Strack: PJ Fleck Must Find Quarterback He Can Trust in Offseason

BleedGopher

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Per Strack:

This Minnesota Gophers offense was supposed to be different…​

Many of us, myself included, had real hope that Fleck was going to unveil a new and improved passing attack this season, something that looked closer to Big Ten East, than West. Those aspirations seem foolish, in hindsight, but the writing seemed on the wall, back then.

Remember, PJ armed QB Athan Kaliakmanis with better receiving weapons than what this program has rostered since 2019. Or so we thought. Daniel Jackson, Chris Autman-Bell and Brevyn Spann-Ford were all returning. The Gophers then hit the portal and added more talent with Corey Crooms and Elijah Stephens, who both went for over 1000 yards receiving in 2022.

Big Offseason for PJ Fleck and Gopher offense​

Even after riding the 2023 struggle bus, Mark Coyle is not considering a change at head coach, stating Saturday before the Gophers were blown out by Ohio State, that he is absolutely confident Fleck is “the guy”. So now that we know a change at head coach is not happening, it’s time to look at his quarterback situation.

As of now, the Big Ten is getting rid of divisions next season, in favor of a wide-open 18-team Big Ten that will now include west coast teams, Oregon, USC, UCLA and Washington. The Gophers are already up against the odds, in the NIL world we currently live in.

With the West division no longer in existence, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota and the rest of the West teams living in the past will no longer be able to use their division affiliation as a crutch for why they should not move their offensive mindset into the 21st century.

Minnesota Gophers need a QB worthy of new-age Big Ten​

Yes, Darius Taylor will be another year older next season and (if he sticks around) he’ll offer PJ one of the most elite running back options in the Big Ten. Not only that, but (as long as the best of them stick around) a very young Minnesota defense should be better next year and look more like what a Joe Rossi coached squad usually does.

But, none of those things are guaranteed. And, if you’re going to overcome roster weaknesses during a season, whether they are foreshadowed or not, you need a really good quarterback. Because in today’s football, a top-10 CFB quarterback can make up for nearly everything else a roster doesn’t have to offer.

Whatever the avenue, Fleck needs to find something better. Because, if he does not find a quarterback that he actually trusts to lead the Gophers into this new Big Ten era — that includes high-flying teams like Ohio State, Michigan, USC, Oregon and UCLA — he will soon lose his job. So will Mark Coyle. And that is not good for parties on either side.


Go Gophers!!
 

RememberMurray

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Sigh.

P.J. Fleck doesn't play a run-first style of offense because he doesn't "trust" the QB.

P.J. Fleck doesn't play a run-first style of offense because he's afraid of turnovers or mistakes.

P.J. Fleck plays a run-first style of offense because he firmly believes a run-first offense that controls the clock is the best way to win. He plays run-first because he is convinced it's sound, and proven, and fits the personnel he has.

After seven seasons, it makes me chuckle that people still can't seem to grasp this.

Does the local sports media absolutely despise the Fleck run-first offense? Oh, yes. Yes, they do. With a passion.

Does a sizable contingent of the Gopher fanbase hate the Fleck run-first offense? You betcha.

Is Fleck going to change the way he runs the offense because the media and many fans don't agree with it?

Nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnope! It will never happen.
 

Pompous Elitist

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I am hot/cold on Athan. Despite the difficulties I still see some potential there. It might never come to fruition on game days. Story of every NFL draft player ad infinitum. I want him to succeed.

Transfers…For a coach that even under ideal conditions - NFL receivers and very accurate QB - passes between 31% and 39% of offensive plays (2023 still in flux) the emphasis will always be on standard running downs, with competence on passing downs the red-headed stepchild. I fear PJ is perfectly happy with a 55-60% passer as the weight of percentages contributing to success rate isn’t there. Fault attributed to players not executing, protection issues, defensive lapses.

Outside of NIL money, what would attract skill players or accomplished quarterbacks to MN given limited opportunities. Immediate playing time is one, I suppose. PJ, though, seems to be a relational guy rather than a transactional or results guy. The QB is the main avatar of PJ and his culture. PJ is human, admitting failure is a difficult pill. Try, try again.
 

WoodburyTim

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Sigh.

P.J. Fleck doesn't play a run-first style of offense because he doesn't "trust" the QB.

P.J. Fleck doesn't play a run-first style of offense because he's afraid of turnovers or mistakes.

P.J. Fleck plays a run-first style of offense because he firmly believes a run-first offense that controls the clock is the best way to win. He plays run-first because he is convinced it's sound, and proven, and fits the personnel he has.

After seven seasons, it makes me chuckle that people still can't seem to grasp this.

Does the local sports media absolutely despise the Fleck run-first offense? Oh, yes. Yes, they do. With a passion.

Does a sizable contingent of the Gopher fanbase hate the Fleck run-first offense? You betcha.

Is Fleck going to change the way he runs the offense because the media and many fans don't agree with it?

Nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnope! It will never happen.
I agree with you to a point and still do think our best way to compete is with a run first offense. But where I diverge from your line of thought is that run first means inept in the passing game when you do it. There have been problems with passing play construction issues that aren’t due to being run first.

I think there is plenty of room to be run first and still be competent in the passing game.
 

RememberMurray

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I agree with you to a point and still do think our best way to compete is with a run first offense. But where I diverge from your line of thought is that run first means inept in the passing game when you do it. There have been problems with passing play construction issues that aren’t due to being run first.

I think there is plenty of room to be run first and still be competent in the passing game.

Oh, I agree.

In 2019, we saw how well FleckBall worked when it is complimented by a solid passing game.

We haven't been able to approach that level of competence since then.
 


gopherbadgerman

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I’d agree by nature Fleck sure seems to be a conservative and run based coach. Even in 2019 when we could pass effectively we were a run leaning team. I would doubt he changes, he certainly does not have the right talent to do so at the moment.

I was one of those people pushing for AK last year as I felt Morgan had not improved over 3 years. I missed on him too. He’s not been a good QB this season.
 

upnorthkid

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I am hot/cold on Athan. Despite the difficulties I still see some potential there. It might never come to fruition on game days. Story of every NFL draft player ad infinitum. I want him to succeed.

Transfers…For a coach that even under ideal conditions - NFL receivers and very accurate QB - passes between 31% and 39% of offensive plays (2023 still in flux) the emphasis will always be on standard running downs, with competence on passing downs the red-headed stepchild. I fear PJ is perfectly happy with a 55-60% passer as the weight of percentages contributing to success rate isn’t there. Fault attributed to players not executing, protection issues, defensive lapses.

Outside of NIL money, what would attract skill players or accomplished quarterbacks to MN given limited opportunities. Immediate playing time is one, I suppose. PJ, though, seems to be a relational guy rather than a transactional or results guy. The QB is the main avatar of PJ and his culture. PJ is human, admitting failure is a difficult pill. Try, try again.
That last part is why I can never see a chance of us getting an impact qb to transfer here. He’d also have to be a PJ parrot and you aren’t going to get that in an upperclassman qb who has his own way/swagger/style
 

Porthead

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Whether or not he "trusts" Athan K., Fleck needs a new quarterback. Athan will never exceed present capabilities. Unfortunately, one of Fleck's strongest quality is loyalty. He has hitched the row boat to Athan, and it is very leaky.
 

Texan Gopher

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Honestly, I think the QB problems (although AK has been far from great) stem from the play calling and offensive strategies. You can be run first and still have a great passing game.

We literally run 4 variations of the same play in our offense.

When is the last time.you saw us run mesh routes ? Which are perfect for our run first offense by the way.

When is the last time we put 3 WRs in the 3 levels on the same side of a zone D coverage ?

When is the last time we ran a screen pass on something other than 3rd and long ?

When is the last time you saw us use speed and clearing routes across the middle to get a speedy WR covered by an LB ?

Our offense only works if you have better talent than the D at all those positions.

We have to scheme better in order to get 3 star speed and route running open against 4 star defensive players.

Teams with our type of recruiting can beat the big boys if the coaches put the players in the right spot.

Our offensive scheme is offensive.
 



SanDiegoGopherFan

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2019 being the “ONLY” year Fleck’s offense had a solid passing game.

Im willing to bet that is not going to happen again during his tenure.

The article is correct, coaches from our division outside of Purdue and WI (once they get all the players they want in place) will need to change their offensive philosophy or they will be gone.

I give Fleck 2 more years if he stays stubborn with how his offense plays.
 

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Maybe that incoming freshman recruit from Arkansas will blow AK out of the starting job.
 

tjgopher

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P.J. Fleck plays a run-first style of offense because he firmly believes a run-first offense that controls the clock is the best way to win. He plays run-first because he is convinced it's sound, and proven, and fits the personnel he has.

That's fine.

Except when you have a QB you're constantly bragging about coupled with having to start a fifth-string walk-on, converted scout team defensive back at running back. If in that situation he still thinks being run first offense is the best way to win a game, then I lose some confidence in his ability to critically think.

The biggest problem with this year in its entirety is we really don't know if Athan is the problem or the solution. The coaching staff never gave him a chance to offer up those answers.

Athan showed some great signs against Purdue when given the chance to actually throw within a rhythm of a pass-first offense. He had almost 300 passing yards and 3 TDs with no INTs. Offense was good enough to win that day.

The next week, when a big underdog? The coach handed the ball off in key situations once he crossed midfield and in clear passing downs. That is no good for anyone.
 




laazrakit

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Outside of NIL money, what would attract skill players or accomplished quarterbacks to MN given limited opportunities. Immediate playing time is one, I suppose. PJ, though, seems to be a relational guy rather than a transactional or results guy.
The players (and, often more importantly, the parents) have to drink the Kool-Aid, so to speak. That's the only way that PJ can overcome the lack of significant NIL money. Truth be told, I don't think PJ Fleck would want any player whose only concern is how much cash they're going to receive.

My concern is whether or not he's whiffed (again) on the OC/QB coach situation... is Athan really that bad, or is he not getting the resources he needs to perform at a higher level? All the slogans and mantras in the world won't save a head coach who continually gets it wrong... all he needs to do is look at what happened to Tim Brewster.

PJ got it right, on defense, when he dumped his buddy Robb for Joe Rossi... he might need to dump his protégé Greg Harbaugh and step out of his comfort zone and hire someone outside his "family." If Simon isn't the right choice, Fleck needs to man up and find an OC that can successfully run the offense... and help the quarterbacks become better players. Easier said than done, I suppose...
 

Jack jones

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I agree with you to a point and still do think our best way to compete is with a run first offense. But where I diverge from your line of thought is that run first means inept in the passing game when you do it. There have been problems with passing play construction issues that aren’t due to being run first.

I think there is plenty of room to be run first and still be competent in the passing game.
Except we can’t block for either.
 

FinnGopher

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It's not the quarterback. It's the coaching...or lack thereof...that is on display. I look for a number of coaching changes after the last game and before coaching contract renewals. PJ cannot remain status quo with his staff.
 

akgo4

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This thred is speaking about people - more coaches but at least giving notice about the need to upgrade who is behind center. I believe part of this has to go towards "Who are you going to find"? 4 and 5 star qbs aren't going to line up to run the style of play they have now. Is there an upgrade available that will transform the offense? I don't believe so, unless that person is going to be allowed to be a multi-faceted athlete with the ball running and passing. PJ's conservativism has never allowed that. We can have a Tanner clone whenever we want and have tried to turn AK into one, when he wasn't messing it up for himself on his own. If we are committed to what we are presently doing, lets quit wasting time on trying to upgrade the QB position and improve what we have - including allowing him to actually play. If we are going to upgrade, the committment to change has to be there..... If I'm a HS QB, what is there about that offense that excites me to play for the Gophers (other than others have said it is esy to learn as far as collegiant offense go)?
 


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If you have a good offensive line, you can run first or pass first, whatever you want. The offensive line has been a little behind the lines of the recent past, that said with the offense we have a qb that keeps the ball on the read 4 or 5 times a game instead of 1 would be a large plus. I was hoping AK would run it more than he has but it seems like both TM and he both have the same running mentality, get the first down and slide. Most college qbs are not sliders, but have the balls to the wall running back mentality. Our recent qbs(except the wildcatters) run the ball more like a pro style, I think that hurts our running game, but it must be as ordered by the coaches.

I think PJ talked up AK too much before the season, like with the comments about a qb from Mn being drafted and such. Maybe a little more pressure than was ideal for AK, i think AKs decision making or lack of that is much more a mental than physical problem and maybe harder to ultimately correct.

Minnesota should be able to recruit as good a qb as 12-14 of the new Big Ten Members with no excuses.

Kinda random thoughts, but I’m full.
 

U2Gopher

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We literally run 4 variations of the same play in our offense.
This has always been my main issue with our offense. I despise PJ’s offensive philosophy, but what I hate worse than that, is the absolute lack of any creativity within that run first style. It is the most predictable, vanilla offense in the country save the service academies. There aren’t enough pages in our playbook to start a forest fire in the midst of a year long drought. And that has nothing to do with AK being inexperienced. It was that way with Morgan as well.
 

short ornery norwegian

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Fleck's approach is best-suited (IMHO) for competing in a relatively low-scoring game - which the B1G West typically provided.

But next year the B1G will be an 18-team conference with no divisions. And the B1G is adding four schools from the Pac-12 that tend to be more offensively-oriented.

in other words, instead of trying to win a 17-14 slog-fest over Nebraska or Iowa, the Gophers may find themselves having to try and win a 36-34 shootout with one of the new teams. In that situation, Fleck-ball ain't going to cut it. you need to score more points and a competent passing game will become more essential. ergo, either Athan gets a lot better in the off-season, or another QB will be needed.
 

RememberMurray

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Fleck's approach is best-suited (IMHO) for competing in a relatively low-scoring game - which the B1G West typically provided.

But next year the B1G will be an 18-team conference with no divisions. And the B1G is adding four schools from the Pac-12 that tend to be more offensively-oriented.

in other words, instead of trying to win a 17-14 slog-fest over Nebraska or Iowa, the Gophers may find themselves having to try and win a 36-34 shootout with one of the new teams. In that situation, Fleck-ball ain't going to cut it. you need to score more points and a competent passing game will become more essential. ergo, either Athan gets a lot better in the off-season, or another QB will be needed.

1) Fleck's approach (and Ferentz's) is designed to create the situations that produce a low-scoring game. They look to force their opponent outside their own comfort zone by controlling the clock. Fleck and Ferentz's style is deliberate, and they believe in it.

2) It may be that Iowa and Minnesota will indeed have a hard time adjusting to the PAC 12 style of play. But might the reverse prove true as well? Maybe the west coast teams will be the ones who have some adjusting to do. I may be biased, but I think the B1G defenses are a bit tougher than the PAC 12 defenses. Let's see how the PAC 12 offenses look against B1G defenses. For a possible preview, check out video highlights of the Holiday Bowl, where Tracy Claeys' Gophers shut down Mike Leach and Washington State.


We'll see how it all shakes out. It will be interesting.
 

Tech Machine

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1) Fleck's approach (and Ferentz's) is designed to create the situations that produce a low-scoring game. They look to force their opponent outside their own comfort zone by controlling the clock. Fleck and Ferentz's style is deliberate, and they believe in it.

2) It may be that Iowa and Minnesota will indeed have a hard time adjusting to the PAC 12 style of play. But might the reverse prove true as well? Maybe the west coast teams will be the ones who have some adjusting to do. I may be biased, but I think the B1G defenses are a bit tougher than the PAC 12 defenses. Let's see how the PAC 12 offenses look against B1G defenses. For a possible preview, check out video highlights of the Holiday Bowl, where Tracy Claeys' Gophers shut down Mike Leach and Washington State.


We'll see how it all shakes out. It will be interesting.
Seems like lots of people expected Nebraska to compete with OSU, Mich., PSU every year after the joined the conference, they are an afterthought now. I think USC and UCLA would have fit well in the Big Ten West, mostly overrated, probably more in the Iowa/Wisconsin class historically. The snow and frost is pretty looking out the window, but out where it’s real, things get cold in a hurry.(not sure what that means).
 

SanDiegoGopherFan

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1) Fleck's approach (and Ferentz's) is designed to create the situations that produce a low-scoring game. They look to force their opponent outside their own comfort zone by controlling the clock. Fleck and Ferentz's style is deliberate, and they believe in it.

2) It may be that Iowa and Minnesota will indeed have a hard time adjusting to the PAC 12 style of play. But might the reverse prove true as well? Maybe the west coast teams will be the ones who have some adjusting to do. I may be biased, but I think the B1G defenses are a bit tougher than the PAC 12 defenses. Let's see how the PAC 12 offenses look against B1G defenses. For a possible preview, check out video highlights of the Holiday Bowl, where Tracy Claeys' Gophers shut down Mike Leach and Washington State.


We'll see how it all shakes out. It will be interesting.
I'm not a fan of bowl game examples because they give teams weeks to prepare for one opponent as oppose to a regular season game where you have 5 days.
 

hungan1

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It is fair to question PJ Fleck's choice as Offensive Coordinator. Promoting from the inside doesn't always work. Athan retrogressed after KC's departure.

Loyalty to players and coaches gets you only so far. What do you want to do? Do you want to win, or do you want to develop an OC? Is it time to consider hiring an experienced OC from the outside?

The Gophers need a dynamic offense with a killer instinct.

How good is Drew Viotto at 6' 4", 235 lbs.?
 

PMWinSTP

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Sigh.

P.J. Fleck doesn't play a run-first style of offense because he doesn't "trust" the QB.

P.J. Fleck doesn't play a run-first style of offense because he's afraid of turnovers or mistakes.

P.J. Fleck plays a run-first style of offense because he firmly believes a run-first offense that controls the clock is the best way to win. He plays run-first because he is convinced it's sound, and proven, and fits the personnel he has.

After seven seasons, it makes me chuckle that people still can't seem to grasp this.

Does the local sports media absolutely despise the Fleck run-first offense? Oh, yes. Yes, they do. With a passion.

Does a sizable contingent of the Gopher fanbase hate the Fleck run-first offense? You betcha.

Is Fleck going to change the way he runs the offense because the media and many fans don't agree with it?

Nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnope! It will never happen.
I'm fine with that but he has a raw QB talent that is getting wasted. You can have both a run first philosophy and utilize AK's talent. Seems that despite what he said before the season, nothing has really changed. Same super basic run offense.
 

Taji34

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I think Athan just needs a QB coach who knows what they are doing, and has a track record of improving QBs. That and a competent OC.
 

TruthSeeker

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1) Fleck's approach (and Ferentz's) is designed to create the situations that produce a low-scoring game. They look to force their opponent outside their own comfort zone by controlling the clock. Fleck and Ferentz's style is deliberate, and they believe in it.

2) It may be that Iowa and Minnesota will indeed have a hard time adjusting to the PAC 12 style of play. But might the reverse prove true as well? Maybe the west coast teams will be the ones who have some adjusting to do. I may be biased, but I think the B1G defenses are a bit tougher than the PAC 12 defenses. Let's see how the PAC 12 offenses look against B1G defenses. For a possible preview, check out video highlights of the Holiday Bowl, where Tracy Claeys' Gophers shut down Mike Leach and Washington State.


We'll see how it all shakes out. It will be interesting.
Tressel ball doesn't work anymore. No national champions since Tressel have won that way.

I can't think of a CFP team that has ever played that way. Heck, when was the last time a P5 conference champion played Tressel Ball?

There's a reason. You're smart enough to know why.
 

RememberMurray

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Tressel ball doesn't work anymore. No national champions since Tressel have won that way.

I can't think of a CFP team that has ever played that way. Heck, when was the last time a P5 conference champion played Tressel Ball?

There's a reason. You're smart enough to know why.

So winning a national championship is the expectation?

You set your sights high. Admirable!

'Let Athan cook!'
 

Gopherchase

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So winning a national championship is the expectation?

You set your sights high. Admirable!

'Let Athan cook!'
In the top 25 I’m pretty sure Iowa is the only team that plays the same type of ball as Fleck. Can we shoot for the top 25?
 




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