Minnesota is among the college football teams with the most to prove in spring practices.
The Row the Boat mantra worked at the Group of Five level, as P.J. Fleck and Western Michigan went undefeated in the 2016 regular season. Whether it can be as effective at the Power 5 level was always going to be the key question for Fleck. While most coaches rising from Group of the Five to the power conferences do so with a distinct offensive or defensive scheme, Fleck is doing it with a distinct philosophic scheme. That could certainly work, but it’s a less proven path. Whether Fleck can recruit at a high enough level to make Minnesota a consistent winner in the Big Ten won’t be clear for some time, but the buy-in he gets from his current players in spring practice could be illustrative. This is the same program whose players staged a boycott over 10 players who were suspended after a university investigation into an alleged sexual assault, so unity and trust may require some work.