To Kirk Ciarrocca, a football offense can be a thing of beauty, something to appreciate and savor.
“It’s kind of like an orchestra,” the Gophers offensive coordinator said Tuesday. “Everybody’s got to play together and stay in tune. An orchestra sounds terrible when one person is not in tune.”
And six practices into Gophers training camp, Ciarrocca isn’t ready to equate his offense to the New York Philharmonic, but he sees signs of his charges being capable of making some good music.
“The thing I’m encouraged about in these first few practices is their ability to retain,” Ciarrocca said. “When we started training camp, they were better than they were at the end of spring ball. There’s a summer program, but they run it. They organize the whole thing. We [coaches] can’t be with them at all.
“That was the first thing that jumped out at me, and that’s what I wanted to see.”
How well Ciarrocca’s offense will perform hinges on the two young quarterbacks — redshirt freshman Tanner Morgan and true freshman Zack Annexstad — who are competing for the starting job. Both have been resilient while absorbing the offense.
“There’s a lot on their plate mentally,” Ciarrocca said. “The thing I’ve been impressed most about is they’ve been able to handle it. Has it been perfect? No. But usually, if a quarterback melts down, it just looks awful out there. He can’t do anything right. I’ve not seen that yet, and that’s encouraging, that’s exciting.”
Coach P.J. Fleck isn’t nearly ready to name his starter for the Aug. 30 season opener against New Mexico State. There’s still the first scrimmage next week, likely Tuesday, and much evaluating to do.
“I cannot tell you who’s got the lead,” Fleck said. “It’s that close.”
Early during Tuesday’s practice, Annexstad had an error when calling the snap count, which caused a false start. Ciarrocca pulled Annexstad out of the second-team drill for some one-on-one instruction and had Morgan run a few plays.
“We’re just not going to allow fatigue mental errors. And that’s what that was with Zack on that particular play,” Ciarrocca said, pointing to an error in cadence. “And honestly, that’s the first one he’s had in three days, because I track it.”
Ciarrocca didn’t hesitate in responding when asked to compare the level of playmakers on this team with last year’s Gophers.
“Oh, there’s no comparison,” he said. “The growth these guys have had — it would be laughable to make a comparison.”