While the experts predicting what'll happen in the Big Ten this season aren't very high on the Gophers, some coaches who have to game plan against Minnesota do think head coach P.J. Fleck has the team on the rise.
Athlon Sports gathered eight quotes about every team in the Big Ten, and all of the quotes are from anonymous coaches in the conference. You can read all eight right here, but these three stood out the most to us.
"You get the sense coaching against him that P.J. Fleck is more of the new CEO type of college head coach than a pure X's and O's, but if he's recruiting and motivating that talent there's a place for that. You saw that toward the end of last season — all of sudden those players saw success on the field and started really playing their ass off, playing above their ability."
There's no better evidence of this than the Gophers snapping their lengthy losing streak against Wisconsin late last season. Minnesota had gotten blown out in five of six Big Ten games before routing Purdue, losing a close game at Northwestern, and then bouncing back with a 37-15 blowout over the Badgers.
It can also be argued that the Gophers turned a corner when they fired their defensive coordinator and simplified the game plan under current defensive coordinator Joe Rossi.
"They're recruiting better than that program ever has. They need to find a way to put that on the field with their defense, especially with the cold-weather atmosphere."
Minnesota's recruiting classes have been stronger than usual under Fleck, ranking 38th nationally in 2018, 45th in 2019 and currently 27th for 2020, according to 247 Sports.
The Gophers recently got a verbal commitment from 4-star wide receiver Daniel Jackson (Kansas) to lead their 2020 recruiting class.
"They return a lot of guys on both sides, the real question there is the new assistants. It’s a little strange when you have a big “culture” guy like PJ to rotate that many assistants early on at P5 job. That shows a sense of urgency to get it right."
Firing defensive coordinator Robb Smith worked out pretty well late last season, so it's hard to argue the decision at this point.