Monday, Sep. 20, 2021

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Clarifying Trey Lance & Gophers Saga


Ever heard of Brennan Armstrong? If it wasn’t for him, Trey Lance might have been a Golden Gopher.

Armstrong is the starting quarterback at Virginia and last season he tied for the FBS lead in games passing for over 200 yards and rushing for over 45 yards. During the winter of 2017 the Shelby, Ohio native was verbally committed to the University of Minnesota recruiting class for 2018. That same winter Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck and his staff were recruiting Lance, the Marshall, Minnesota native who ultimately went to North Dakota State and last month was the third quarterback chosen in the NFL Draft when the 49ers selected him with the third overall pick of the first round.

Ryan Burns, the recruiting authority from, knows the background of the mutual interest there once was between Lance and the Gophers. Burns told Sports Headliners Fleck had a candid conversation with the athletic Lance, who drew interest from college programs for his potential to play multiple positions.

P.J. Fleck

During that conversation, according to Burns, Fleck told Lance, then a junior at Marshall, the Gophers liked him as a quarterback but had promised Armstrong he was going to be the only QB in the 2018 recruiting class. Fleck, though, said the Gophers wanted to continue recruiting Lance and encouraged him to participate in Minnesota’s June camp for promising high school players. Lance had the attention of the Gophers and other major programs as a quarterback but also as a safety and wide receiver.

“So he never camped at Minnesota,” Burns said. “But did Minnesota want to see him potentially at safety? Sure. So did Iowa. So did Iowa State. So did everywhere else.”

Lance had a strong interest in the Gophers but playing QB in college was a priority and FCS North Dakota State offered an opportunity. Power Five schools were cautious about the small town quarterback, including because of a Nike camp performance. “Trey didn’t have a great day,” recalled Burns who was at the camp. “That’s okay. He was a little wide-eyed, I think, by the experience.”

In November of 2017 Armstrong de-committed from Minnesota. If Lance had been patient with his home state university an opportunity might have opened for him in the recruiting class of 2018 at Minnesota. Logic suggests the Gophers would have at least offered Lance a scholarship as a multi-positional prospect and given him a look at quarterback once on campus. From there, his superb throwing and running potential likely would have won over the coaches.

Worth Noting

The Twins, with a 12-20 record, have only been out scored by two runs this season. That kind of slim differential is often indicative of a team playing about .500 baseball, not a club that has lost eight more games than it has won. Minnesota has struggled early in the season for multiple reasons including injuries and COVID that have sidelined regulars, but no problem has been as glaring as the bullpen.

Eleven losses are attributed to the pen. The performance of Twins relief pitchers in allowing “inherited runners” to score ranks among the worst in MLB, allowing 27 of 43 runners to reach home plate. That’s true, too, for home runs allowed by Minnesota relievers. Alex Colome, Cody Stashak and Caleb Thielbar are among those who have been frequent long ball victims.

The Twins couldn’t have forecast their bullpen struggles, or that of starter Kenta Maeda who finished second in AL Cy Young Award voting last season. Maeda has a 5.02 ERA this spring and for Minnesota to win the Central Division title he will have to pitch much better.

Minnesota begins a three-game series in Chicago Tuesday night against the division leading White Sox who offer an imposing lineup of starters: Dylan Cease, 2-0, 2.37 ERA; Dallas Keuchel, 1-1, 3.79 ERA; Carlos Rodon, 5-0, 0.58 ERA.

Hall of Famer Willie Mays celebrated his 90th birthday last Thursday. A candidate for any discussion of the greatest baseball player of all-time, Mays was playing in Minneapolis for the Millers 70 years ago this spring.

It was in late May of 1951 that the parent New York Giants called up Mays from their Minneapolis Triple-A farm club. The shy 20-year-old Alabama native doubted he was ready for the everyday lineup of a National League contender but the Giants thought his .477 average in Minneapolis told a different story about their future center fielder.

Retired Preston High School football and baseball coach Frank Jaszewski also recently turned 90. He coached both football and baseball for the Preston Blue Jays from 1957 until his retirement in 1990. He is a legend in the Preston area.

If the Vikings sign future Hall of Fame wide receiver and free agent Larry Fitzgerald management will have confidence in who they are dealing with. The Minneapolis native, who has played his entire NFL career with the Cardinals, doesn’t have an agent and represents himself.

Local author Jim Bruton’s book with former Vikings linebacker and front office executive Scott Studwell is near completion and expected to be on sale in the fall. Studwell offers insights about scouting and coaches he played for including Bud Grant.

The Vikings have a rookie minicamp scheduled May 14-16; OTA’s May 24-26, June 1-3 and 8-11; mandatory minicamp, June 15-17. Among storylines to follow will be whether the Vikings are moving toward two rookie starters in the offensive line next season, tackle Christian Darrisaw and guard Wyatt Davis.

The St. Thomas Academy director of athletics and activities job remains open and in the search process after the departure this spring of Dan O’Brien, the former Gophers assistant football coach, now working in the private sector.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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