The savviness of PJ Fleck

coolhandgopher

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Since LSU won the national title back in January, it's been a pretty rough go for college programs throughout the nation. Iowa, Oklahoma State, Mississippi State, and Clemson have found themselves on the wrong side of the headlines regarding race relations within their program or directly from their head coach. As COVID-19 continues to affect all aspects of life, college football programs and conferences are facing heavy criticism in their handling of the health crisis.

Today the "U" joined the headline makers of college football's off-season when Rashod Bateman declared that he was foregoing his junior season to prepare for the draft, joining Virginia Tech's Caleb Farley. In contrast to Farley, Bateman is departing with only positive things to say about his experience at Minnesota, consistent with his messaging since arriving to campus. Bateman's announcement was followed up by the supportive words of Fleck, Matt Simon, and Mark Coyle, quite a representation of support and one I imagine that was coordinated and/or supported by Fleck.

I would argue that Bateman was and will forever be the most important recruit that PJ Fleck will have while he's head coach at Minnesota. Not only did he stick with his commitment when more established programs closer to home came calling, but he produced-man, did he ever produce. Long-suffering fans of the program know our disappointing history with highly regarded recruits-whether they never make it onto campus (Jeff Jones, Vincent Hill), are plagued by injuries (Brandon Owens, Jimmy Gjere), or fizzle upon arrival (Hayo Carpenter), it has been a litany of dashed hopes. Bateman cast all those ghosts aside, burst onto the scene as a freshman and combined with the Empire recruiting class and the Central Michigan recruits scooped up by Fleck, creating a magical season while he emerged as the brightest pro prospect among the increasingly promising roster of Gophers. Not only has Bateman been a sparkling playmaker on the field, but his commentary about the team, the university, and the state has been unceasingly positive.

Fleck would obviously love to have Bateman back for this season, in whatever form it may take, but along with his boundless optimism there is a pragmatism that all coaches should possess. I would imagine that when these conversations first began between Bateman and Fleck, PJ gauged very early to throw his full support behind Bateman. Whether we want it to or not, the tea leaves are changing in college football, with the star players finding out that they hold significant leverage and power, seldom exercised before. I would predict that not only will we continue to see effusive words from Bateman about Fleck and Minnesota broadcast publicly when leading towards the draft, but those words will also be said privately.

So while seemingly every other coach muddles through this off-season trying to avoid saying the wrong thing, Fleck just came out in full support of one of his two most important players leaving the team to move towards his goals of the NFL. It may sting in the short term, but in the long term, it only will enhance Fleck's reputation on the recruiting trails when he steps into homes and tells parents and athletes that he will have the best intentions at the forefront.

And the most important thing about it all? I truly think it's legitimate-yes, as a coach he has to be a bottom line producer, but I think despite all the doubts that have surrounded Fleck since he's arrived with his frenetic energy and alphabet soup of slogans, that Fleck cares about his players and they know he cares. That he kept together that Empire class that had been through so much, convinced them to buy in, and helmed last season was remarkable and perhaps the most remarkable thing about his time at Fleck is the most negative thing I recall reading about him from a player perspective is a poster on here recounting that Donnell Greene's father stated at a spring game that they didn't buy into Fleck's schtick.

I will never deify a coach, but I will say this-I'm nearly 50 years old and have been following Minnesota sports in earnest since the early '80s and beyond Tom Kelly, I'm hard pressed to think of a better hire in the head coaching ranks amongst the major MN sports teams in that span. Fleck seems finely attuned to what a head coach at this time and place needs to be to succeed and there are times (including today) that I marvel he ended up here.
 
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builtbadgers

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Since LSU won the national title back in January, it's been a pretty rough go for college programs throughout the nation. Iowa, Oklahoma State, Mississippi State, and Clemson have found themselves on the wrong side of the headlines regarding race relations within their program or directly from their head coach. As COVID-19 continues to affect all aspects of life, college football programs and conferences are facing heavy criticism in their handling of the health crisis.

Today the "U" joined the headline makers of college football's off-season when Rashod Bateman declared that he was foregoing his junior season to prepare for the draft, joining Virginia Tech's Caleb Farley. In contrast to Farley, Bateman is departing with only positive things to say about his experience at Minnesota, consistent with his messaging since arriving to campus. Bateman's announcement was followed up by the supportive words of Fleck, Matt Simon, and Mark Coyle, quite a representation of support and one I imagine that was coordinated and/or supported by Fleck.

I would argue that Bateman was and will forever be the most important recruit that PJ Fleck will have while he's head coach at Minnesota. Not only did he stick with his commitment when more established programs closer to home came calling, but he produced-man, did he ever produce. Long-suffering fans of the program know our disappointing history with highly regarded recruits-whether they never make it onto campus (Jeff Jones, Vincent Hill), are plagued by injuries (Brandon Owens, Jimmy Gjere), or fizzle upon arrival (Hayo Carpenter), it has been a litany of dashed hopes. Bateman cast all those ghosts aside, burst onto the scene as a freshman and combined with the Empire recruiting class and the Central Michigan recruits scooped up by Fleck, creating a magical season while he emerged as the brightest pro prospect among the increasingly promising roster of Gophers. Not only has Bateman been a sparkling playmaker on the field, but his commentary about the team, the university, and the state has been unceasingly positive.

Fleck would obviously love to have Bateman back for this season, in whatever form it may take, but along with his boundless optimism there is a pragmatism that all coaches should possess. I would imagine that when these conversations first began between Bateman and Fleck, PJ gauged very early to throw his full support behind Bateman. Whether we want it to or not, the tea leaves are changing in college football, with the star players finding out that they hold significant leverage and power, seldom exercised before. I would predict that not only will we continue to see effusive words from Bateman about Fleck and Minnesota broadcast publicly when leading towards the draft, but those words will also be said privately.

So while seemingly every other coach muddles through this off-season trying to avoid saying the wrong thing, Fleck just came out in full support of one of his two most important players leaving the team to move towards his goals of the NFL. It may sting in the short term, but in the long term, it only will enhance Fleck's reputation on the recruiting trails when he steps into homes and tells parents and athletes that he will have the best intentions at the forefront.

And the most important thing about it all? I truly think it's legitimate-yes, as a coach he has to be a bottom line producer, but I think despite all the doubts that have surrounded Fleck since he's arrived with his frenetic energy and alphabet soup of slogans, that Fleck cares about his players and they know he cares. That he kept together that Empire class that had been through so much, convinced them to buy in, and helmed last season was remarkable and perhaps the most remarkable thing about his time at Fleck is the most negative thing I recall reading about him from a player perspective is a poster on here recounting that Donnell Greene's father stated at a spring game that they didn't buy into Fleck's schtick.

I will never deify a coach, but I will say this-I'm nearly 50 years old and have been following Minnesota sports in earnest since the early '80s and beyond Tom Kelly, I'm hard pressed to think of a better hire in the head coaching ranks amongst the major MN sports teams in that span. Fleck seems finely attuned to what a head coach at this time and place needs to be to succeed and there are times (including today) that I marvel he ended up here.
Being who you really are is very difficult and Fleck found himself on his journey. Authenticity carries the day.
 

EG#9

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Always enjoy your posts coolhandgopher and I was really happy when I saw Fleck's tweet as I thought that was about the perfect way to handle Rashod's departure.

"Fleck would obviously love to have Bateman back for this season, in whatever form it may take, but along with his boundless optimism there is a pragmatism that all coaches should possess. I would imagine that when these conversations first began between Bateman and Fleck, PJ gauged very early to throw his full support behind Bateman. Whether we want it to or not, the tea leaves are changing in college football, with the star players finding out that they hold significant leverage and power, seldom exercised before. I would predict that not only will we continue to see effusive words from Bateman about Fleck and Minnesota broadcast publicly when leading towards the draft, but those words will also be said privately.

So while seemingly every other coach muddles through this off-season trying to avoid saying the wrong thing, Fleck just came out in full support of one of his two most important players leaving the team to move towards his goals of the NFL. It may sting in the short term, but in the long term, it only will enhance Fleck's reputation on the recruiting trails when he steps into homes and tells parents and athletes that he will have the best intentions at the forefront. "

Like you I think/hope this where college football is going, but the cynical side of me wonders if anything other than W's and L's and sending kids to the pros will matter when talking about recruiting. Iowa's rhabdomyolysis scandal would have had me (or have me tell my child) eliminate them from consideration. Borland had some really scary things to say about Wisconsin and the lineup for shots given to them by doctors in that Netflix doc. Many players have griped about Saban "using them up" with rigorous practices at Alabama becoming so well known that concerns about Alabama players in the NFL draft/scouting world mimic those of "Thibs minutes" in the NBA.

Will actions of coaches/treatment of players start to have a major role in kids decisions or will the kids (and their parents) still mostly be swayed by the track record of the schools involved and the prestige in saying I (or my son) committed to Helmet School X?

For the Gophers, they might have been one more year like last year away from being looked at as on par with all but maybe 10-12 schools in the nation in terms of a desirable location with Fleck at the helm. If they fall back this year (if there is a year) and the spotlight dims, that's going to hurt recruiting, fan engagment, and overall momentum of the program.
 
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