P.J. Fleck helped turn Western Michigan wide receiver Corey Davis into a top five pick in the NFL Draft, but that doesn't mean he's going to immediately make the Gophers a high-flying passing offense.
In fact, Fleck's Western Michigan Broncos ran the ball 45 times per game last season and at least 38 times a game each of the previous three seasons, according to Land of 10. And that's what he's aiming to do with Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks as the feature backs for the Gophers.
"The running game, I'm not sure what they did last year, but I do know what we do," Fleck said Tuesday at Big Ten Football Media Day in Chicago. "I know Rodney and Shannon are going to be highlighted. The old saying, we said this at Western Michigan – it's amazing that Glen Mason said it – you need a pair and a spare. That is true. We've got a pair and we have Koby McCrary as a spare, and some others."
Land of 10 ranked Smith the fifth-best returning running back in the Big Ten after rushing for 1,158 yards and 16 touchdowns last season.
Brooks missed three games while battling injuries most of the season. He still finished with 650 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns.
"I think our backs are going to flourish in our system," Fleck added.
At Western Michigan, Fleck's teams increased rushing yardage every year.
- 2013: 1,394 yards (3.6 average)
- 2014: 2,221 yards (4.4 average)
- 2015: 2,648 yards (5.0 average)
- 2016: 3,194 yards (5.0 average)
And they did that while their starting quarterback Zach Terrell passed for at least 3,400 yards from 2014-16.