Fleck: No timetable for Joe Rossi's return to Gophers defense

Illinois QB Coran Taylor (7) under pressure from Minnesota DL Esezi Otomewo (9) during a college football game between the Minnesota Golden Gophers and Illinois Fighting Illini on November 7, 2020 at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill ((Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images))

The University of Minnesota football team hosts Iowa Friday night in the battle for Floyd of Rosedale, and P.J. Fleck does not yet know who will be calling the defense.

Defensive coordinator Joe Rossi worked from his home last week after testing positive for COVID-19. He was involved in every team meeting virtually, and did everything he could while quarantined to get the Gophers ready to face Illinois.

Fleck said Monday he did not have a timetable for Rossi’s return, and will comply with guidelines set by the Big Ten, the Centers for Disease Control and the Minnesota Department of Health.

“That’s up to the physicians and the doctors to clear him to come back. I’ve checked in with Coach Rossi, and he’s doing well,” Fleck said.

In his absence, Joe Harasymiak called the defense in Minnesota’s 41-14 win over the Illini. It was the Gophers’ best defensive effort of the season through three games. Minnesota limited Illinois to 287 total yards as Coran Taylor passed for just 106 yards and was sacked four times.

The Gophers forced eight Illinois punts after only getting two combined against Michigan and Maryland. The Wolverines managed 481 total yards and 42 points against the Minnesota defense. The Terrapins had 675, and 45 points.

“The biggest thing that changed would be that we played more as a unit. We’re starting to play together,” said rush end Boye Mafe, who had one of the four sacks in the win.

Linebacker Mariano Sori-Marin said it came down to executing what the defensive coaches are teaching them. Harasymiak told them at the start of the week the defensive play-caller didn’t matter, making plays did.

“It’s the same calls that Coach Rossi would’ve called. Coach Rossi was with us all week scheming, everybody did an elite job. But it wasn’t the call, it was the players coming together with the coaches to focus on the details and execute them,” Sori-Marin said.

Fleck says RB Treyson Potts day to day

P.J. Fleck didn’t have much of an update to offer on running back Treyson Potts, who suffered a leg injury during Saturday’s win at Illinois. Potts had three carries for 49 yards, and his 9-yard touchdown in the first quarter gave the Gophers a 7-0 lead.

Potts was carted off the field before the end of the first half. Fleck told Big Ten Network coming out of the half he was hopeful Potts would return, but Potts spent the second half on the sideline in street clothes. Fleck said Potts is day to day, but it might be ambitious for him to play Friday night.

If Potts can’t go, the available running backs behind Mo Ibrahim with playing experience are Cam Wiley and Bryce Williams. Wiley had nine carries for 61 yards Saturday and has seen spot duty on kick returns. Williams has not played in the first three games, but Fleck told KFAN Radio on Monday he is expected to be available to play Friday night.

Ibrahim leads the Big Ten in rushing with 583 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. He was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week on Monday after rushing for 224 yards and four touchdowns at Illinois.