Dienhart: What I'll be watching at Minnesota fall practice
The excitement level is running high at Minnesota, as the P.J. Fleck era begins to take flight. Fleck made a splash on Signing Day by inking a good class to add to an already-solid roster. Make no mistake about it: Fleck isn’t inheriting a broken program. There is talent in place in Dinkytown.
And Fleck expects to win … now. He soon will begin putting his fingerprints on the roster in spring drills. There aren’t many yawning needs for the Golden Gophers, but there is work to be done.
Here are five things I will be watching at Minnesota practice.
1. Chemistry. Everything is new in the Twin Cities, as the P.J. Fleck era is kicking off. Is everyone on the same page? Will there be a big learning curve? Will there be buy-in from all the players? All the fun offseason Fleck stories have been told. Now, it’s time to get to work … and win.
2. Quarterback. Mitch Leidner is gone. What now? Conor Rhoda and Demry Croft are battling for the job. You have to go back to Adam Weber to find the last time the Gophers had a signal-caller who could really sling it.
3. Offensive line. This unit was decimated in spring drills. How does it look now? The group needs to be tough and physical at the point of attack to help propel what could be a good rushing attack. No doubt, Vincent Calhoun, Garrison Wright and Donnell Greene are big and physical.
4. Secondary. Under Jerry Kill, the defensive backs had been a strong suit. But there are questions in the back-end. The staff can build around safeties Antoine Winfield Jr. and Daletavious McGhee. How do the corners look? Antonio Shenault and Kiondre Thomas?
5. Pass game. For too long, this offense has lacked explosive ability. Who will stretch the field for the Golden Gophers? Rashad Still is a good bet, but I want to watch Tyler Johnson and Eric Carter, among others. More TD tosses are needed. Get this: The Gophers threw a total of five against FBS teams last year and never came up with two in a game – four came against FCS Indiana State.