Good morning, football fans. I'll get this chat going quickly. But first I wanted to say that by all indications now, Saturday night's game will be played as scheduled. The smoke from the wildfires in Oregon hasn't been as bad in Corvallis as other places, even Eugene to the south about 45 miles. Of course, with weather, we never know for sure.
P.J. Fleck, especially in the second half, did indeed use a very vanilla offense against Buffalo. He wanted to lock down the win and do nothing to jeopardize that. His defense was playing well, so he didn't want the offense taking chances to put the D in a bad spot.
I do expect an expanded playbook come Saturday night. When asked about opening things up Saturday, offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca's long pause spoke volumes.
Good question on the schedule. I've always thought Middle Tennessee would be a trickier game. The Blue Raiders return quite a bit on offense, especially QB Brent Stockstill and WR Richie James, who could be the best skill-position player the Gophers face before the Big Ten season. They had trouble with Buffalo WR Anthony Johnson, and James is better.
I believe Steven Richardson has a pretty good chance to play in the NFL. Though a bit short, he's shown he can make a big impact, which he did against Buffalo in the opener. The comparison I've seen with him is the Cincinnati Bengals' Geno Atkins. That's pretty good company.
I think we'll have to see this play out with Seth. I know there's a lot of interest because of his local ties. The fact that he's third string behind a co-starter situation in Conor Rhoda and Demry Croft shows that he's got a ways to go as a QB. Maybe he transfers, maybe he switches positions. I'm not sure. He's a good athlete, so there are options.
Rashad has all the tools to be a solid wide receiver, but it's consistency that Fleck and the coaching staff want from him. So far, they haven't got that, which is a good sign why he's not starting. Can he become a big-time receiver in the Big Ten? He'll have to improve quickly to do so.
The offensive line certainly isn't the Gophers' strength, and it could be an issue all year. Fleck said that it needs to work as one cohesive unit rather than five individuals. Improvement should come with experience, but because the line is the foundation of the offense, it needs to get better quickly. As for defensive line opponents, Oregon State has shown it will give up rushing yards -- 291 to FCS level Portland State last week. The Gophers should be able to take advantage on Saturday.
Croft definitely adds more of a run threat to the offense, and Rhoda has even said that Croft is more apt to run than he is. What that also does is make the defense respect the QB option of running more, which opens things up for Smith and Brooks.
As for the eventual starter, someone's gonna have to win it outright. There hasn't been a ton of separation yet. I still think these next two nonconference games will go a long way in determining the one starter Fleck wants. With the bye coming before the Big Ten opener vs. Maryland, that would appear to be a good time to settle on one -- if one has stepped up.
So far, the game appears to be on as scheduled. The Pac-12 Conference is monitoring the situation but hasn't commented since its original statement on Tuesday. ... Fleck said on his TV show Wednesday night that things are going as scheduled. ... This looks like a no-news-is-good-news situation.
Fleck wouldn't get into specifics on Tai'yon, but it looks as if he's out this week. Fleck said it depends on how the week goes. It sounds like a disciplinary situation.
Interesting question. As of now, I'd say Demry Croft because he will have the most experience of anyone returning, but we have to see how the season plays out. Green and freshman Tanner Morgan could be in the mix, and the wild card would be incoming freshman Brennan Armstrong from Shelby, Ohio. I wouldn't expect Fleck to pursue a junior college quarterback because that's not his style. He wants to build his program with four-year players rather than going for a quick fix.
WIth ACL surgery, it always takes time to return, and Coney is still working his way back. I believe we'll see him as the season progresses. He's still listed as the backup cornerback to Kiondre Thomas, so that's an indication that he's not all the way back quite yet.
I don't think Blake is limited because of the offseason surgeries, but the Gophers do have a lot of depth at linebacker. He'll see his share of action, and I expect him to make an impact. He had a team-high 7.5 sacks last year, but that total won't be easy to match. But he definitely is in their defensive plans.
A team beating another 98-0 certainly will turn some heads, and the automatic reaction is to think the winner ran up the score. I'm not sure that's completely the case here, because St. John's final TD came early in the fourth quarter. Everything went St. John's way and did the opposite for St. Scholastica. And I do think the team that gets beat that bad is at least partly responsible for the score.
What we saw is the difference in those Division III conferences. The MIAC is a powerhouse, while the UMAC isn't. St. Scholastica won the UMAC in 2015 and made the D-III playoffs but lost 48-0 at Wisconsin-Oshkosh. There just seems to be a big separation between the top-level conferences in D-III and the others.
I would think the coaching staff is very concerned. The offensive line didn't get much push against Buffalo, and there are much better opponents coming up. I'm a firm believer that if you don't have a good or great offensive line, you're going to be in trouble.
Things on paper could get on track this weekend because Oregon State has shown it'll give up rushing yards. Well see how the Gophers take advantage.
That hasn't been brought up with Coach Fleck yet. Switching a linebacker to offensive line would seem to be a longer-term project to get someone beefed up, because you don't see many 280-pounders playing linebacker, and you'd need that size to be on the offensive line. I could see it with switching a tall, rangy incoming freshman and redshirting him to add bulk.
The plays are being sent in from the sideline, so I think you're seeing a late changing of the plays. ... As for discipline, I know situations are stressed heavily in practice, and if they're cutting down on those calls, that could be a result of the attention to detail. I think we have to wait a couple games to see if there are any trends, though.
Well, last year's Western Michigan team improved enough to go 13-0 and make it to the Cotton Bowl before losing to Wisconsin. In Fleck's 8-5 year in 2014, the Broncos won six in a row to turn the season around, and it started by rallying from a 24-point deficit to beat Ball State. In 2015, WMU had a five-game win streak in the middle of the season. So there seems to be some improvement as the year goes on.
An update from Corvallis: Their athletic department says the weather today has been the best it's been all week. The Beavers will practice outdoors today after being indoors on Wednesday. So it sure sounds like the game should go on as scheduled. Of course with weather and wildfires, things can change.
Thanks, everyone, for joining the live chat.