Gophers offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca is confident the Gophers are ready to start the 2019 season.

“We’ve got to be the freshest team in the country right now,” he said.

Ciarrocca contributed that to coach P.J. Fleck’s training camp, how he mixed in easy or completely off days with strenuous ones. The players seemed to respond positively to that, and Ciarrocca said he saw real improvement at the end of camp. That’s a difference from players being tapped out by the time the first game arrives.

The Gophers will face South Dakota State at 8 p.m. at TCF Bank Stadium, and it will be quarterback Tanner Morgan’s first start in a season opener. While the sophomore led the team to some of its best results at the end of last season, there could be a whole new set of nerves for this first game.

“Just getting them to relax out there and play the game and not overthink things,” Ciarrocca said of his advice to Morgan. “As a quarterback, you’ve got to do all your thinking. Before the ball’s snapped. Once the ball’s snapped, there's not a more reactionary position in the game of football than the quarterback position. So just trust himself."

UPDATE: From warmups, linebacker Kamal Martin is not dressed for the game. A team spokesman called it a coach's decision. Others sitting out: kicker Michael Tarbutt, defensive lineman Rashad Cheney Jr., defensive back Caden Fey, running back Jason Williamson, wide receiver Erik Gibson, wide receiver Jornell Brooks II (rught arm in sling) and quarterback Zack Annexstad (right foot injury).

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