PJ Fleck interview on Sunday, Jan 5 (2020)

short ornery norwegian

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Gopher FB Coach PJ Fleck appeared on the Sports Huddle on WCCO Radio with Dave Mona and Sid Hartman. (Mike Max was at the Vikings' game in New Orleans.)

Sid: when you look at the mess you inherited, did you think you'd be in this position now?
PJ: absolutely. from day 1, we knew what we could do. We did talk about first year being year 0, second year being year 1, and this year was year 2. had to bring in different types of recruits. establish the culture. have guys who truly wanted to be here. our 11 seniors did a great job. they want to make the vision work. I kept saying, we don't want to sacrifice what's down the road for what you want right now.

Sid: Johnson future in NFL
PJ: really talented. bright future. any team would be excited to get him. he will keep getting better. that's a lot of the secrets for longevity in the NFL, working to get better.

Mona: play at line of scrimmage. Auburn's strength at DL
PJ: Our DL did not get enough credit. I thought on defense, we were able to spot them 10 points. offense and special teams were not up to par early. I thought we really dominated LOS. put players in right position. play with hearts. play with how. heart, spirit, will. our guys did that. offense, had to find a way to get their DL moving. screens, nakeds, move the pocket. get them chasing the ball. mix up runs - inside, outside zone. we probably moved pocket in that game more than we did the entire year.

Sid: did you look at how other teams played Auburn for your game plan?
PJ: study all of them. look at how different people handled them. wasn't easy - Auburn had only 3 losses, all to top-10 teams. LSU, Florida. we knew it was going to be a difficult game for us. had to come up with a game plan to fit our players. the players did a great job executing.

Mona: got new OC. promoted Simon. // Bryce Witham. one-handed catch
PJ: Mike Sanford Jr. has a wealth of knowledge. 37 years old. Matt Simon did a great job calling game. Offensive staff had more input. Matt called good game. He's being elevated to co-coordinator. that will help his development. help him evolve into play-caller. Mike Sanford - with those two working together. It will be more of a group effort going forward. Mike will call the plays. He will help us take it to the next level. brings energy, positive spirit, knowledge. //Witham - TD was a risky call, high reward. we knew they would stack the box. had to throw pop pass. 4th and 1 play there was a lot of discussion a big-time play for us. we didn't come down there to be close - we came to win. did a good job executing. Bryce made great catch. That can propel him to do more things. He's had some injuries that have held him back.

Sid: future of team
PJ: that future is what you see. want this to be a championship program. We ended the season with a championship. tied in B1G West. Won a Bowl Championship. Had over 100 "nevers" this season. things that have never happened in this program. over 100 of them. huge accomplishments. Won Bowl game. Other things that have not happened in 100 years. won 11 games. that shows where this program is headed. we were able to do it in three years. look at where we were as a program, as a culture. now we have to find a way to keep changing our best. move forward.

Mona: In all fairness, last time they won 11 games, 2 or 3 were against HS teams. // Talk about your recruiting class. some are coming in early
PJ: that's one thing people ask. Will this season, the Bowl game help in recruiting? We will get the caliber of player we want. wins never dictate that. We signed one of the best classes in MN history and we won 5 games that year. need to be a certain culture, certain type of athlete. where it helps in 2021 is to solidify who you're recruiting. We didn't have anyone commit because of this game. We signed 24. maybe have room for one more - a transfer, a HS kid, someone who makes his grades later. keep that open. excited. As we go around the country, everyone knows our brand. Our brand is bigger than ever.

Sid: Will we see any of the recruits play right away?
PJ: Defensively - lost 7 players. have to have some young players play on defense. We have talented players coming in. some coming early. On offense - lose Rodney and Shannon. Bring back Cam Wiley, bring in Ky Thomas. Williamson coming back from injury. only lose 11 seniors and we will bring in a huge recruiting class. maybe not red-shirt all of them next year - some will play on special teams. We will rely on young people. Want to get the best people on the field. have guys coming in who are incredibly talented.

Mona: felt like a MN crowd. Row the Boat chant.
PJ: I heard it. really special., one thing I wanted to do today is thank our fans. We appreciate them as a program. See how many people came to game. That helps us in future - Used to hear "MN doesn't travel." we blew that out of the water. MN does travel. traveled bigger and heavier than Auburn. we trumped that. felt like a home game. can't thank fans enough. heard RTB chant. so excited. that helped our 9 minute drive on offense to close the game. we were able to control that. so many good things happening with Gopher Athletics. Mark Coyle deserves all that credit. See you in the Spring.

Sid: Did you see this coming?
PJ: yeah. I can see it. People asked me before season, what do you consider a success? change your best. fulfill your potential. With this team, I think they exceeded their potential. they thought they could. have special people doing special things together. that's the type of team and culture we're building. have a lot of work to do. grow higher into 2020. optimistic for future.

Sid: you deserve Coach of the Year. Unbelievable. Gophers lucky to have you as coach. Murray's.
PJ: RTB, Ski-U-Mah, Go Gophers. Happy New Year.
 

Spoofin

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Thanks Son. Great, as always.

My favorite part: "Witham - TD was a risky call, high reward. we knew they would stack the box. had to throw pop pass. 4th and 1 play there was a lot of discussion a big-time play for us. we didn't come down there to be close - we came to win. "
 

Vandy

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I don't really care for the fact that Sid mentioned that Coach Fleck inherited a "mess".

Probably just playing to PJ in the moment, I do not believe that at the time, Sid considered that PJ was taking on a 'mess".
 

MplsGopher

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Makes me appreciate Matt Simon all the more.

I have no doubt that he could be hired as a primary (not "co-") offensive coordinator somewhere for 2020, if that is what he wanted.

He clearly wants to be at Minnesota, and take over the OC position and perhaps even the HC position one day. Our guy, from Farmington!
 

fan of Ray Williams

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Thank you old timer. So consistent and reliable. You're like the LSU or Clemson of posters.
 

U2Gopher

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Thanks SON!

I thought the part PJ mentioned about moving the pocket and such around to get their defensive line moving and chasing the ball, was interesting. Hindsight is always 20/20, but I wonder if they wish now that they had employed more of that strategy against Iowa and Becky. Should probably be the approach for next season.
 

Bob_Loblaw

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Thanks SON!

I thought the part PJ mentioned about moving the pocket and such around to get their defensive line moving and chasing the ball, was interesting. Hindsight is always 20/20, but I wonder if they wish now that they had employed more of that strategy against Iowa and Becky. Should probably be the approach for next season.
For WI, I think it was the plan, but it is much harder to do if you can't run the ball.

IMO, the WI game went the way it did because we couldn't run the ball.
 

hungan1

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Makes me appreciate Matt Simon all the more.

I have no doubt that he could be hired as a primary (not "co-") offensive coordinator somewhere for 2020, if that is what he wanted.

He clearly wants to be at Minnesota, and take over the OC position and perhaps even the HC position one day. Our guy, from Farmington!
Simon and Fleck seem to have a strong bond. It won't be surprising if Simon will take over as OC should Sanford eventually get a head coaching gig. Simon is the one guy I don't want to lose.

Let's just hope there isn't a massive poaching job all in one year. Coaches are going to move to the next step in their career. Maybe some of the current coaches are comfortable being with Fleck at MN all their careers and have established roots here. Fleck has to keep the system intact and keep everything pretty much plug-in and play when new coaching replacements arrive.

It is remarkable how far he has build the organization and establish the culture in three years.
 

BroncoRedux

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Thank SON. For you, these recaps must be a more pleasant experience after a 11 - 2 season versus a 6 - 7 season. :)
 

st.paultransplantGOPHER

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Makes me appreciate Matt Simon all the more.

I have no doubt that he could be hired as a primary (not "co-") offensive coordinator somewhere for 2020, if that is what he wanted.

He clearly wants to be at Minnesota, and take over the OC position and perhaps even the HC position one day. Our guy, from Farmington!
One thing that’s concerning . The guy we just hired. I think he averages a new job every 1.3 years.
 

MplsGopher

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One thing that’s concerning . The guy we just hired. I think he averages a new job every 1.3 years.
"Worst" case: we win the West, go to the Big Ten Championship game, upset Ohio State, and go to the Rose Bowl CFP-semi in 2020, and Sanford gets hired away after one year.

I'll find a way to live with that. :cool:
 

Spoofin

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"Worst" case: we win the West, go to the Big Ten Championship game, upset Ohio State, and go to the Rose Bowl CFP-semi in 2020, and Sanford gets hired away after one year.

I'll find a way to live with that. :cool:
Well, that’s a pretty interesting “Worst” Case. I’m on board for the worst case too, then.
 

MplsGopher

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Well, that’s a pretty interesting “Worst” Case. I’m on board for the worst case too, then.
"Worst" in the sense of how quickly Sanford might leave (again, to the poster's point). I suppose he could leave after one year for another school with not as great a performance. But anyway, neither highly likely
 

Panthadad2

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Pj inherited a 9 win team. Gophs has set many team records under Jerry Kill and Claeys
For the 5,763rd time on this forum, the team changed drastically from 2016 to 2017. The cupboard was bare on offense with the exception of Rodney (Brooks hurt). No QBs with experience. Barely were able to field an offensive line. No experienced receivers. The defense lost several too (some from the scandal if I remember right). PJ did not "inherit" that 2016 team.
 

Gold Rush

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For the 5,763rd time on this forum, the team changed drastically from 2016 to 2017. The cupboard was bare on offense with the exception of Rodney (Brooks hurt). No QBs with experience. Barely were able to field an offensive line. No experienced receivers. The defense lost several too (some from the scandal if I remember right). PJ did not "inherit" that 2016 team.
And YOU would be correct. They could not even have a Spring game that year due to not enough offensive linemen, the defensive backs were completely gutted from that scandal, and the QB's were possibly the worst the U of M has ever had. We can be thankful that they let Tanner Morgan redshirt or he would be a Senior this year. The cupboard wasn't bare though and they did have some quality to be fair but if Claeys had stayed he would have most likely taken a pretty good downturn from all these deficiencies (and then most likely been fired anyways.) Oh yeah -- and Winfield would have been gone, too. Fleck inherited a team that was a lot closer to a Rutgers or Maryland than a Michigan or Penn St.
 

CoMn

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I don't really care for the fact that Sid mentioned that Coach Fleck inherited a "mess".

Probably just playing to PJ in the moment, I do not believe that at the time, Sid considered that PJ was taking on a 'mess".
Kinda was a mess with the players wanting to boycott a very nice bowl game, upset alums, players suing the university etc. We were 9-4 but on at least one level it was a royal mess and the fanbase was divided. Kill left Claeys with a good team but it really was a mess after that year.
 

CoMn

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What are the team records they set?
Kill inherited a team that was close to being penalized for low GPA and Kill did an excellent job getting the team to have a great GPA. He inherited a team that was horrible and turned it into a team that went to a bunch of bowl games etc. I was certainly a Kill fan but I am a Fleck super fan.
 

mjfelton15

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I think it’s funny whenever the Kill/Claeys vs. Fleck argument occurs. Kill did a good job turning things around after Brewster. We wouldn’t have athletes village without a big push by Kill for it if I remember correctly, that’s a gift that helps for many recruiting classes even when Kill becomes distant memory. His health issues really threw a fork in the upward trend our program had, and then Claeys got the hire. I was always fond of Kill’s ability to turn 3 stars into NFL caliber talent. I loved our often times stingy Defenses we had under Kill/Claeys and Claeys/Sawvel. I was okay with the Claeys hire, but I knew from the second they made him HC that it wouldn’t last. I don’t think Claeys could recruit even to the average level that Kill did, and I don’t quite know if he could coach an average 3 star up to NFL talent. I felt like during games he seemed very spectator-ish on the sideline, often times giving that blank Glen Mason stare up at the replay screen. As if he was just as confused at what was happening in the game as we all were from the stands. Claeys was never going to be the long term answer at HC. I think DC was always where he belonged more. Claeys wasn’t “Coyle’s hire“, and I don’t think Coyle had any strong reasons to keep Claeys when the scandal happened. Coyle probably saw that as his cue to change things up around here and put his stamp on the future of the university as AD. He wanted to make a splash, AKA the PJ Fleck hire. With the scandal, I think Fleck didn’t inherit a good or easy situation. Roster was in disarray due to players that had to leave, or chose to. National image was bad. I remember reading local people writing articles or social media posts about how our football program was “toxic masculinity at it’s finest”, saying maybe this is time to cut football because it’s somehow breeding rapists (no I’m not kidding I actually saw people posting that kind of nonsense). Not to mention we had Croft and Rhoda as our two QB options, what kind of season do you expect out of that?
I guess what I’m saying is why can’t we appreciate Kill for what he did to turn the program around AND like Fleck for how well he turned things around again. I don’t think it’s an insult to Kill to say Fleck inherited a mess, because there were many areas where things were in disarray. it doesn’t mean those that say that are unaware of Kill’s accomplishments and contributions.
 
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