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Since early in the Sept. 30 game against Maryland, the Gophers have been without their best defensive player, according to coach P.J. Fleck. Sophomore safety Antoine Winfield Jr. aggravated a hamstring injury against the Terrapins and has not played since.

On Tuesday, Fleck said Winfield still is rehabbing the injury to his left hamstring and is not practicing but taking part in “small things at the end of practice.” That makes the likelihood stronger that he won’t play again this season, and that the Gophers will seek a medical redshirt for Winfield so he can preserve a year of eligibility.

“We’re never going to put Antoine on the field until he’s ready,” Fleck said.

During his WCCO Radio appearance on Sunday, Fleck said team doctors were “very confident” that Winfield would qualify for a medical redshirt.

Under the NCAA’s medical hardship rules, a player can apply for an extra year of eligibility if the season-ending injury occurs before the second half of the season, and the player hasn’t played in more than three games or 30 percent of the schedule, whichever is greater.

Winfield, who originally hurt the hamstring Aug. 8 in training camp, hasn’t played since the first quarter of the fourth game, meaning he played in 13 quarters, or 27 percent of the Gophers’ schedule.

Fleck said he expects Winfield to be a full participant in spring practice.


• The Gophers’ depth chart now lists Demry Croft as the starting quarterback. He had been listed in an “or” situation with Conor Rhoda over the past four weeks. Also on the depth chart: Phillip Howard moved ahead of Mark Williams at wide receiver, Merrick Jackson moved ahead of Gary Moore at defensive tackle, and Jacob Huff was listed ahead of Ken Handy-Holly at safety.

• The Gophers announced their 2018 homecoming game will be against Iowa on Oct. 6. The Iowa game was their only October option for a Saturday homecoming contest, because the Indiana game was moved up a day to Friday, Oct. 26, by the Big Ten.

Gophers at Northwestern

11 a.m. Saturday (BTN)