Gophers football coach P.J. Fleck is happy to have a problem.
Well, at least one particular problem.
His biggest critique of his team from last week’s 28-21 escape against South Dakota State has been how his players were just doing too much. Which is better than not doing enough.
“What we need to be able to do is just to make sure that our guys understand that we have 11 guys on the field — especially on defense — they can all make plays,” Fleck said. “You don’t have to make somebody else’s play. But I like that. I like them being a little bit hungrier.”
Fleck focused the film review session on this topic and tried to show his players how there is a fine line between playing with an edge and being overzealous. And the players responded to that, Fleck said, owning up to that feedback.
While Fleck said this issue affected the offense as well, the defense struggled more. Safety Antoine Winfield Jr., playing his first game after coming back from a foot injury, tried a bit too hard. And the young linebackers, playing in place of suspended Kamal Martin, tried to prove themselves a bit too hard in their first opportunity.
“A little overexcitement, especially on defense,” Gophers senior linebacker Thomas Barber said. “It’s the emotional side of the ball. So just controlling those emotions to be able to do your job.”
Offensively, quarterback Tanner Morgan said the Gophers just need to “keep it simple,” which will hopefully improve their consistency.
“Take it one play at a time, execute, do your job, don’t do somebody else’s job, just do what you have to do,” he said. “Guys are going to play with extreme ‘how’ on this team. That’s just how we’re taught.”
On his radio show, Fleck said defensive end Carter Coughlin was limited in practice, just as the senior was toward the end of Thursday’s game. Fleck said Coughlin is dealing with a similar issue to the unspecified “tightness” that held him back at the beginning of training camp, but Fleck wouldn’t give any specifics on the injury.
“He is doing good,” Fleck said. “It’s just, he’s bothered. But he’s Carter. He’ll be fine.”
Fleck also said other players who took some knocks Thursday — including receiver Chris Autman-Bell, offensive lineman Curtis Dunlap Jr., and cornerback Chris Williamson — were all fine.
With the 2020 class at 24 commits, the Gophers have been able to turn their focus to 2021 earlier than in previous years.
Fleck said he will keep looking at 2020, monitoring for transfers or a late addition, especially as any decommitments happen.
“I look at ’20 and ’21 very similar to being one class because the ’21 class has a chance to be very small [in numbers],” Fleck said.