If there's a feud between Gophers coach P.J. Fleck and Jerry Kill, it's largely a one-sided affair — at least when it comes to public comments.
Kill, in an interview with KARE-TV this week, said he wasn't sure if he'd shake Fleck's hand if the opportunity presents itself on Thursday, when Kill and his New Mexico State team play the Gophers at Huntington Bank Stadium.
Kill, Minnesota's coach from 2011 to 2015, made similar critical comments of Fleck to the St. Paul Pioneer Press earlier this month, saying "as for my personal feelings, I'm not taking him to dinner. I'll tell you that.''
Kill is Fleck's former boss, as the two coached together at Northern Illinois.
Fleck took the high road in his news conference on Friday previewing the opener, indicating that he wasn't about to stop shaking the opposing coach's hand.
"There's a tradition of 100 years ago of coaches meeting at midfield,'' Fleck said. "I've been a head coach for 10 years, and I've never not shaken a head coach's hand in my entire career. … I might have had to go find a guy.''
Kill's issues with the Gophers athletic department go back to 2016, when Tracy Claeys, his longtime defensive coordinator and successor as Minnesota coach, was fired amid an investigation of an alleged sexual assault that ended with four players being expelled.
In a 2019 interview on SiriusXM, Kill criticized Fleck for saying he needed to change the culture of the Gophers program when he was hired in 2017. Fleck brought his "Row the Boat'' culture with him from Western Michigan, and the slogan has its roots in how Fleck persevered after the death of his son, Colton, shortly after he was born.
Planning for the unknown
With a new coaching staff and new players throughout its roster, New Mexico State will present an unfamiliar look for the Gophers on Thursday. Fleck and his coaches are preparing for a variety of looks but will focus their plans after watching the Aggies opener against Nevada on Saturday night.
"It's interesting because they have almost a whole new roster … a lot of junior college players, a lot of transfers and some really talented athletes they brought in,'' Fleck said. "…We won't have a definitive answer until Saturday.''
Defensive coordinator Joe Rossi has tried to cover all the bases.
"We've been looking at film from Pittsburg [Kan.] State, where the O.C. [Tim Beck] is from,'' Rossi said. "Rutgers, where Kill was O.C. And both were together at TCU. We've looked at that film.''
Offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca said he couldn't think of a situation where there was so much uncertainty involving an opponent. "I'm really looking forward to seeing that game on Saturday night and seeing what we get from these guys,'' he said.
Rotations in play
Fleck said he hasn't yet picked a starter at right tackle among Martes Lewis, JJ Guedet and Quinn Carroll. "We're getting closer [to a decision],'' Fleck said. "… I wouldn't be surprised if we rotated those guys because we have enough depth up front to keep guys fresh.''
At weakside linebacker, Braelen Oliver, Cody Lindenberg and Donald Willis are in line for playing time, according to Rossi.
Jackson on the mend
Wide receiver Daniel Jackson, who spent the early part of training camp in a walking boot, is progressing toward a return to action. "He's little bit more day-to-day right now,'' Fleck said of Jackson, whose 25 receptions were second most on the team last year. "He's worked hard to get himself healthy.''