New Gophers Defensive Coordinator Expected to be an Outside Hire and Soon

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Wisconsin
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Gophers are down a defensive coordinator, after Joe Rossi left for the same job at Michigan State. What is PJ Fleck looking for in his next DC? Most importantly, an “incredible leader”.

New Gophers defensive coordinator will be a great leader, likely from the outside

Fleck wants someone who can lead the defense. Not just the players on that side of the ball, but the coaches too. PJ made it clear in his National Signing Day press conference this week that he likes the foundation of his defense and the new defensive coordinator isn’t going to come in and make wholesale changes.

Related: Minnesota Gophers National Signing Day Signees – 2024

An incredible leader, great presence, really intelligent. And a great connector of people, because that’s the thing. I’ve got three staff members in there. They’re all good. They’re all signed for the following year. So this isn’t like bringing in an entire staff and starting over. We’ve got incredible recruiters and incredible coaches, but you’re looking for that presence in front of the room. That leader in front of the room that’s going to be able to add to what we do.

PJ Fleck on what he’s looking for in the Gophers next DC

While the head coach may not want a completely new identity on defense, he appears determined to hire someone from the outside. Fleck used language like ‘add to what we do‘ and talked about how the new coordinator “won’t be bringing in an entire staff and starting over”.

Minnesota Gophers defensive coaches show talent, lack experience

PJ talked about the three coaches already on defense that he likes, but he must not like them enough to consider promotions to defensive coordinator. Now, part of PJ’s hesitation to promote from within has to do with the age of his assistant coaches on that side of the football.

Their safeties coach, 31-year-old Danny Collins, is expected to call the defense at the Quick Lane Bowl. The defensive line coach, Winston DeLattiboudere, has played more college football in the last three years than he has coached.

Related: Minnesota Gophers Football Transfer Portal Tracker 2023-24

The only defensive coach over the age of 32 is cornerbacks coach and co-defensive coordinator, Nick Monroe, who graduated from my alma mater — the prestigious St. Cloud State University — in 2001 has only been on Minnesota’s staff for one season… and it was the worst defensive season in the last five years.

Does that mean Monroe would be a bad hire? No, but it’s just another reason why an outside hire makes more sense than keeping in in-house. So… who are some rumored candidates? The job has been unfilled for weeks now. Well, there aren’t any real hot rumors out there, mostly because they haven’t started the search yet.

Too much going on to focus on coaching search

minnesota gophers defensive coordinator hire search
Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Why? Because there’s too much going on right now for him to commit the requisite attention needed to operate a proper assistant coaching search. His focus will shift to hiring a new DC, after the bowl game is over.

“I want to be able to give 100% of my attention, like I just did [for recruiting leading up to National Signing Day]. That was 100% of my attention. My mind was nowhere else. For me to be able to put 100% of my attention right now into the hire, I’d be shortchanging our team, our staff, our players and the state of Minnesota.

I have an obligation to make sure that I do my due diligence, and not spottingly. There’s a lot going on right now. We have bowl prep, we got the transfer portal, we got NIL fundraising and we’ve got obviously Signing Day. We got all these things going on. And oh yeah, by the way, you gotta go make an important, really, really massive hire.”

PJ Fleck on when to expect a new DC

As mentioned briefly, earlier in this blog, the Minnesota Gophers bowl game is on December 26 (Quick Lane Bowl) vs the Bowling Green Falcons. Fleck wants to move swiftly once he does shift focus to hiring a new defensive coordinator.

Related: Top In-State 2024 Recruit Koi Perich Officially Signs with Gophers

Expect hire to happen by first week of January

The Gophers would prefer to have a DC in place for January and February recruiting, both in the transfer portal and at the high school level, not to mention eventual preparation for the Spring Game. So, while Fleck is asking for patience, he himself expects a hire to be made in the first week of January.

“I’ve told our team, be patient. It’s going to be a little while. I’d like to be able to have that done in the first week of January, because this is about getting to see people face to face. Again, I owe it to our team to do the due diligence necessary to find them the best leader of the defense, and our staff has been incredibly supportive of that.

PJ Fleck on when to expect a new DC

Here is the entire PJ Fleck presser. He talks about the defensive coordinator hire at the 43-minute mark.

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