P.J. Fleck was widely viewed as a coach on the rise last season, leading Western Michigan to a 13-0 start and a competitive loss to Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl.
Now, with Fleck two weeks away from his first training camp at Minnesota, the national publications continue to applaud the Gophers’ hire.
Sporting News ranked all 22 FBS coaching hires, and put Fleck third on the list behind Tom Herman (Texas) and Charlie Strong (South Florida). Fourth on that list was Lincoln Riley (Oklahoma) and fifth was Willie Taggart (Oregon). From the article:
Fleck's one-of-a-kind style helped take Western Michigan from the basement to the Cotton Bowl Classic, and he'll take on an interesting task with Minnesota in the Big Ten West. It's the kind of boom-or-bust hire that should draw a lot of attention.
Athlon ranked Fleck as the No. 2 hire nationally, behind Herman, saying:
The Big Ten’s West Division provides an easier path to compete than the East. Fleck should increase the school’s recruiting profile and has already proven that he can be the CEO of a program. The energetic 36-year-old coach is a great fit at Minnesota.
Earlier this year, Sports Illustrated graded each coaching hire and was more measured toward Minnesota, giving the Fleck hire a B-plus, while giving Purdue an A for the Jeff Brohm hire.
These early coaching evaluations are all speculative, of course. Athlon had the Gophers’ Tracy Claeys hire at No. 25 last year, and he led Minnesota to its best finish (9-4) since 2003.
One year earlier, Athlon had Wisconsin’s Paul Chryst at No. 9. It wasn’t a flashy hire, but two seasons in, Chryst is 21-6, including 13-4 against the Big Ten, and 2-0 in bowl games.
Fleck has the Gophers sitting at No. 29 in the latest 247Sports Composite recruiting rankings, a sharp uptick from where they were last year. He has generated some national buzz around Minnesota's program, so it should be interesting to see how it all plays out in coming seasons.