Four days into training camp, P.J. Fleck gave the public its first view of his second Gophers football team, with Saturday’s open training camp practice at the new indoor facility.
On display was a team with some roughness around the edges, but one that also appears to more advanced so far than the squad in Fleck’s first year in Dinkytown.
“We have force-fed the information. We have not gone at a slow pace,’’ Fleck said, pointing to the fact that he and his staff already have installed the third-down offense. “… Last year, we were just spoon-feeding them. And sometimes they’d spit it out. And we’d have to get it around their mouth and put it back in. That’s part of learning.’’
When the Gophers open the season on Aug. 30 against New Mexico State, they’ll be doing so with either a redshirt freshman, Tanner Morgan, or a true freshman, Zack Annexstad, as the starting quarterback. Both had their ups and downs Saturday while splitting time with the first team, but Fleck sees maturity developing quickly.
“They don’t feel like freshmen,’’ Fleck said. “When I stand back there, I don’t sense any freshman nerves, anxiety. … They make mistakes, but they’re not freshman mistakes. They’re making 400-level mistakes.’’
Toward the end of practice, Fleck received a scare during and 11-on-11 drill when defensive end Winston DeLattiboudere ran into Annexstad in the pocket, knocking him to the turf. Annexstad got up gingerly but shortly afterward looked fine while running sprints.
“It’s football. It’s high speed,’’ Fleck said. “… But we’ve got to make sure we don’t touch [their quarterbacks] at all.’’
Sapp sits out practice
Fleck said true freshman defensive back Benny Sapp III was held out of practice as a precaution after he “tweaked’’ a knee. “He really had a good start to camp,’’ Fleck said. “It’s nothing serious, but I want to make sure we’re way overprotective with him than aggressive.’’
Sapp twice tore the ACL in his left knee and last year missed all but two games for Eden Prairie because of a torn meniscus in that same knee.
Defensive lineman commits
MJ Anderson, a three-star defensive lineman from Christian Brothers College High School in St. Louis, announced via Twitter that he has committed to the Gophers. Anderson, 6-3 and 270 pounds, gives Minnesota 24 players in its recruiting Class of 2019. Anderson had offers from 20 FBS teams.