On Tuesday morning, the Gophers football team released its depth chart for Saturday night’s game, and among the changes listed was an interesting one at quarterback.
No, coach P.J. Fleck isn’t making a change to his starting QB. It will remain Conor Rhoda. “He’s the best quarterback we have right now,” Fleck said of the fifth-year senior.
But behind Rhoda, the Gophers listed Demry Croft as backup, ahead of true freshman Tanner Morgan and redshirt freshman Seth Green, in that order. Last week, Green was listed as Rhoda’s backup, while Croft, coming off a two-game disciplinary suspension, was listed as third string. Morgan was not on the depth chart for the 31-17 loss at Purdue.
Fleck downplayed the significance during his afternoon news conference.
“After Conor, it’s kind of up in the air,” he said. “You can put an ‘or’ by any of them, just based on where we’re at. … If something ever happened to Conor, I would have to make a decision on who goes in the game.”
Rhoda and Croft began the season as what Fleck called co-starters, but Rhoda earned the starter’s job on Sept. 11 after two games. Croft was then suspended Sept. 12.
Fleck said center Jared Weyler will return after missing three games because of a foot injury. The coach said there would have to be moving pieces along the offensive line, but did not want to divulge them.
The depth chart lists redshirt freshman Sam Schlueter, who took over for the injured Nick Connelly, as the starter at right tackle. True freshman Blaise Andries, who has yet to play, is listed as backup at both tackles.
Receiver Phillip Howard is listed as a starter, though he suffered a head injury at Purdue and Fleck on Monday said he was out for this weekend’s Michigan State game. Mark Williams is in line to replace Howard, as he did Saturday.
On defense, true freshman end Nate Umlor is listed as a starter ahead of Winston DeLattiboudere, a switch from last week. Defensive tackle Gary Moore also is listed as a starter, ahead of Merrick Jackson.
At cornerback, Coney Durr is a starter, replacing Kiondre Thomas (leg). Freshman Justus Harris is listed as Durr’s backup. Durr is not 100 percent back from ACL surgery, so Harris would burn a redshirt season if he plays. The other starting cornerback, Antonio Shenault, has freshman Rey Estes, a converted QB, as his backup. Estes has yet to play.
“We’re going to have to break another [redshirt] this week,” Fleck said, not listing a position.
Safety Duke McGhee, suspended the past two games, is not listed on the depth chart, but Fleck on Monday said the senior possibly could play. Freshman Ken Handy-Holly started in McGhee’s place at Purdue. Antoine Winfield Jr. (hamstring) is listed as the other starting safety, but Fleck on Monday said the sophomore would not play.
As always, the depth chart is subject to change.
It’s gray duck, P.J.
During his Tuesday news conference, Fleck was not aware of the duck, duck, gray duck vs. duck, duck, goose kerfuffle that broke out in the wake of the Vikings’ touchdown celebration on Monday.
Asked if he would weigh in on the debate, Fleck, an Illinois native, said, “I’ve only been here eight months. I’ll have to read up on it. … I’m learning all my Minnesota things right now. I’ve got to learn the gray duck.”
Gutekunst back at it
John Gutekunst was hired by East Carolina as a defensive analyst. Gutekunst, 73, served as the Gophers coach from their Independence Bowl victory over Clemson in 1985, after Lou Holtz left for Notre Dame, through the 1991 season, going 29-37-2
Gophers vs. Michigan State
7 p.m. Saturday (BTN)