Give P.J. Fleck the time he needs to turn the Gophers into a Big Ten contender, but this year and next year look bleak at the most important position on the field: quarterback.
Conor Rhoda played well in the non-conference portion of the schedule to help the Gophers start the season 3-0, but he and Demry Croft have been downright bad against Big Ten teams – and a 1-5 conference record is part of the proof.
The simple ask of looking the part of a Big Ten caliber starting quarterback has been difficult for Rhoda and Croft, and it's even worse when you see how many passes aren't finding targets.
Combined, Croft and Rhoda have completed just 59-of-138 attempts for 806 yards, 7 TD and 7 INT in six Big Ten games. That's an ugly 42.7 completion percentage.
In three Big Ten starts, Croft's completion percentage is 33.9 (19-of-56), although it doesn't help that his receivers aren't getting open and he's getting very little time to throw, as noted by Gophers Illustrated's Ryan Burns.
The passing woes also hold back what a star wide receiver Tyler Johnson can do. The Gophers sophomore leading receiver didn't have a catch until late in the fourth quarter against Michigan.
What's in the pipeline?
Rhoda graduates after the season but Croft is still a sophomore, so he'll have a chance to improve. Fleck also has Seth Green (redshirt freshman), Tanner Morgan (true freshman) and Jaron Roste (true freshman) on his roster.
The big hit to Fleck and the Gophers came last week when 3-star recruit Brennan Armstrong reportedly reopened his recruiting after verbally committing to the Gophers in February.
Some people have talked about Armstrong soon becoming a 4-star recruit, which would give credence to him listening to more offers simply because more schools might be noticing him. Armstrong could still enroll at Minnesota in December, but he appears far from a lock right now.
A third option would be signing a JUCO transfer, but that's probably not a surefire answer to Minnesota's problem.
As for this season, maybe Fleck will give Green a shot over the last three games of the season: vs. Nebraska, at Northwestern, vs. #9 Wisconsin. The Gophers have to win at least one of them to become bowl eligible.