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INDIANAPOLIS — A seed of rivalry was planted when Nebraska coach Scott Frost followed Gophers coach P.J. Fleck at the podium at Big Ten Media Days in July 2021.
“I’m not into sloganeering,” Frost said at Lucas Oil Stadium, an apparent shot at Fleck’s “Row The Boat” mantra.
That seed germinated after Minnesota’s 30-24 victory over Nebraska at Huntington Bank Stadium, when Fleck seemed to retort Frost: “That was truly culture versus skill.”
No fertilizer was added at this year’s Big Ten Media Days on Tuesday.
Per the schedule, Frost went to the dias before Fleck, and Frost didn’t offer any opening statement, going straight to questions from reporters.
TWO KEY POSITION BATTLES
The Gophers linebacker spot next to Mariano Sori-Marin and the U’s right offensive tackle position will be two of the “big competitions of camp,” Fleck said.
At linebacker, Fleck mentioned Braelen Oliver, Josh Aune and Cody Lindenberg as candidates. At tackle, Fleck said Martes Lewis “did a great job in spring for us” and mentioned Notre Dame transfer Quinn Carroll and JJ Guedet at that spot.
“It will be a great competition among those three,” Fleck said.
Gophers receiver Dylan Wright has done the offseason work to build on his 18-reception, 365-yard, two-touchdown season in 2021, Fleck shared.
“I’ve watched him work,” Fleck said. “I’ve known he’s done all the un-required stuff to do it. … He’s embracing the process of growth.”
During one spring practice, Wright made an incredible catch that fired up Fleck and confused Wright, thinking his head coach might be mad at him. “I was talking very firmly about how good he can be and why doesn’t this happen all the time,” Fleck said.
The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Texas A&M transfer is “one of the most pure, athletic guys I’ve coached at that position,” said Fleck, who has had elite receivers Rashod Bateman, Corey Davis and Tyler Johnson under his wing.
HUNGRY FOR A QUOTE
A Madison-based reporter asked Gophers center John Michael Schmitz: “What’s the first thing that pops into your head when you hear the word Wisconsin?”
“Culver’s,” the 6-foot-2, 300-pound lineman responded.
At the Wisconsin-headquartered fast food joint, Schmitz said he switches his order between chicken tenders or a burger, “always gets the cheese curds” and a concrete mixer, a version of a thick ice cream shake.
No Minnesota players are expected to be out with injuries as preseason camp opens in Dinkytown next Monday, Fleck said. Receiver Lemeke Brockington will be limited, and the U will be “careful” with Guedet, who missed most of spring ball with an undisclosed injury. … The U’s kids football camp has grown to more than 340 participants this year, up from 60 in Fleck’s first year as coach in 2017. … Twins radio play-by-play broadcaster Cory Provus and former Gophers safety Brock Vereen are part of Big Ten Network’s roster of commentators for this season.