TAMPA, FLA. – The Gophers will be without starting tight end Jake Paulson in Wednesday’s Outback Bowl.
Coach P.J. Fleck said Saturday the sophomore had surgery last week but is “doing great.” Paulson is on the bowl trip and came off the bus at the team hotel Thursday with his left arm in a cast.
Paulson appeared to injure his right ankle at Northwestern on Nov. 23 and did not play the next week against Wisconsin. He also missed the Rutgers and Maryland games in October after picking up an injury against Nebraska.
Fleck also said right tackle Daniel Faalele is a game-time decision to play against Auburn. The sophomore left the Wisconsin game early and later appeared on crutches with his left foot in a boot. He also missed the Nebraska game because of an injury.
The coach said Faalele is “making a lot of progress.” Faalele was not participating in the walkthrough practice Friday.
Paulson has caught four passes for 51 yards this season but has been more of an impact helping the offensive line block. Both Paulson and Faalele have helped the running game average 175.7 yards, and make Rodney Smith a 1,000-yard rusher.
With offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca leaving for Penn State on Thursday, the Gophers are in need of a new play caller. Fleck said he wanted to process to move quickly, though he updated Saturday he is still in “the beginning stages.”
“It’s interesting because you’re doing everything you can do to interview some people while you’re here, just on FaceTime, phone interviews, and then you obviously are planning for a game, and you have all these activities you’re supposed to do and have fun,” Fleck said. “… We’re making progress in it. There’s a lot of people who are really interested in the job, but my focus is really on our players. It’s this bowl game.”
Fleck said in his bit of downtime in Tampa the past couple days he’s been interviewing people from his hotel room. But most of the candidates are people he already knows, so it’s just a matter of catching up and talking more specifics about football.
“It’ll start picking up here toward the end of the week and then once we get done with the bowl game,” Fleck said.
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, sitting next to Fleck in Saturday’s joint press conference, joked he’s “curious” whom Fleck is pursuing.