By David McCoy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When P.J. Fleck took over the program and did his initial evaluation of what he was inheriting, one thing stood out as abundantly clear: Running backs were way ahead of the rest.

“I’ll be honest with you, that’s one of the only positions we have depth at,” Fleck said.

Which, if you were gonna have to pick just one, it certainly wouldn’t be the worst place to start, given what Fleck likes to do. A two-back system has always been part of Fleck’s philosophy.

“Yeah Jim Tressel told me one thing before I left Ohio State University, and he said, ‘P.J., just so you know, if you ever become a head coach, you cannot have enough backs.’ It’s true. It’s one of the most violent positions. And it’s a long season,” Fleck said.

So good thing the Gophers have two pretty good ones in Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks. Fleck has been impressed with them thus far this spring.

“Rodney and Shannon both, they showed why, I think one, they’re really good backs, and how they can continue to become elite,” Fleck said. “Boy I tell you what, they got how now. They got how. They make some runs too that it’s like, wow.”

If the Gophers are to have success on offense this year, it’ll have to be through a great ground game.

“They depend on us to make big plays, we get the ball a lot, and a two-back system is what they run, and they need two backs, at least two backs, to produce in the system. And I like it. I like that they depend on the running backs a lot,” Smith said.

“The way we run our system, we want speed, we want freshness, we want aggressiveness, we want mental toughness, we want physical play,” Fleck said.

Row the Boat? How about Run the Ball?


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