INDIANAPOLIS – The coronavirus pandemic did a number on the Gophers 2020 football season, with positive tests prompting the cancellation of two games and the team playing without 33 players in a late-season game at Nebraska.
A return to normalcy is the aim for the 2021 season, and coach P.J. Fleck, without offering a specific percentage, said that a "significantly high number'' of his players have had COVID-19 vaccines. "That number continues to rise by the day,'' Fleck said, "and I'm very excited about that.''
Fleck had the team's medical staff inform players about the vaccines, but the coach also realizes it's a player's right to choose.
"This team really loves each other, cares for each other,'' he said. "I'm not saying that if somebody doesn't get their vaccine they don't care. Our players get to make their own choices, but they usually don't get the choice of the consequence. Now you get the choice of the consequence. You know what's coming if you don't [get the vaccination].''
Ibrahim honored by Big Ten
Another day, another preseason honor for Gophers running back Mohamed Ibrahim.
In conjunction with its football media days, the Big Ten announced its 10 preseason honorees, five from the East Division and five from the West as voted by members of the media.
Ibrahim, a redshirt senior from Baltimore, is the reigning Big Ten Running Back of the Year after leading the conference last season in rushing with 1,076 yards and 15 touchdowns in seven games. On Monday, Ibrahim was named to the preseason watch list for the Maxwell Award, given to the top player in college football, and on Wednesday he was named to the watch list for the Doak Walker Award, given to the nation's top running back.
Fleck called Ibrahim, the reigning Big Ten running back of the year, "a bowling ball going downhill with razor blades on it. He's not biggest guy, the strongest guy or the fastest guy, but he is one of the toughest guys in the country, and I'm glad he's on our team.''
Ohio State had three players honored: offensive tackle Taylor Munford and wide receivers Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson. The other two honorees from the East are Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. and Penn State wide receiver Jahan Dotson.
Joining Ibrahim as West honorees are Northwestern safety Brandon Joseph, Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum, Purdue wide receiver David Bell and Wisconsin linebacker Jack Sandborn.
* Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren announced that former Wisconsin coach and athletic director Barry Alvarez has joined the Big Ten as a special advisor for football. "I trust Barry and we look forward to working with him on relevant football-related issues and building upon the strong relationships we have with the College Football Playoff, our broadcast and bowl partners, as well as our member institutions and student-athletes,'' Warren said.
* Warren also said the conference will hire a chief medical officer before the football season starts.