Tampa, Fla. – Joe Rossi knows how Matt Simon feels.
Just last season, Rossi was the one stepping into a coordinator role at midseason after Gophers coach P.J. Fleck fired Robb Smith as defensive coordinator in November 2018.
Simon, who had been the Gophers receivers coach, assumed the offensive coordinator job Thursday after Kirk Ciarrocca left for Penn State ahead of Wednesday’s Outback Bowl.
Rossi said his advice to Simon was simple.
“You get called into duty, and you go out and do the best for the program and for the players. That’s all you need to worry about,” Rossi said Sunday. “Do your best. And if you can do that, you can have peace of mind that you’ve done your best, and then it’s a success.”
Rossi has known Simon for many years, including at Rutgers in 2012 when Simon assisted Rossi, then the special teams coordinator. Rossi called Simon “a really good coach.”
“He’s done a great job with the receivers,” Rossi said. “He’s been a guy that Kirk always leaned on in terms of game planning and being able to help with things.”
And if nothing else, Rossi joked at least he’s not the new-guy coordinator anymore.
Interim D-line coach
Although Rossi said he doesn’t work much with the offensive coordinator in season, he does have a coaching absence to handle on his side of the ball. Defensive line coach Jim Panagos took the same job at Rutgers this month.
The Gophers have had a different D-line coach each of the past four seasons and will now add a fifth. Rossi, in fact, was D-line coach in 2018 before moving up to coordinator.
Rossi admitted it is tough on the players to not have a consistent position coach despite their “resiliency.” But the positive is they’ve been able to learn under different styles and add nuances to their games.
Rossi said defensive quality control assistant coach Danny Collins has been the interim defensive line coach the past couple of weeks.
“He is an awesome coach,” Rossi said. “… And he has a really bright future. He did a really good job for us last year when he stepped in at linebacker coach for the bowl game because I was I was doing the secondary in the triple-option defense [against Georgia Tech in the Quick Lane Bowl], and he did a great job with the linebackers because he was able to be on the field as a [graduate assistant] and do some really good things.”
Let’s do that hockey
Senior defensive end Winston DeLattiboudere, a Baltimore native, had been to only three hockey games in his life, all Gophers games. So seeing his first pro contest between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Detroit Red Wings on Sunday at Amalie Arena was one of the Outback Bowl activities he most looked forward to.
“It’s going to be, like, reverse,” DeLattiboudere said. “We’re going to a hockey game in the warmth.”
Linebacker Thomas Barber, defensive tackle Sam Renner and holder Casey O’Brien participated in an on-ice tic-tac-toe intermission shootout against Outback Bowl opponent Auburn. Barber and Renner played high school hockey at Robbinsdale Armstrong and Maple Grove, respectively. O’Brien started playing at age 5.
Yet in a shocking upset, Auburn won.