On Monday, Gophers football coach P.J. Fleck announced Conor Rhoda had won the starting quarterback job after pulling away in a competition with Demry Croft.
On Tuesday, Fleck said Croft will not be with the team for Saturday’s game against Middle Tennessee.
“He’s dealing with personal issues that are way, way more important than football. So it’s my job as a head football coach to get him what he needs,” Fleck said of the sophomore. “We’re going to help him any way we possibly can. I’m not going to get into that in respect to his privacy and his personal life.
“But, like I said at the beginning, if you do not do the right things academically, athletically, socially, spiritually — if you do not uphold the high, high expectations of our culture, on and off the field, you will not play. It does not matter who you are.”
Fleck did not say how long Croft would be away from the team.
“I made myself clear from Day 1 that nothing is more important than the culture,” Fleck said, not mentioning Croft by name but emphasizing his expectations. “If you need help in other ways, whatever those ways are, my job as an educator is to get you those resources. That’s what I’ll continue to do for every kid on the football team if they need that. Whether it’s a learning specialist or whatever, that’s our job as educators.”
During training camp, Fleck announced that Rhoda, a senior, and Croft would serve as the starting quarterback, and they split series in the season-opening 17-7 victory over Buffalo on Aug. 31. But on Saturday at Oregon State, Rhoda seized the job by completing seven of eight passes for 158 yards and a touchdown in the Gophers’ 48-14 victory.
In the second quarter Saturday, Croft fumbled and tried to pick up the ball. But Oregon State recovered at the Gophers’ 17-yard line and scored a touchdown three plays later. Croft didn’t play again until 3:46 remained in the fourth quarter, and Fleck said one of the reasons for that was because he didn’t fall on the ball. Croft later scored the Gophers’ final TD on a 64-yard run with 2:53 left.
Fleck said he informed Rhoda that he’d won the starting job before the situation with Croft occurred.
“If you can’t abide by the culture, you’re not going to play,” Fleck said. “If we have no quarterbacks by Week 5, [we have] no quarterbacks.”
The Gophers’ backup quarterback Saturday likely will be redshirt freshman Seth Green, Fleck said. The former East Ridge standout who transferred to Allen, Texas, for his senior year worked as the No. 3 quarterback during training camp. Fleck said he wants to redshirt true freshman Tanner Morgan.
Croft will be the second player Fleck has sat in his first year in Minnesota. Sophomore defensive end Tai’yon Devers, who had two sacks in the 2016 season opener, did not dress against Buffalo and did not make the trip to Oregon State because of undisclosed reasons. He could return against Middle Tennessee, Fleck said.