Gophers coach Fleck to turn up heat on QBs

Published 7:44 am Monday, August 14, 2017

By Andy Greder

Pioneer Press

The Gophers’ live scrimmage on Saturday will be the latest test for quarterbacks Demry Croft and Conor Rhoda in their battle for the starting spot.

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They’re used to it. They’ve felt the microscope overhead ever since training camp opened Aug. 1 and have been linked in a battle dating back two years to when they vied to be Mitch Leidner’s backup.

“Whether it’s me pushing him or him pushing me, it keeps you on your toes,” said Rhoda, who was Minnesota’s No. 2 a year ago. “It doesn’t allow you to be comfortable.”

After playing in 2015 and redshirting last year, Croft said he has enjoyed this camp’s competition. “We are making each other better and the team better, so I think it’s pretty good for us,” he said.

Croft, who has bulked up from 175 pounds as a freshman to 205 now, wants to use the scrimmage to see what he needs to work on. “This is a little pre-taste of what we need to get done,” he said.

Outside of quarterback duo — each player has 17 career pass attempts —Fleck most wants to see battles along the offensive line, in the secondary and at wide receiver. Players were going to be given game plans Friday night for the scrimmage, which will be held behind closed doors.

“We’ve got to settle some depth-chart issues,” Fleck said. “We’ve gone live a few times during practice, but we haven’t gone in a game-type situation.

“We are going to test them in all areas,” he continued. “We are going to put them in every situation possible, put as much heat, as much pressure on them as we possibly can and see who performs at a high level.”
Careful with Winfield

Gophers sophomore safety Antoine Winfield Jr. did not practice Friday after grasping his left hamstring during a punt-block drill in Tuesday’s practice. Fleck said the goal is having him ready for the season opener against Buffalo on Aug. 31 at TCF Bank Stadium.

“We are going to be very, very safe with him and hopefully have him back the Buffalo week, but he’s progressing really well,” Fleck said.

Fleck said he knows what he has in Winfield. “He’s one of our best players,” Fleck said. “I don’t think he has to prove to me what he can do to play.”
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