The Gophers will have a new starting quarterback for P.J. Fleck’s second season at Minnesota. Demry Croft, a sophomore who started the final six games in 2017, will leave the program, a school spokesman confirmed Monday morning.
"Demry asked Coach [P.J.] Fleck for his release after Saturday's game and Coach will grant him that release,'' Paul Rovnak, assistant athletic director for communications, wrote in a text message.
On Sunday, a potential replacement — a highly regarded junior college quarterback from California — tweeted his whereabouts: Minneapolis.
Croft went 2-4 in his six Big Ten starts this season, completing five or fewer passes in four of them, and he had three games of 47 or fewer passing yards. Not surprisingly, the Gophers rank 122nd nationally in passing offense. In conference play, they averaged 110.4 passing yards per game.
Saturday, Croft completed three of nine passes for 40 yards in a 31-0 loss to Wisconsin, a week after he went 2-for-11 for 43 yards with three interceptions in a 39-0 loss at Northwestern.
Croft’s departure thins the Gophers’ list at quarterback next year. Tanner Morgan, a freshman who redshirted this season, was listed third behind Croft and fifth-year senior Conor Rhoda on the final depth chart, and sophomore-to-be Seth Green, who played in one game as a reserve this season but did not throw a pass, was listed as fourth.
Fleck has made finding a quarterback a priority in recruiting, and one of his targets, Vic Viramontes of Riverside (Calif.) City College, visited Minnesota on Sunday. The dual-threat freshman, a transfer from Cal, passed for 1,868 yards and 22 TDs and rushed for 1,346 yards and 21 TDs this season for Riverside, which lost in the SoCal championship game on Saturday.
Minneapolis, Minnesota ��— VIC VIRAMONTES (@VicViramontes10) November 26, 2017
Croft, a Rockford, Ill., native, was named co-starter with Rhoda during training camp, but Rhoda started the season’s first two games, with Croft also receiving playing time. After a 48-14 victory at Oregon State, Fleck suspended Croft for two games because of an undisclosed violation of team rules.
Croft missed the Middle Tennessee and Maryland games, then returned from the suspension against Purdue on Oct. 7 but did not play. In the second quarter of the Oct. 14 Michigan State game, Croft took over for a struggling Rhoda and threw three fourth-quarter touchdown passes, rallying the Gophers in a 30-27 loss. He ended up with his best passing day of the season, going 11-for-20 for 163 yards and three TDs with one interception.
But in his first start, he struggled, going 5-for-15 for 47 yards and a TD with two interceptions in a 24-17 win over Illinois. He was 9-for-29 for 131 yards with one interception in a 17-10 loss to Iowa and 5-for-12 for 74 yards in a 33-10 loss to Michigan.
Croft had a breakout game rushing in the Gophers’ 54-21 rout of Nebraska, when he ran 10 times for 183 yards and three touchdowns, including a 73-yarder. The rushing total was a school record for a quarterback. He also was 9-for-15 for 105 yards passing against the Cornhuskers.
But in the final two games, and missing top receiver Tyler Johnson because of a broken hand, Croft managed only five completions in 20 attempts.