The Gophers football team received good news Sunday when coach P.J. Fleck announced on WCCO Radio that standout defensive back Antoine Winfield Jr. will play in Thursday’s season opener against Buffalo at TCF Bank Stadium.
Winfield, the son of former Viking Antoine Winfield, suffered a left hamstring injury during an Aug. 8 training camp practice and was taken off the field on a cart. Fleck described the injury as a “tweak,’’ and Winfield was limited during the rest of training camp.
“He’s a phenomenal player,’’ Fleck said. “We’ll continue to watch him.’’
Winfield is an integral part of the secondary. The safety played in 12 games last year, starting nine. He finished with 52 tackles on the season and returned an interception 82 yards for a touchdown against Maryland.
Fleck also said his starting lineup for the opener is “pretty much set.’’ Included in that starting lineup is true freshman wide receiver Demetrius Douglas, who was a standout during training camp. “He’s going to be our starting inside receiver,’’ Fleck said. “We’re really excited about his future.’’
Fleck also said running back Shannon Brooks will be the primary kickoff returner, while he still is evaluating the punt returner position.
Other notes from his WCCO appearance:
** Fleck said if the Gophers win the opening coin toss, he likely would defer his decision to the second half.
** The Gophers will remain on the south sideline at TCF Bank Stadium, which they have used since the stadium opened in 2009. In July, Fleck said he wanted to move the team to the north sideline, which is sunnier during the season. “We are going to be on the side we’ve been on … as of this game,’’ Fleck said. “We have other issues to worry about, I promise you.’’