Will Local Phenom Koi Perich Start for the Minnesota Gophers as a True Freshman?

Koi Perich, Minnesota Gophers Football
Credit: Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Gophers

The Minnesota Gophers football team is not that far away from playing the first game of its 2024 season. In fact, their first game will be just 7 weeks away this Thursday. That’s less than 50 days. And the squad that hits the field at Huntington Bank Stadium on August 29 vs the UNC Tar Heels will look A LOT different than the one we saw last season.

The most obvious changes are expected to be on offense, where a revamped and modernized PJ Fleck scheme is supposed to debut with a new general under center, in 5th year transfer QB Max Brosmer. But there are plenty of changes to the Golden Gophers defense too, where much of the secondary will look new.

Especially at safety, where Minnesota is trying to replace 2nd round NFL Draft pick, Tyler Nubin, one of the top safeties in the country for the last two seasons. That won’t be easy either, given that they don’t have a clear replacement.

One option at safety for 2024 Minnesota Gophers is true freshman, Koi Perich.

One option, though, will be true freshman Koi Perich. Remember him? He’s a true freshman from Esko, MN who landed in Dinkytown as one of the highest-rated signees in Gopher football history. Perich chose to stay home over attending helmet schools that were obsessed with the 4-star safety, specifically Ohio State.

Perich is an absolute freak athlete who shows out, no matter who is on the field with him. That included the All-American Bowl. There, among some of the best high school football players in the country, Perich blocked a punt and snagged an interception on his way to winning the game’s MVP award.

There’s no doubt Perich is the future at safety, in Minnesota. But is the future now? How likely is it that we see the local phenom roaming the secondary at Huntington Bank Stadium on August 29? Well, we can’t know that until the end of August, when games are being played.

Don’t hold your breath…

Well… don’t count on it. Koi Perich was a three sport high school athlete, and stayed in high school up in Esko to graduate with his classmates and compete in track in the spring. Because of that, he did not make it to the University of Minnesota Campus until this summer, and only recently started practicing with the team. And when Perich did arrive, he was recovering from a track injury.

Related: Gophers Fly ‘Row The Boat’ Banner Over Koi Perich State Tournament Game

Thus, according to Ryan Burns (247Sports), taking over as the starting free safety by late August is next to impossible. Special teams, maybe…

I know fans want instant gratification and want to see Minnesota boy Koi Perich starting as a true freshman, but I will continue tempering expectations for the short term. If Perich had been a January enrollee, it’d be different, but he came in the summer and wasn’t healthy after a track injury in late May. The path to a full-time spot will be more difficult, but I could see him earning a third-down or special teams role. That’s very much in the realm of more likely possibilities. 

Ryan Burns – 247Sports

Burns names redshirt sophomore Coleman Bryson, who looked competent in a few starting opportunities last season after injuries pushed Nubin down to strong safety, as the leader in the clubhouse to start week one. Redshirt freshman, Kerry Brown, is another option.

Never say never with Koi Perich

Of course, Koi Perich didn’t commit to the University of Minnesota so he can sit on the bench. As soon as that kid is ready to play, he is going to play. If he is able to learn the defense and prove himself as the better option by week one vs UNC, he will play. It’s up to him.

Related: Koi Perich’s Athleticism and Leadership Shine Through on the Basketball Court

If not, he will have plenty of opportunities to earn playing time, as the season goes on. It’s not every season that PJ Fleck snags a talent like Perich. He isn’t going to let him spoil. Nonetheless, there isn’t a soul on this planet outside of campus who knows more about Gopher football than Ryan Burns. So until he says differently, we can assume Koi has a lot of catching up to do before he can think about finding the field on game day.

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