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Vikings Could Draft St. John’s Tackle

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March 20, 2020

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Enjoy a Friday notes column referencing the Minnesota Vikings upcoming draft, regular season and playoff predictions for the Minnesota Twins, and more.

The Vikings’ offseason campaign to upgrade the offensive line could include a draft eligible player from inside the state’s borders. St. John’s left tackle Ben Bartch has earned praise in the months leading up to the April NFL Draft despite playing Division III football.

Pete Najarian, the former Gopher linebacker who has been an ESPN college football analyst, has a son who attends St. John’s. Najarian has watched Bartch’s career as the Oregon native has transitioned from a tight end to tackle while dramatically increasing his weight to about 310 pounds. Despite an impressive NFL Scouting Combine performance this winter, Najarian told Sports Headliners a lot of observers “don’t really understand how good he is.”

Najarian believes the 6-foot-6 Bartch, who could play tackle or guard in the NFL, might be drafted in the fourth round. “He’s athletic as heck,” Najarian said.

Najarian is also a fan of Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts who he thinks the Vikings should pursue, perhaps in the second round. The Vikings don’t have an athletic quarterback with the skill-set of Hurts who also was a star at Alabama. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Hurts ran a 4:59 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine.

“…I think he could be a quarterback not too dissimilar to a Dak Prescott, or some of the other quarterbacks that are considered dual-threats including Lamar Jackson,” Najarian said. “I think he is somewhere in that category, and his combine numbers say a lot about how fast and big he really is.”

Najarian, best known as a financial whiz on television, played for the NFL’s Tampa Bucs, who have acquired 42-year-old quarterback Tom Brady. The team is known for its offensive talent, but not at quarterback. Last season the Bucs had a 7-9 record. Najarian believes the arrival of Brady, considered by many to be the NFL’s greatest quarterback of all time, transforms the Bucs into Super Bowl contenders.

“I think he’s that good,” Najarian said. “I think he still has the ability to play at a high enough level—probably not the highest level he ever played at—but a higher level than most quarterbacks in the NFL still. So it gives Tampa what they have been missing, which is somebody secure at the quarterback position.”

Sports Illustrated’s spring baseball issue predicts the Twins, who won 101 games last season and became American League Central Division champs, will again finish ahead of the Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals. The Twins will have a 93-69 regular season record but will lose their AL Division series to the Houston Astros (will they cheat?), according to S.I.

S.I. points out the Twins hit an MLB record 307 home runs but at least as impressive was that the pitching staff struck out a franchise record 1,463 batters. “The dingers got the attention last year, but the biggest change was the embrace of modern approaches under new pitching coach (Wes) Johnson,” the magazine said.

The publication forecasts the New York Yankees will defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series.

Yesterday the website BetOnline.com gave Minnesota the third best odds to win the American League playoffs, and sixth best chance of any MLB club to win the World Series.

Former Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, now the Tigers’ skipper, saw his team lose 114 games last season and could be on track for a similar total in 2020. While the Twins had nine players slug more than 20 home runs, no Tiger hit more than 15 last season.

Former Twins infielders C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop, now with the Tigers, hit 25 and 23 respectively last season.

It will be interesting to see if former Timberwolves player and coach Sam Mitchell, who resigned from his assistant’s position with the Memphis Tigers about a year ago, gets back into coaching. Mitchell, 56, now has both NBA and college coaching experience.

Gophers athletic director Mark Coyle speaks to the CORES lunch group Thursday, May 14 at the Bloomington Event Center, 1114 American Blvd. More information is available by contacting Jim Dotseth, dotsethj@comcast.net.

Ron Stolski

The retirement celebration for prep football coaching legend Ron Stolski has been moved from April 4 to June 13 at Cragun’s Legacy Clubhouse in Brainerd. He coached football in Minnesota for 58 years, including the last 45 at Brainerd.

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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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