MINNEAPOLIS - PJ Fleck is always teaching and coaching as the face of the University of Minnesota football team. Sometimes that includes downplaying possible injuries.
That’s especially when one of your star wide receivers takes to social media with a photo sporting a cast. That was the case for sophomore Rashod Bateman on Monday. He took to his Snapchat account to take a selfie, which showed a soft cast on his right hand.
It spurred Internet message board chatter that the Gophers (5-0) might have a key player ailing before they face Nebraska Saturday night at TCF Bank Saturday night. Fear not, Gophers fans, Fleck says Bateman is fine.
“Yeah, I saw that. I called him right after that,” Fleck said Tuesday. “He’s fine, he did not have that on today.”
The Georgia native is a big piece in the Gophers’ passing attack. He started all 13 games last year as a freshman and set school records with 51 catches and 704 yards. His six touchdowns were the second-most for a freshman in program history.
He’s not slowing down in his sophomore season. Through five games, Bateman has 23 catches for 537 yards and four touchdowns. He’s averaging 23.3 yards per catch.
Bateman has three 100-yard receiving games of Minnesota’s five wins this year. He made five catches for 132 yards, including a 1-handed, 42-yard touchdown in the season-opening win over South Dakota State.
He followed that up with seven catches for 105 yards and a score in a Week 2 double overtime win at Fresno State. Bateman’s touchdown came on the game’s opening possession.
In Minnesota’s Big Ten opener at Purdue, he finished with six catches for 177 yards and two touchdowns. He had a 45-yard touchdown on a slant, and a 47-yard score on a fake slant and go.
Fleck didn’t exactly sound thrilled when he became aware of the Snapchat post.
“He likes to post a lot of things, he’s very active on social media for all the right reasons, which is good,” Fleck said. “I think it’s more he likes shoes, he like clothes, I think it was a fashion thing for him. He had it on for one day and I think he thought it was pretty cool.”
Fleck went so far as to call Bateman a trend-setter, especially back in his native Georgia.
“I’m sure there’s people in Tift County, Georgia, wearing that today. He is a trend setter, so there’s people down where he lives having that on, saying ‘I’ve got the Bateman thumb today,’ whatever it is. He had it on for a reason, but it’s off,” Fleck said.
Fleck did not sound concerned about Bateman’s status for Sunday against the Cornhuskers. He’s a big piece of Minnesota’s offense that is averaging 35.8 points per game. That’s the most they’ve averaged since 2005.
The Gophers got their 700th win in program history in Saturday’s 40-17 victory over Illinois. They’re the 28th program in college football history to hit 700 wins. Minnesota is on a seven-game win streak going back to last season, and Fleck is 17-13 as the Gophers’ head coach. Minnesota is off to its first 5-0 start since 2004.
Make no mistake about it, Bateman is expected to be on the field Saturday and ready to play.