Gophers coach believes young football team can mature into a contender
CHICAGO, Ill. (FOX 9) - College football season is just a little over a month away and the Gophers are looking to build on last year’s success.
Thursday, players and coaches took a look at the year ahead at Big Ten media day in Chicago.
The Gophers finished the 2018 campaign with a lot of momentum, defeating Wisconsin at Wisconsin to re-claim the ax for the first time in over a decade. They followed that up with a bowl win over Georgia Tech -- but with that success comes added expectations.
The Gophers are looking to build off a seven-win campaign last year and for the most part, you're going to see a vast majority of the impact players returning for the 2019 season.
When it comes to this team, much like last year, there's going to be a lot of interest in the battle for the starting quarterback job. Last season, Zach Annexstad opened the year as the starter but got hurt midway through the year. And when Tanner Morgan stepped in under center, he took the job and ran with it.
If you're wondering if P.J. Fleck had any hints as to who the starter will be this year, we're sorry to disappoint, but he was pretty tight-lipped on that subject.
The Gophers are still one of the youngest teams in the Big Ten Conference but Coach Fleck says the team did well meeting expectations last year and expects the same again in 2019.
"To have success, and to become a champion," Fleck explained, "I feel like you need both spectrums. You have to fail enough to be successful. And you have to go through some of those positive, shining moments. The team last year had the entire spectrum. And at one point, they failed enough to become successful, if they were mature enough to handle it. And our whole theme last year was a race to maturity. We might not be the oldest team, but we can grow up fast by our experiences. And I think that's what changed."
Representing the Gophers at Big Ten media day are seniors Carter Coughlin and Tyler Johnson along with Mo Ibrahim -- three vital pieces to last year's success.
The seniors tell us they've seen the program come a long way, and they're excited to see just how good they can be in 2019.
"I believe that, no matter what, Coach Ciarrocca's going to put us in the best situation," says Ibrahim. "However, we got to win the game, we feel like that's the way, and we're going to stick to the plan. We have a lot of weapons, a lot of weapons. And we have two QBs that can provide to the weapons. I believe the sky is the limit."
The season kicks off in just over a month from now. The Gophers open the 2019 campaign at home when they host South Dakota State and we'll see how this team fares when the season gets underway.