Preview 2018: Previewing and looking ahead to the Minnesota Golden Gophers season with what you need to know.
Preview 2018: Minnesota Golden Gophers
Patience isn’t something necessarily associated with P.J. Fleck.
The 37-year-old has the energy of a kid a Fortnite binge after pounding a venti espresso and four bowls of Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs – it’s not in him to think about anything more than trying to win RIGHT NOW.
But Minnesota needed to do something different to finally go for it.
Oh sure, the Jerry Kill era was solid. The teams were sound, they went to bowl games, and the 2016 version was in the mix for the Big Ten West crown up until the final weekend.
But now Nebraska is about to be a thing again under Scott Frost. Iowa and Northwestern are always good, Purdue has found something in Jeff Brohm, and Wisconsin is coming into the season as a legitimate top five team. The Gophers needed to find more pizzazz, and most of all, talent.
It’s not like Fleck is beating Ohio State and Penn State for players, but he came up with a nice recruiting class to set the tone, and the youth is going to have to play a big role this season.
But Western Michigan wasn’t built in a day, and Minnesota will take a little while, too. Remember, it took four years for him to go from a 1-11 first year to 13-1, but he went 8-5 in his second season at the helm.
And now, Minnesota has to be at least a win better and it has to go bowling.
It has to be able to score more than ten points again – after failing to push past that in four of the last five games – and has to be better than 1-3 in games decided by seven points or fewer.
The defense will be solid. The depth is way too thin – a rash of injuries, especially at safety and defensive tackle, would be devastating – but it should get better and better as the season goes on. The pass rush needs to show up, and the interceptions have to come, but again, the D will be okay.
The ground game will be great with Rodney Smith leading the way behind an improve O line, and the passing game can’t be any worse. Now, true freshman QB Zack Annexstad has to be great, and a No. 2 receiver emerges to help out Tyler Johnson, this will all start to take shape.
Fleck is going to make this fun.
There are themes. There’s energy. There’s a whole lot of fire.
But none of it matters unless the wins come. And they will – in a little bit of time.