Robb Smith, the Gophers new defensive coordinator, laid out some of his philosophies Thursday, during his first session with the Twin Cities media.
On his connection to P.J. Fleck, after working together at Rutgers and with the Tampa Bay Bucs:
"The one thing that stuck out with me about P.J., when I worked with him, is I always thought he was a fantastic position coach. The culture that he developed within his own meeting room and how that permeated throughout the offense and throughout our football team. And that culture’s really what brought me here."
On how the talent at Minnesota meshes with his goals:
"It’s exciting. Our ultimate goal is we’re going to get the best 11 guys on the football field to match the 11 players who are out there for our opponents. Whether it’s three linebackers, whether it’s four linebackers, we have certain things we want to do within the structure of our defense. For us, it’s all about stopping the run, eliminating big plays and creating takeaways, and we’re going to get the best 11 guys out there. I think there’s a lot of talent in this program. We’ve got to keep growing but very excited about the players we have."
On who's standing out at linebacker:
"I’ll tell you what, Jon Celestin’s a guy. We have a saying here: 'Leadership leads.' He’s a guy who’s taken the bull by the horns. He’s embraced the culture. The guys have an utmost amount of respect for him, off field, and that’s carried on the field. And really pleased with what he’s brought to our meeting room."
Comparing previous boss, Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, to Fleck:
"I think they’re both elite football coaches. There’s a lot of different ways to skin a cat. I really enjoy being around P.J., being around the energy he brings every day, I think he does a fantastic job of pushing our guys in all areas of their life. They’re both excellent football coaches, and I’m happy to be a Minnesota Gopher."
On the interior defensive line:
"We’ll be able to shuffle the pieces around in there to get what we need. Steven Richardson’s the guy. It starts there. He’s had a great couple weeks here to get things started. [Andrew] Stelter’s really coming on. Merrick Jackson, you know, very pleased with what we can do there inside, and we’ve just got to get better and growing higher every day."