Impact players: P.J. Fleck talks important role Minnesota's wide receivers have played, game-changing ability from Antoine Winfield
Minnesota isn’t sitting at 9-1 this season if it didn’t have playmakers on the field. The Gophers may not be loaded with four- and five-star athletes like some of the other top 10 teams in the country, but they still have a lot of talented athletes on the field.
Most notably, Minnesota’s receivers have caught plenty of attention this season. Rashod Bateman and Tyler Johnson are both over 900 receiving yards this year with two games left, and Chris Autman-Bell has made several big catches throughout the season. Those three guys have been the difference between the Gophers winning and losing a lot of games this year.
P.J. Fleck agrees that, without the talent at the receiver position this season, Minnesota just isn’t the same football team.
“It’s huge for us… we wouldn’t be in a position we are in if it wasn’t for their big time catches,” Fleck said during his weekly presser on Tuesday. “They’ve been so consistent all year, they’ve been our big time playmakers.”
Bateman and Johnson sit at No. 1 and No. 2 in the B1G in receiving yards this year.
Fleck’s praise wasn’t limited to one position group. The Minnesota head coach also had plenty of positive remarks for Antoine Winfield Jr., who has been outstanding in the secondary all season long. He has totaled a B1G-best seven interceptions this year, including one pick-six.
“I think he’s one of the best game-changers in college football,” Fleck said. “I’m just glad he’s on our team and we don’t have to play against him.”
Winfield came up with a game-winning interception against Fresno State in overtime earlier this season. He also picked off two Sean Clifford passes in Minnesota’s win over Penn State two weekends ago. His contributions have been just as significant as the receivers this year.
Minnesota is now looking to bounce back after its first loss of the season. It will travel to Evanston to take on Northwestern to try and keep its College Football Playoff hopes alive.