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  1. #1

    Default Gopher Article on The Atlantic

    I’m not a subscriber. Anyone read it and give some tidbits?


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    Atlantic or Athletic?

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    Quote Originally Posted by WorkingMyTailOff View Post
    Atlantic or Athletic?
    There's an article on the Gophers in The Athletic. Sorry, I don't have a subscription.

    Nothing in The Atlantic that I can see...
    --------------

    "7 National Titles...

    ... But Let's Not Get Carried Away".

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    If you download the app you can read 3 articles free per month, no account required.

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    State of the Program: Minnesota has P.J. Fleck’s framework in place and a chance to rise in Big Ten West

    Editor’s note: Part of a continuing series examining the Power 5 and top Group of 5 teams for the 2019 college football season.

    The bus pulled up to the TCO Performance Center, and out came a ball of controlled energy — complete with a long-sleeved Vikings shirt and a choreographed “Skol” chant, to boot.

    P.J. Fleck does not do things quietly, no matter where he is. On this early April day, the third-year Minnesota head coach had moved one of his team’s final spring practices to the local pro team’s complex in nearby Eagan, offering the public a dress rehearsal of what could await the Big Ten this fall, along with a glimpse into how this kinetic bunch operates daily.

    He walked purposely toward the field, with his fully dressed players rushing past him to get their sweat started. He bounced from position to position, drill to drill.

    “Over-communicate! Over-communicate!” Fleck shouted repeatedly throughout the afternoon, the attached microphone booming through the speakers all around the facility.

    Adam Levine played over those speakers during light stretching. Ozzy Osborne and Drowning Pool later matched the intensity of the Oklahoma drill. A mini Nerf-like football was snapped by the center on every shotgun snap, offering a decoy to the defense as the real ball sat in the quarterbacks’ hands.

    “Let’s go! Over-communicate!” Fleck emphasized. “Every play is its own entity.”

    Yes, with a lot of production returning, these Gophers are a youthful bunch; more than half the roster is made up of first- or second-year players, and 72.5 percent of the roster has two more years of eligibility left. And yes, this program is in many ways ahead of schedule; few could have foreseen last year’s team — warts, injuries, firings and all — becoming the one to end a 14-year losing streak to rival Wisconsin, along with posting a blowout bowl win.

    So now it is Year 3 for Fleck and his “Row The Boat” culture, which was taken from Western Michigan, where he led the Broncos to the Cotton Bowl before being hired by the Gophers. The stage is now bigger, and the conference has gotten better. The facilities are new, and the systems are in place. Recruiting is picking up.

    So what is the goal this time around? A trip to Indianapolis for the Big Ten title game, perhaps?

    “This year is kind of like the framework of the house, where we’re building it, you can start to see what’s happening,” Fleck said, repeating an analogy of program-building. “And the more mature we are, the faster we can make that happen, you can see what the house is gonna look like from the outside and put the roof on it and things like that faster, or you could just have it just be a frame. But that’s what we talk about.

    “We don’t necessarily talk about, ‘Hey, we’re gonna do this, we’re gonna do this, we’re gonna win this and this is the number of wins that we’re gonna have.’ We wanna be better today than we were yesterday, and that’s all we’re gonna keep focusing on. They know that they feel like they can be a really good football team. There’s a lot of good teams in the West now. I think the West is really, really good. Based on the coaches we hired in the Big Ten West, the way the West is recruiting, I think it’s catching up to the East, and I think that’s very positive for the Big Ten.”

    Biggest on-field question
    Who will start at quarterback? It’s a question that the Gophers hope to have an answer to before the season starts. But the fact both quarterbacks played plenty of ball last season gives the staff faith that everything will turn out OK in that regard, especially considering the number of proven skill guys surrounding the passer.

    The biggest question as it relates to potential weaknesses comes on the interior of the defensive line and in the secondary, where the Gophers are relatively unproven and thin.

    Their defensive end corps should be one of the better units in the Big Ten, but Sam Renner, a fifth-year senior with two starts inside to his name, is pretty much the most proven commodity on the roster at tackle. Micah Dew-Treadway has come aboard from Notre Dame for his fifth year, but he barely saw the field the past four years in South Bend. With the departures of fifth-year seniors Gary Moore (7.5 career TFLs) and O.J. Smith, along with the rising redshirt senior Royal Silver (medical reasons), the Gophers will likely take a by-committee approach to replacing production up the middle.

    The most proven players in the secondary, cornerback Coney Durr and safety Antoine Winfield Jr., have dealt with injuries at different points of their careers, which forced young guys into early playing time. Whether that pays dividends down the road remains to be seen, although with two new coaches in the defensive backfield — along with a new D-line coach and with Joe Rossi now coordinating the defense full time — the defense could look a lot different at the start of this year from how it did at the start of last year.

    Depth chart analysis
    Quarterbacks: It will be either Zack Annexstad or Tanner Morgan when the Gophers kick off their season Aug. 29 against South Dakota State. Both players have seasoning under their belts, despite their age.

    Annexstad started from day one as a true freshman in 2018, when he was believed to be just the second true freshman walk-on QB to start a season opener in college football history, joining Baker Mayfield. He completed 51.9 percent of his passes for 1,277 yards with nine touchdowns and seven interceptions in eight games before being sidelined for the season with an internal midsection injury.

    In stepped Morgan, then a redshirt freshman, who guided Minnesota to a 4-2 record down the stretch, including the monumental win at Wisconsin that ended the Badgers’ 14-game win streak against the Gophers and clinched a bowl berth. Morgan completed 58.5 percent of his passes for 1,401 yards with nine touchdowns and six interceptions.

    The two competed all spring and are expected to do the same come fall camp. Fleck loves the makeup of both players, saying he sees plenty of similarities between the duo and Zach Terrell, who started all four years for Fleck at Western Michigan and ended up winning the Campbell Trophy (academic Heisman) his senior year.

    Jacob Clark and Cole Kramer, a pair of three-star early enrollees, figure to provide depth at this stage of their careers.

    Running backs: It is safe to say that this is the deepest position group on the roster. Case in point: Mohamed Ibrahim finished second in the Big Ten last season in rushing yards per game (116.0 in 10 games), and he could be the No. 3 option on the Gophers as a redshirt sophomore.

    That is what happens when the top two backs were lost to injury last season but return for fifth seasons. Rodney Smith is on track to finish as the program’s second all-time leading rusher, as he has posted at least 670 rushing yards in every season that he has been healthy. (A Week 2 knee injury cost him most of 2018.) Meanwhile, Shannon Brooks, a fellow Georgia native, has posted 1,882 yards and 18 touchdowns in his career. He played in just one game last season, suffering a knee injury against Indiana, after recovering from a winter leg injury that the staff had figured all along would force him to play no more than four games and preserve an extra season for 2019.

    Ibrahim stepped up when opportunity beckoned, rushing for 1,160 yards and nine touchdowns. Bryce Williams also made a mark in his freshman campaign, posting 502 yards and four touchdowns.

    Other names to keep an eye on are redshirt freshmen Preston Jelen and Nolan Edmonds and three-star true freshmen Treyson Potts and Cam Wiley, although carries will be hard to come by for the quartet if everyone remains healthy.

    Wide receivers/tight ends: Much like in the backfield, the pass-catchers will provide a huge boost to whoever ends up throwing them the ball this fall. Tyler Johnson, who grew up fewer than five miles from campus, is back for his senior campaign after a first-team All-Big Ten season. He is 1,132 yards away from becoming the Gophers’ all-time leading receiver after catching 78 passes for 1,169 yards and 12 touchdowns last year.

    Like Johnson, Rashod Bateman is a player whom a defense has to account for at all times. His 51 catches and 704 yards were Minnesota freshman records, and he should thrive even more as this offense continues to develop in Year 3 of this regime.

    Chris Autman-Bell, a redshirt sophomore, emerged as a big-play threat last season, averaging 16 yards on 28 catches (449 yards). Demetrius Douglas, another redshirt sophomore, became a factor, too, with nine catches for 87 yards and a touchdown while also starring as a return specialist.

    Redshirt junior Ko Kieft and redshirt sophomore Jake Paulson were reliable blocking tight ends who made minimal contributions in the pass game (three catches total), although the staff is expecting bigger leaps this season. And one guy to keep an eye on is dynamic redshirt freshman Brevyn Spann-Ford, who got his feet wet in four games and is up to 260 pounds, after his prep playing weight was closer to 225.

    Offensive line: Daniel Faalele, a 6-foot-9, 400-pound native of Melbourne, is back at right tackle after starting the final eight games there as a true freshman. Next to him at guard will likely be redshirt freshman Curtis Dunlap Jr., who was the highest-ranked recruit in Fleck’s first full class in 2018.

    Redshirt junior Conner Olson has started all 25 games the past two seasons at two positions. Last year, that meant left guard. This year, he will likely start at center, as he is the engine that makes this line go, although the staff is high on redshirt sophomore John Michael Schmitz, who enters camp as the No. 6 lineman.

    Redshirt junior Sam Schlueter has started 13 games over the past two seasons at both tackle spots and figures to be the starter on the left side, but he is interchangeable at guard with expected starter Blaise Andries, a redshirt sophomore who started all 13 games last season, including 12 at right guard.

    Redshirt junior Jason Dickson, a juco transfer, is a name to watch out for at tackle, as is 6-foot-7 early-enrollee JJ Guedet down the line.

    Defensive line: Senior Carter Coughlin and redshirt senior Winston DeLattiboudere are back as starting ends, with Coughlin, who is listed as a linebacker, expected to be all over the field as hybrid rush end. This duo has 49 combined starts in the past three years, giving the Gophers a strong one-two punch on the outside that should be the best of the Fleck era.

    Coughlin was named second-team All-Big Ten last season and won the team’s defensive player of the year award. He is Mr. Minnesota: Both of his parents were Gophers athletes, as was his grandfather, who later became the interim athletic director. On the field, Coughlin has tallied 30.5 TFLs in the past three years, including 18 sacks, to go with five forced fumbles. DeLattiboudere has tallied 11.5 TFLs in that time, including 4.5 sacks.

    Redshirt sophomores Boye Mafe and Esezi Otomewo both saw significant time last season and should take on bigger roles.

    The question marks come inside, where the Gophers lose much of their production and are working to find suitable replacements. Sam Renner, a redshirt senior, is the most experienced tackle, having started three games last season (two at tackle), but he has made his biggest mark so far on special teams. Michael Dew-Treadway joined the team this spring from Notre Dame, but his playing time was limited while with the Irish.

    Juco transfer Keonte Schad and sophomore Jamaal Teague are also worth keeping an eye on. Teague, who was one of the Gophers’ highest-rated signees from 2018, appeared in seven games last season and made two stops behind the line of scrimmage.

    Linebackers: With leading tackler Blake Cashman gone, seniors Thomas Barber and Kamal Martin are the leaders of this group, boasting 35 career starts between them. Barber has made 208 career stops, with 14.5 of those coming behind the line of scrimmage. His playmaking ability has come through with his two career picks, six passes defended, four forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries. Martin has posted 111 career tackles, including 10.5 behind the line of scrimmage, to go with two picks, six passes defended, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.

    Sophomore Thomas Rush is a safe bet to take on a bigger role, likely as a starter depending on how many linebackers the defense decides to trot out there at a given time. Sophomore Mariano Sori-Marin was a special teams mainstay as a true freshman.

    Redshirt freshman Braelen Oliver and true freshman James Gordon IV are potential contributors to keep an eye on. This is probably the best unit on the Gophers’ defense.

    Defensive backs: Depending on one’s accounting methods, the Gophers might return four starters in the secondary. While “returning starters” is a popular method in projecting the future, it is important to note that this unit has two new position coaches, and that Minnesota picked off just 11 passes last season, tied for ninth in the Big Ten.

    Coney Durr, a redshirt junior, fought through injury problems early in his career and started nine games last season, picking off two passes and breaking up five more. Fellow corner Terrell Smith, who started nine games as a freshman, made his mark with eight breakups and one pick. Redshirt senior Chris Williamson contributed in his first year of eligibility after transferring from Florida and could fight for a starting spot this year as well, even if that means as a nickel back.

    Antoine Winfield Jr., a redshirt sophomore, has seen the majority of the past two seasons ruined by injury, but he has looked like one of the most versatile players on the roster when healthy. Sophomore Jordan Howden was another victim of circumstance last season, forced into starting action in place of the injured Winfield, and he should build upon his three pass breakups and one pick notched last season at safety.

    Tyler Nubin, who arrived this summer, was the Gophers’ highest-rated signee this past cycle and could see the field at either cornerback or safety this fall if things go right for him.

    Special teams: Demetrius Douglas is back after serving as the Gophers’ returner last season, when he averaged 24.8 yards per kick return and 16.1 yards per punt return, including a 69-yard touchdown in the win at Wisconsin. That 16.1 figure would have been good for third nationally had Douglas qualified with enough touches.

    Redshirt senior Jacob Herbers (41.2 yards per punt) is back for his second season as the starting punter, while the competition to replace kicker Emmit Carpenter — the Gophers’ all-time leader in conversion rate (79 percent) — will be between UConn grad transfer Michael Tarbutt, a two-year starter; redshirt sophomore Grant Ryerse; and freshman Michael Lantz, a three-star prospect from Georgia.

    How the Golden Gophers have recruited from 2016-19
    Using 247Sports’ composite rankings, here is how Minnesota’s recruiting classes have fared nationally and within the Big Ten over the past four years:

    The parallels are not exactly direct, but Fleck and his staff have approached recruiting at Minnesota in much the same way that they did in their four years at Western Michigan. The rankings will look different, as WMU landed the Mid-American Conference’s No. 1 or No. 2 class in each of Fleck’s final three full years in Kalamazoo, numbers that the Gophers have not approached in the Big Ten. Still, this program is trending upward, with its 2020 class currently ranked fifth in the Big Ten and No. 24 overall as of the first week in July.

    This is still very much a developmental program when it comes to the trail, as the Gophers are trying to punch above their weight in a league that includes the likes of Ohio State and Michigan. None of their 21 signees in 2019 were rated above three stars. The staff will point to the development of Corey Davis into the FBS’ all-time receiving yards leader while at WMU and respond today with the aforementioned Johnson, who enters his senior year in Minneapolis as one of the nation’s top receivers and has the same coaches (Fleck, OC Kirk Ciarrocca, WR coach Matt Simon) that Davis did.

    The youth on the roster last year was also noticeable. Consider: The only departure among runners or receivers who played in 2018 is Jonathan Femi-Cole, who graduate-transferred to Western University (Canada). The staff is not afraid to take early lumps if it means reaping rewards on the other end of players’ careers.

    “The biggest thing is validity, right?” Fleck said. “You’ve been able to put the roof behind a vision. It’s not national championship or Big Ten (titles) yet, but we’re winning in every area, whether that’s recruiting or whether that’s development, whether that’s players inside the program, whether that’s internships, academics, our social life, kids believing in things bigger than themselves.

    “So I think it’s complete validity and buy-in. I think that’s where we’re taking the next step here in Year 3. I think that’s where this whole building starts to happen, because everybody here has chosen to be here. They bought the program, they bought the culture. They knew exactly what it is, what you see is what you get, and these young people chose for their life to be very important to them in all four areas of their life.”


    Impact of coaching changes
    Fleck lost two assistant coaches but managed to keep his staff young. How else do you describe a staff in which the 38-year-old head coach is among the oldest on the payroll?

    Defensive backs coach Jahmile Addae left for the same position at West Virginia, his alma mater. Defensive line coach Marcus West left for a bigger title — assistant head coach, co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach — at Charlotte.

    Replacing those two are 36-year-old Rod Chance, a former Oregon analyst who will coach corners; and Jim Panagos, who comes from Georgia Tech and will coach the defensive line. Former Maine head coach, 33-year-old Joe Harasymiak, will coach safeties, filling a spot on staff that was vacant after the midseason firing of coordinator Robb Smith.

    Joe Rossi was promoted to interim coordinator after Smith was fired following a 55-31 loss at Illinois, and his work in the final four games — a 3-1 record in which the Gophers allowed 14.75 points per game — earned him the full-time job for 2019.

    “I want my guys to move,” Fleck said. “I want them to come in, learn the culture and go out there and command the tree and chase their dreams, and that’s what I’m here to help them do. They’re here to help the University of Minnesota and our ‘Row The Boat’ culture grow and make young men better, but they’re gonna take what they learn, and I wanna help them have their chance to become head coaches, too.”

    The Gophers’ nonconference schedule is unusual for a Power 5 team. They open on a Thursday against an FCS team (South Dakota State) but then travel far for a late start against a Group of 5 juggernaut that has won 22 games the past two seasons and finished 18th in the AP poll in 2018 (Fresno State). Throw in reigning 10-win Georgia Southern coming to town for Week 3 — and then an open date — and this is fairly unconventional slate that is trickier than it might initially appear without a Power 5 opponent.

    Minnesota was dealt a pretty nice hand by the schedule-makers when it comes to Big Ten East crossover opponents, getting Rutgers and Maryland in addition to a home matchup with Penn State.

    That Nov. 9 clash against the Nittany Lions is the start of a four-week, season-ending grind that features games at Iowa, at Northwestern and against rival Wisconsin. In the ever-improving Big Ten West, many of these games look like tossups this far out, which means taking care of business during the opening three weeks is of utmost importance for a team looking to best last season’s surprising seven-win output.

    Final assessment
    The Big Ten West is better. So is Minnesota. Just who has improved the most in the division in the past year remains to be seen. But the Gophers have no reason to think that, in their best-case scenario, they cannot at least contend for the division title and a trip to Indianapolis, provided that everything breaks right for them from a health standpoint.

    Worst-case scenario? Last year’s finish — and the worst Wisconsin team in a decade — helps set unrealistic public expectations for a young, and therefore volatile, outfit in 2019, which features a more-challenging-than-it-looks nonconference slate and too many roadblocks along the way to go bowling a second consecutive season.

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    Quote Originally Posted by WorkingMyTailOff View Post
    Atlantic or Athletic?
    Shoot my bad, Athletic. What is the Atlantic, obviously an ocean, but I don't think I even knew that was a site.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Winasota Gopher View Post
    Shoot my bad, Athletic. What is the Atlantic, obviously an ocean, but I don't think I even knew that was a site.
    The Atlantic is a left-wing monthly publication.
    Attention: If the above comment sounds puzzling, adjust your sarcasm setting and try again.

    Quote Originally Posted by God View Post
    For you are one of the chosen ones, my son. Please carry my other messages forward and spread them across the land.

    Thou shall not root for the Badgers under any circumstances, whatsoever. Doing so will bring upon my wrath and you suffer from the same plague of obesity, stupidity, and ugliness of the one who leads the razorbacks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gophers7NatTitlesBadgers0 View Post
    The Atlantic is a left-wing monthly publication.
    Ehhh... center-left, maybe. Roughly similar to the NYT in ideological bent, but they publish more long-form think pieces.

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    Not a lot of the Fleck fans in the comment section in that article.

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    Thanks Winasota for the heads up and F. Goofer for putting on the screen. I think the article was a pretty fair assessment on this team. The only thing I wish it would have expounded on was the defensive tackles. They only mention Renner Schad, Teague and Treadway. There was no mention of Devers, Ahanotu, Cheny, Umlor, M. Robinson, Hickcox, or Logan Richter. Did anyone see practices in the Spring and also the Spring game. Did any of these players jump out at you with their play? Also there was no mention of Benny Sapp III for the secondary and I think you will be hearing about him this year if his legs have come around.

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    Good preview by the Athletic...better than most. Nothing that would be news to the folks around here but it’s not rife with errors and oversimplifications like most national Gopher articles are.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kit Johnson View Post
    Thanks Winasota for the heads up and F. Goofer for putting on the screen. I think the article was a pretty fair assessment on this team. The only thing I wish it would have expounded on was the defensive tackles. They only mention Renner Schad, Teague and Treadway. There was no mention of Devers, Ahanotu, Cheny, Umlor, M. Robinson, Hickcox, or Logan Richter. Did anyone see practices in the Spring and also the Spring game. Did any of these players jump out at you with their play? Also there was no mention of Benny Sapp III for the secondary and I think you will be hearing about him this year if his legs have come around.
    If Devers plays any meaningful snaps at DT, we are in full-on crisis mode.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Catechol View Post
    If you download the app you can read 3 articles free per month, no account required.
    Quote Originally Posted by fmlizard View Post
    Good preview by the Athletic...better than most. Nothing that would be news to the folks around here but it’s not rife with errors and oversimplifications like most national Gopher articles are.
    The Athletic is well worth the $3-$4 per month or whatever it is. Some of the best sports writing that you can find on the net these days. Not a lot of Gopher content though, at least not yet.
    - Respect is the ultimate currency

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    Quote Originally Posted by dpodoll68 View Post
    If Devers plays any meaningful snaps at DT, we are in full-on crisis mode.
    I appreciate your astute recognition of players positions, could you now use that same knowledge and fill me in on the other players that I mentioned. You must know where they stand in the pecking order and their chances in contributing this fall. Hopefully this group does not put us in a "full-on crisis mode."

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