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Minnesota 2017 Cocktail Party

Is it finally time to to talk about Minnesota? Let’s Gopher it!

I WANT YOU! To do the Gopher.
Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

Happy Monday and welcome to Minnesota Week 2017 here at OffTackleEmpire! We’ll see you next week.

For the seven of you still here, thank you for humoring me. Grab a Grain Belt or a Surly and let's change our best. A few things have changed since we did this last year, haven’t they?

About Last Year

9-4 (5-4 B1G), Holiday Bowl champions with a win over Washington State, and **FILE NOT FOUND**

Nothing else happened.


It’s a bit concerning, but All-B1G, All-American, and 1st round pick Mitch Leidner is gone. As things stand right now he’ll be replaced by Demry Croft. I’m looking forward to seeing if this regime can develop a QB, but at no point under the Kill-Claeys era did anyone really progress between season (GOOD LUCK RUTGERS!)

RB is a bit of a position of strength with Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks returning and coming off a season where the duo combined for 1,808 yards and 21 TDs on a 4.8 yards per carry clip. I expect good things from the tandem.

WR is...well...???? There wasn’t a whole lot we got from the position last year, so we’ll see what new WR Coach Matt Simon can do with the players. Rashad Still and TE Brandon Lingen are back so it’s not like we’re breaking in a completely new group, but Chris Autman-Bell could be a player to watch. I’m also rooting for Melvin Holland Jr. to breakout, but that’s for personal reasons.

OL is a huge concern, as due to injuries I was forced to play at LG in the Spring Game. As players get healthy and return we should be OKish, but the numbers of bodies isn’t acceptable for a B1G program. That won’t be an issue at all, I’m sure.


The DL will be anchored by Steven Richardson and a number of players who’ve seen reps last season, but depth is a concern in the trenches on this side of the ball again. I’m a little disappointed that Tracy Claeys didn’t put more effort into the fat kids, but I digress.

LB is a position of strength, and should have a number of quality guys that can step in and make plays as needed. Cody Poock, Jonathan Celestin, Thomas Barber, Kamal Martin, Jaylen Waters, and Blake Cashman all contributed and should be counted on going forward.

Due to something that happened at some point last season that I don’t really want to talk about, DB depth is not as good as it could be. Antoine Winfield Jr. is back with the team and looks like he should be a star. Coney Durr had a huge game in the Holiday Bowl before a knee explosion probably took him out for the year. I wouldn’t be surprised if FR Ken Handy-Holly worked his way into the team this year and didn’t look back.

Special Teams

P Ryan Santoso and B1G Kicker of the Year Emmit Carpenter are back. Pretty cool, huh?


Let’s check in on Tracy Claeys and...oh my...

Snorlax has fainted.

Well, I guess we choose P.J Fleck. I think I might have more to say about him tomorrow. For today, we’ll go with “I’m happy we made the change, I’m happy we hired P.J. Fleck, and I’m nervous about how things will go because he’s at Minnesota.”

As a part of the transition, the entire previous coaching staff got the heave-ho and was replaced. OC Jay Johnson and DC Jay Sawvel were replaced with Kirk Ciarrocca and Robb Smith, and time will tell if both of these are upgrades or just change for change’s sake.

Minnesota 2017 Schedule

2017 Gopher Football Schedule

Date Opponent
Date Opponent
Aug 31 Buffalo
Sept 9 at Oregon State
Sept 16 Middle Tennessee State
Sept 23 University of Minnesota Police
Sept 30 Maryland
Oct 7 at Purdue
Oct 14 Michigan State
Oct 21 Illinois
Oct 28 at Iowa
Nov 4 at Michigan
Nov 11 Nebraska
Nov 18 at Northwestern
Nov 25 wisconsin
Dec 2 B1G Championship Game
Dec ??? Bowl Game

When Talking to a Minnesota Fan, Don’t Mention

The 2016 season, wisconsin's streak, and Tim Brewster are at the top of the list. I’m sure there’s plenty of other things, but I’ve been making great progress this offseason in repressing things that hurt me.

Do Mention

P.J. Fleck, 6 National Titles, our wonderful beer selections in the area, our RBs, how nice the weather usually is for games outside at TCF Bank Stadium on gameday in September and October.