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Weber fueled by offseason criticism

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The Gibson-Nagurski Football Complex is filled with reminders of Minnesota's team history, from national championship banners to plaques of Gophers All-Americans. But the numbers 1 and 11 won't be appearing any time soon.

"I don't think we'll ever need to put a sign up or anything," Gophers sophomore quarterback Adam Weber said. "The people that were part of the team, we'll never forget a season like that."

Several people Weber encountered during the offseason made sure he remembered.

Weber wasn't just a member of the 2007 Gophers, a team that set a school record for losses as well as many other marks for futility. He was the starting quarterback. And unlike some teammates who could escape to California or Texas, Weber went home to Shoreview, Minn., still very much in Gopher Country.

"They'd always make comments about the season we had," Weber said. "Sometimes I had to bite my lip and take it because it was a very embarrassing season and as a Gopher fan, you hate to ever have a team that did so poorly, record-wise. When people just brought up our record alone, that was enough to stir up some emotion. As a quarterback, you take extra responsibility for things like that."

Weber also assumes the responsibility for turning things around this fall. An influx of junior-college transfers and talented freshmen helped Minnesota upgrade in several spots, and Weber, the program's first ever sophomore captain, returns to lead an offense that really wasn't the problem last season.

The Gophers averaged more than 400 yards a game and Weber, who "just tried to stay alive out there," set single-season school records for passing yards (2,895), attempts (449), completions (258) and passing touchdowns (24). The 6-3, 220-pound quarterback also displayed the athleticism needed to run Mike Dunbar's spread coast offense, leading the team in rushing with 617 yards.

What must come next is clear for Weber: limit the interceptions. He had 19 of them last year, tying Northwestern's C.J. Bacher for the league lead, and threw multiple picks in six games, all losses.

"I was just trying to make my one read and stick with that," he said. "Now I feel so much more comfortable with scanning the defense, making my reads and understanding how to visualize the whole field, how to look off guys a little bit, when you need to make a big play, when you can just drop it down."

Weber should have more options this year. In addition to Eric Decker, the Big Ten's top returning wide receiver (909 yards), Minnesota has added several touted freshmen wideouts, including Brandon Green and Brodrick Smith.

A deeper running back corps should reduce the number of hits on Weber, who wasn't sacked much last fall but felt the wear and tear following the season.

"You'd wake up and your knee would be swollen or you couldn't get out of bed," he said. "I was just trying to heal up the body and heal up the brain, especially."

Despite a new-look offensive line, Weber said the preseason has been sharper and faster. The Gophers haven't wiped the 2007 season from their minds, and Weber hopes his opponents haven't either.

"We'll be able to surprise a lot of people because they look at us and see a 1-11 team," Weber said. "We know we have something special."