Fifth-year senior Conor Rhoda is Minnesota’s unquestioned starting quarterback for the foreseeable future with coach P.J. Fleck announcing that sophomore Demry Croft will not be available for at least this week’s game against Middle Tennessee State.
Rhoda and Croft split time in the Gophers’ first two games, but Fleck announced earlier this week that Rhoda would be the team’s starter moving forward. He later revealed that Croft is away from the team.
While Fleck did not specify what Croft’s situation is, a source told the St. Paul Pioneer-Press that his absence could be indefinite, if not permanent.
“He is dealing with some personal issues that are way, way more important than football, so it’s my job as a head football coach to get him what he needs,” Fleck said. “We are going to help him any way we can. I’m not going to get into that, in respect to his privacy and his personal life.”
Fleck is in his first year as Minnesota’s head coach, and said he is trying to instill a new culture within the football program.
“If you do not do the right thing academically, athletically, socially and spiritually, and you do not uphold the high, high expectations of our culture on and off the field, you will not play,” Fleck said. “And it does not matter who you are.”
Rhoda and Croft battled for the starting job throughout preseason camp and into the season, but Fleck insisted that naming Rhoda the starter on Monday had nothing to do with Croft’s off-field situation.
“Absolutely, this is not a reaction to what had happened,” Fleck said. “Conor was informed of (being named the starter) before.”
Fleck does not want to burn freshman Tanner Morgan’s redshirt year, which means Seth Green is likely to serve as Rhoda’s primary backup.
Croft had a 64-yard touchdown run in last week’s 48-14 victory over Oregon State, and completed 7 of 12 passes for 63 yards in the season opener against Buffalo.
“I want to respect his privacy as much as I can, but again, I’ve made myself clear from Day 1 when I walked in the door that nothing is more important than the culture,” Fleck said. “If you need help in other ways, whatever those ways are, it’s my job as an educator to get you those resources. And that is what I will continue to do for every kid on this football team, if they need that, whether that is a learning specialist or whatever it is. Nothing ever will sacrifice the culture. Winning won’t either, or having two quarterbacks; that will never compromise our culture.”