minnesota’s defense looks like this year.
I can’t promise you that The Gophers will win every game this year, but I can promise you that Corey Hetherman is one of the few Coaches who I trust to have this year's team as prepared as possible every time they get on the field.
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