Fleck provides some insight on why Minnesota was shorthanded in opener vs. Michigan
Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck’s depth chart is going to be an interesting one this season.
For weeks Fleck has made it known that his depth chart is going to be ever changing, with a host of injuries causing issues, compounded with the season dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.
When presumptive starting linebacker Braelen Oliver was lost to an injury, true freshman Cody Lindenberg was called on to make his first collegiate start in the Gopher’s 49-24 loss to Michigan on Saturday.
Fleck said the linebacker spot is open for competition.
“It’s up for grabs,” Fleck said of the linebacker spot next to Mariano Sori-Marin, according to the Pioneer Press. “If somebody would have been able to drive forward and take that job in the four-week training camp that we had. Again, a lot of unknowns with Braelen Oliver out; that was hard. We knew it was Braelen and Mariano. He leaves and everybody behind them is guys who haven’t played yet.
“Who’s the best? Who’s the most ready? Who can be able to learn as we go? Who is going to make the least amount of mistakes? Who’s going to limit the bleeding? Who’s mistake is not going to be as catastrophic?”
On the offensive side of the line, Minnesota also had to deal with starting right tackle Daniel Faalele and right guard Curtis Dunlap both sidelined with injuries – both started 23 of 26 games during last season. Faalele wasn’t seen on the sideline during the game, while Dunlap’s lower left leg was in a cast. Axel Ruschmeyer was given his first career start at guard, while John Michael Schmitz made his fifth career start at center.
The result stung, with the Gopher offense only averaging 3.1 yards per rush and giving up five sacks.
Even the special teams took a hit, with new punter Mark Crawford and kickers Grant Ryerse and Michael Lantz seeing action.
“I’m not going to get into specifics into why they missed the game; you can probably imagine,” Fleck said. “It kind of hit the specialists pretty hard, and it hit them at different times. If somebody ever tests positive, they are out three weeks. That could be a week apart. Three days apart. Two weeks apart. It still gets you for three weeks (out, per Big Ten protocols). When you are talking about your first-team kicker, third-team kicker and your second-string kicker (Brock Walker) had sports hernia surgery and he’s not necessarily full-go.”