The Gophers enter Friday’s game against Iowa with continued personnel questions.
Defensive coordinator Joe Rossi, who did not coach at Illinois this past Saturday after testing positive for COVID-19 last week, could potentially miss the Iowa game, too.
“We’ll see,” Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said Monday. “That’s up to the physicians and the doctors to clear him to come back. ... So I have not got a time frame back yet.”
Fleck added he checked in with Rossi, who is doing “well” quarantining in a single room at home away from his wife and children. The coach also said he would follow CDC and Minnesota Department of Health guidelines for a safe return, which currently recommend 10 days of isolation after a positive test.
Without Rossi, safeties/defensive backs coach Joe Harasymiak called the defense in the 41-14 win, where that unit trimmed its allowed yards from an average of 578 to 287.
Players’ status uncertain
Running back Treyson Potts is questionable to return after leaving the Illinois game on a cart in the second quarter because of a right lower-leg injury, appearing back on the sidelines in the fourth quarter wearing a walking boot.
Fleck called him “day-to-day.”
Tight end Ko Kieft has not played the past two games. Defensive tackle Keonte Schad also missed the Illinois game. Several players have not yet played this year, including linebacker Braelen Oliver (injury) and offensive linemen Curtis Dunlap Jr., (injury) and Daniel Faalele (COVID-19 concerns). Fleck has declined to give specifics on why or how long they will be absent.
Special teams healing
The Gophers’ special teams unit has trickled back to full strength.
At Illinois, last year’s starting kicker Michael Lantz resumed kicking extra points while Australian punter Mark Crawford debuted. Freshman Dragan Kesich also made his first appearance for kickoffs. Crawford had a 30-yard punt, pinning Illinois at its 11, and Kesich averaged 64.9 yards through seven kickoffs. Lantz was 5-for-6 on extra points.
All were a general improvement from Brock Walker’s squib and pooch kicks, when he was still recovering from sports hernia surgery, and short punts from transfer Matthew Stephenson.
“That was the first game that we had our punter, our kicker, our right holder to the kickoff guy. It’s very challenging when you don’t have those,” Fleck said.
When Lantz, Crawford and Grant Ryerse, last year’s kickoff specialist, missed the season opener against Michigan, Fleck said people could “probably imagine” why, alluding to COVID-19. He has since mentioned how all the specialists live together, hinting how multiple exposures could stem from one positive test.
Ryerse had an offseason procedure but has been practicing with the team. He started every game last season, but rode the bench for most of the final game after making one 61-yard kickoff in the Outback Bowl, returned for a 96-yard touchdown.
• Austin Barber, a 6-7, 315-pound offensive lineman from Jacksonville, Fla.’s Trinity Christian Academy, decommitted.
The three-star recruit originally committed May 24. The Gophers 2021 class has 16 members, including four four-star recruits. Fleck has said this class likely will remain smaller than the 25-scholarship limit.
• Leading Big Ten rusher Mohamed Ibrahim earned his first conference Offensive Player of the Week honor. He tied a career high with 224 rushing yards and four touchdowns at Illinois.