Gophers' PJ Fleck explains 'poise' vs. 'poison' at fall camp presser

The University of Minnesota football team opened fall camp on Monday with the season-opener against Nebraska 30 days away at Huntington Bank Stadium.

But planning for the 2023 season started immediately after PJ Fleck and the Gophers beat Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl. Fleck met with his general manager, Gerrit Chernoff, to talk about the roster, the program and the vision moving forward. What would their slogan be for 2023, and how would they get their message across to players? 

They decided on "poise," with the Gophers having to replace the likes of Mo Ibrahim, Tanner Morgan, John Michael Schmitz, Mariano Sori-Marin, Jordan Howden, Terell Smith and others. So as players worked out in the weight room or walked around the team facility this offseason, they often heard songs from the band "Poison" blaring.

"We knew this word poise – control and balance in hostile situations – and how can we get this message home? That’s where the Poison band came into play. We can play that any time they’re in the building and if they don’t have poise, they’ll have poison inside that locker room," Fleck said Monday. "They’ve all bought into it."

Fleck is entering Year 7 at Minnesota. He’s 44-27 overall, 26-26 in Big Ten play and 4-0 in bowl games. This is the last year they’ll have a chance to win the Big Ten West, with USC and UCLA joining the Big Ten next year.


The Gophers lost three starters from last year’s squad on the offensive line. Nathan Boe will get his turn at center, Aireontae Ersery will be one of the starting tackles and Quinn Carroll will shift from tackle to guard. So what about the other two spots? Fleck said the left guard position will likely come down to Karter Shaw, and Tyler Cooper.

"The left guard position with Karter Shaw and Tyler Cooper, this is his time to go," Fleck said of Cooper. "Put your foot on the gas and let’s go. It’s going to be a great battle as we keep going forward."

At right tackle, it’s likely between J.J. Guedet and Martes Lewis.

"That’s going to be the battle of camp," Fleck said.


This year might be the deepest it’s been for Fleck with defensive line talent, and the hope is it translates to more pressure on the quarterback. The likely starters along the line are Jalen Logan-Redding, Kyler Baugh, Danny Striggow, Deven Eastern and Darnell Jefferies. Fleck thinks as many as eight or nine players can rotate and get snaps at the start of the season. Those roles will be established at fall camp.

He’s looking for them to play for each other, and with gratitude.

"They’re long, they’re big, they’re strong, they’re athletic. But you can do that and still not be very good, you’ve got to be able to connect. I’ve seen a ton more gratefulness in that room. That selfless, gratitude play is what I’m looking for up front," Fleck said.

They also need to get after the quarterback. They had just 19 sacks in 13 games last season, among the fewest in college football. Fleck said that’s not just on the defensive line.

"We just all have to play better as 11. One player doesn’t make a defense, six players don’t make a defense. Coach (Joe) Rossi has talked to our defense about our 11 have to be better than your 11, that’s it. But our 11, working together, have to do it better than what you’re 11 is doing. I love the philosophy of that, and these guys have embraced that," Fleck said.

The Gophers’ first practice open to fans is at 7 p.m. Saturday at Huntington Bank Stadium. It’s Family Day, and fans are encouraged to donate to the Diaper Drive and bring decorated oars.