Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said on WCCO radio Sunday his new offensive coordinator, Mike Sanford Jr., will call plays next season.
The former Utah State OC will also coach the quarterbacks and work closely with receivers coach Matt Simon, who also earned the co-offensive coordinator title. Simon called the Outback Bowl win against Auburn, stepping in a week before the game with Kirk Ciarrocca departing for Penn State. Fleck said Simon called a great game then, but that was also a team effort from many across the offensive staff.
"I have a lot of confidence in him," Fleck said of Simon. "And I feel like him being elevated to co-coordinator is going to really help his development of not only just being a great coordinator down the road one day but being a really good quarterback coach and really evolve into a really good offensive play caller."
But Sanford, who brings an abundance of coaching experience at the OC and head coach level, will lead the collaboration.
"Those two working together, as well as our other staff members, it's going to be really a group effort moving forward," Fleck said. "But obviously Mike will call the plays. Brings that load of knowledge and so much energy and positivity to that room. And I think that's what's going to really help us take this thing to the next level."
In other news, it also appears the Gophers have added some special teams depth for next season. Matthew Stephenson, a punter from Middle Tennessee, wrote on Twitter on Sunday that he will be a grad transfer for the Gophers for his final year of eligibility after visiting Minneapolis back on Dec. 13.
The 5-10, 213-pound Alabama native played in every game the past two seasons as a punter and holder. This year, he punted 11 times, averaging 35.7 yards per attempt with six downed inside the 20-yard line. The preferred walk-on will likely backup Mark Crawford, the incoming Australian punter, and could succeed graduating Jacob Herbers at holder.
I would like to thank every coach that reached out to me while I was in the transfer portal. With that being said, I’m excited to tell everyone I will be playing my final year and earning my masters degree at THE UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA! #RowTheBoat #SkiUMah pic.twitter.com/rVBqd9w5FM— Matthew Stephenson (@Ya_Boy_Matty) January 5, 2020