When the Gophers released their weekly depth chart on Tuesday, it was mainly unchanged from last week and who played in Saturday's victory over Purdue.

But there was one interesting tidbit on the two-deep for the home finale against Northwestern on Saturday: Wide receiver Phillip Howard also is listed as a backup at defensive back.

"How'd you find that out?'' coach P.J. Fleck asked a reporter on Tuesday.

"Depth chart,'' he said.

"I forgot that went out today,'' Fleck added. "I thought maybe you were looking in the windows.''

Spying wasn't necessary, but the move did offer a window into Fleck's thinking. With his secondary thinned because of injuries, sliding a versatile athlete from offense to defense could help.

Howard, a 5-11, 195-pound redshirt sophomore, has two catches for 5 yards in nine games this year. At Cooper High School, he was a jack of all trades, playing quarterback, receiver, defensive back and return specialist. Now, he'll play in the Gophers secondary.

"For the most part, our wideouts have been healthy, and he's been biting at the bit to get in there,'' Fleck said. "The other guys are still ahead of him right now, and we obviously have an issue at defensive back. If we have one or two guys who don't make it to Saturday, Phillip Howard could start at corner.''

Fleck had a long talk with Howard about the position change.

"We had a really good heart-to-heart, and he was tremendous,'' the coach said. "His words were, 'Anything I can do to help this football team, Coach, I want to do. I love what we're doing. I just want to help our football team.' ''

Fleck said the move was "for the next 11 days,'' though it's still evolving.

"Sunday, he was backpedaling [in practice],'' Fleck said. "I told him, it's just like playing receiver, just backwards.''

Pushing the pile

In the 41-10 rout of Purdue, the Gophers offense asserted itself in the running game with 265 yards on 41 carries.

"They played really well together this past week, pushing piles,'' he said. "Mohamed Ibrahim had 150 some yards; he had 72 yards after contact. Well, close to 40 of those yards came on piles being pushed. … That's what you love to see from your offensive line.''

Chargers sign Celestin

The Los Angeles Chargers signed former Gophers linebacker Jonathan Celestin to their practice squad.