Minnesota has this Saturday off before beginning conference play on the 30th. The unbeaten Gophers have outscored their non-conference foes 99-31, and P.J. Fleck has become the first U of M coach to start his career 3-0 since Murray Warmath in 1954. Running back tandem Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks, as well as #3 rusher Kobe McCrary, seem to have picked up where they left off a year ago. The team is in very good, but not perfect, shape. Here’s what the Golden Gophers’ bye week focus should be:
Center Jared Weyler and and running back Shannon Brooks both missed Saturday’s game with Middle Tennessee State. Given the opponent, it’s possible this was just precautionary. Connor Olson and Kobe McCrary played very well as their respective replacements, and Olson, a freshman, gained some valuable experience. However, it will be all hands on deck for the Gophers in the coming weeks.
Pick a Quarterback
Earlier this week, it appeared coach P.J. Fleck has settled on Conor Rhoda as the starter at quarterback over Demry Croft. Then word came out that Croft was being disciplined, followed by an announcement that Croft would miss the game for “personal reasons”. In other words, we really don’t know what’s going on. My guess is that Rhoda will continue to be the starter under center. The two are very different types of quarterbacks, with Croft being far more mobile and likely to escape the pocket. Could Rhoda be the primary quarterback, with Croft in a situational role? It remains to be seen.
Continue Working on the Passing Game
Tyler Johnson has emerged as the number one threat through the air, but Big Ten defenses will be better equipped to cover him. Chances are they’ll have at least some luck stopping the run as well, meaning a better balance will be necessary. It was good to see tight end Nate Wozniak targeted a couple of times against Middle Tennessee State. At 6’10”, he presents a unique challenge for any defense. I like how the Gophers have spread the ball around in the passing game thus far.
So there you have it- the Gophers’ bye week focus. It will be interesting to see how they perform against what appears to be a vastly improved Maryland squad. The Terps, followed by Purdue, won’t be the easy start to conference play that I expected it to be in August.