P.J. Fleck Praises Team Commitment
P.J. Fleck believes his 2022 Gophers football team is “probably the most committed” he has coached in six years at Minnesota. The Golden Gophers head coach spoke at Big Ten Media Days in Indianapolis this morning and talked about how his players show a commitment to going beyond what’s required.
Part of that culture is led by four players in their sixth year with the Gophers. Wide receiver Chris Autman-Bell, running back Mo Ibrahim, quarterback Tanner Morgan and center John Michael Schmitz make up an “encore four” who provide maturity to the program and share wisdom with other players.
Fleck singled out Ibrahim as a player who returned to the Gophers not only to help himself but others. Ibrahim, who missed most of last season after being injured in the opening game against Ohio State, could have opted out for pro football after being the Big Ten Running Back of the Year in 2020. “He did it for the team,” Fleck said about the decision to stay in school.
Ibrahim, who is coming off surgery for a torn Achilles, is at “full strength,” Feck said.
Ibrahim was a third team Associated Press All-American in 2020 after rushing for 1,076 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Schmitz was named to the Outland Trophy Watch List today. The award recognizes the best interior lineman in college football. He was named to the Rimington Award Watch List last week. That award is presented to the best center in college football.
Schmitz has been chosen as a preseason All-American by numerous outlets entering the season. He was named All-Big Ten Second Team last season by the coaches and All-Big Ten Third Team by the media.
Fleck referred to the Gophers as a developmental program not only in football but other areas including academics. He said the team’s most recent GPA is 3.3, and for 11 consecutive semesters the GPA has been at 3.0 or better.
The Gophers are picked to finish third in the West Division by Cleveland.com, now in its 12th year producing preseason Big Ten football polls. Cleveland.com’s predictions are highly anticipated because the 36 voters in the poll include the expertise of Big Ten media beat writers.
The Gophers received two first place votes in the poll that resulted in this predicted order of finish: Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Purdue, Nebraska, Illinois and Northwestern. Ohio State is projected to win the East Division and the Big Ten championship game.
Kevin Warren, the former chief operating officer of the Minnesota Vikings and now Big Ten commissioner, spoke this morning in advance of the conference coaches. He favors Name, Image and Likeness opportunities for college athletes but said more uniformity is needed in regulation and wants federal legislation enacted. He expressed concern, too, about NIL being misused in recruiting.
Warren favors college football playoff expansion but is also aware of the need to maintain relationships with bowl game partners. He also said USC and UCLA, who join the Big Ten for the 2024-2025 school year, will have full shares of revenues from the conference’s media rights deals.
New Mexico State coach Jerry Kill will speak to the Twin Cities Dunkers group the morning of his September 1 game against the Gophers at Huntington Bank Stadium. Ex-Gophers AD Joel Maturi will introduce Minnesota’s former head coach, while Dave Mona moderates the program. Maturi and Mona led the hiring of Kill when he joined the Gophers in December of 2010.
The Gophers have single game tickets on sale for their seven home games. Prices start at $30 for the New Mexico State game. While the Aggies are Minnesota’s opening game, not so for Kill’s team which begins its schedule August 27 and then has to play Minnesota five days later.
Twins radio broadcaster Cory Provus will be part of the Big Ten Network’s roster of play-by-play talent for games in 2022. Former Gopher Brock Vereen will travel to Big Ten campuses to do interviews and provide analysis.
The Vikings, who started their fifth training camp this week in Eagan, have 10 starters returning on offense and seven on defense. Their strength of schedule for 2022 ranks No. 20 in the 32-team NFL. Three Minnesota natives are on the roster: linebacker Ryan Connelly, running back C.J. Ham and wide receiver Adam Thielen.
Brian Cosgriff is rightfully excited about the coaching staff he has put in place since being named girls basketball head coach at Minnetonka last spring. Here’s a look at the staff working with Cosgriff who won seven state titles in 21 years as Hopkins head coach:
Associate head coach Andy Berkvam was head coach at Lakeville North for 23 years and won three state titles there. Assistant coach Brock Tesdahl has worked for Hopkins boys’ coach Ken Novak and is the grandson of legendary Chisholm boys’ coach Bob McDonald. Jim Scheffler, with 58 years of coaching experience, is the shooting coach and the author of books on shooting.
Brian’s brother Barry, with 25 years of coaching experience, is the director of operations. Macy Hatlestad, who played at the University of St. Thomas and whose mom Julie is a long time assistant at Alexandria High School, is the junior varsity coach. John Roache, with two years of prior experience on the previous staff, is the 10th grade coach. Allie Rogers, who has been a student coach at Luther College and whose mom Julie is head girls’ coach at New Ulm, is the 9th grade coach.
“We have a great mix of young and old, as well as male and female coaches,” Cosgriff said in a text message. “We feel very fortunate to take over a great program that Leah Dasovitch created.”
The Twins are averaging 21,492 fans per home game, according to figures from ESPN.com. If that was the final average for the year it would be the second lowest since the club moved into Target Field in 2010. The Twins attracted a Target Field low of about 16,000 in 2021.
The Wild traded a 2022 All-Star goalie when sending Cam Talbot to the Senators earlier this summer. “I think they took a big gamble,” a hockey source told Sports Headliners. As of now, it looks like the Wild will rely on 37-year-old Marc-Andre Fleury as the primary goalie.
The Wild probably won’t say much publicly but ownership and management has to be nervous about getting star forward Kirill Kaprizov back in the states from his native Russia with the unpredictable environment there. If Kaprizov isn’t in Minnesota within a few weeks, this will turn into a media soap opera.