When P.J. Fleck leads his Gophers football team onto TCF Bank Stadium for the first time in a game Thursday night against Buffalo, he doesn’t expect to get caught up in the moment of coaching a Big Ten team for the first time.
He’s already aware of the significance.
“It’s a big deal to me; it’s a big deal to our staff,” the 36-year-old said. “I’m never going to downplay that. We play in the greatest conference in college football and you get to be one of the 14 head coaches in that league and be with some of the greatest football coaches that have ever lived. That’s an honor.”
Instead of sentimentality, Fleck’s focus will be on his team, regardless of the fact that Buffalo is coming off a 2-10 season.
The Bulls relied heavily on underclassmen last year, including quarterback Tyree Jackson, a 6-7 athlete who was a recruiting target of Fleck’s at Western Michigan.
Listen to the music
During practices, Fleck keeps the tempo fast with the help of music — from rock to country to hip-hop — blaring through loudspeakers. The song choices are scripted, and Fleck believes it helps keep the team focused. Players have embraced the tactic.
But have they asked Fleck to play something different?
“We have not gone to him specifically,” running back Rodney Smith said with a smile. “Some days, I like the music. Some days … it’s a little bit iffy.”
• Fleck said he hasn’t decided if he’ll redshirt receiver Chris Autman-Bell, who impressed early in camp before suffering a foot injury.
• The Gophers ended training camp Tuesday before camping out in tents that night on the TCF Bank Stadium turf. “It was fun,” Smith said.
• Defensive tackle Steven Richardson and tight end Brandon Lingen have been named to the Senior Bowl watch list. The game, featuring NFL prospects, will be played Jan. 27 in Mobile, Ala.