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Thursday, March 30, 2023

How Gophers midfielder Jack Gibbens seduces P.J. Fleck

The general addition and play of Gophers midfielder Jack Gibbens draws in head coach P.J. Fleck.

Gibbens, who left Abilene Christian at FCS level, leads Minnesota with a total of 48 tackles in seven games, and the 22-year-old has been instrumental in U’s defense with less than 20 points per game this season.

“(Gibbens) is tempted to constantly go to this (transfer) portal to find someone like him every year,” Fleck said on his KFAN radio show earlier this month.

The Gophers have had success in transfers in previous years, with three previous successes being full-backs Chris Williamson and Benjamin Saint-Just, and defensive tackle by O. Jay Smith.

Gibbens leads a six-member group this season, which also includes defense linemen Niles Pinckney and Val Martin, successor Dylan Wright, kicker Matthew Trickett and striker Carter Shaw.

“We are a developmental program (for high school recruits), but with a translation portal, you still have to take advantage of this to fill some key holes,” Fleck said. “We may have done this more than we have done in the past, but you can use it more than ever in the past to find what works for you.”

After Gibbens’ season-record game of 34-16 over Maryland 34-16 last week, Fleck admitted that there is a perennial question of how “are they going to fit.”

“(Gibbens) looked like an adjacent amoeba and we just changed shape – that’s all we did,” Fleck said. “It was perfect. It was a perfect match. Again, we’re all in good shape here, constantly saying, ‘fit, fit, fit’. Recruiting has to change, fit. We’re going to go there and fit in.”

Gibbens played 39 games for Abilene Christian, including 28 starts. Gophers Defense Coordinator Joe Rossi said Gibbens opposed FBS-level competition, most notably against Virginia, helped U believe he could play in the Big Ten, and offered him a scholarship.

Gibbens started with two tackles, losing 45-31 to Ohio at the opening of the season – that remains a seasonal low – but he said he didn’t feel overwhelmed against the then – No. 5 Buckeyes on national television.

“The atmosphere was amazing,” Gibbens said in September of the sold out Huntington Bank Stadium. “Our fans were incredible. It was super cool to go out there. … But as soon as the game started, it’s just football. It’s the same game. I think I got used to it pretty quickly.

Gibbens, who is on the list at 6’4 ” and 245 pounds, was credited with 22 stoppages that represent a failure in offense, including the top five of the season against Maryland and Nebraska. One of them was that he blew up the screen passage against the Terrapins.

“Direct our eyes to the right place,” explained Rossi. “The keywords you must enter and the diagnosis of the piece. Then you can do it at a really high speed. This comes from instinct # 1.

“It’s not something out of pure athleticism,” continued Rossi, also U’s midfielder coach. “He wouldn’t be at the highest level of athleticism if I was judging the midfielder, but his instincts and his ability to hit his hips are at a higher level. That’s why he can be such an experienced ball picker. ”

Rossi has put Gibbens with Blake Cashman and Kamal Martin, two current NFL players, as the best attackers Rossi has had since taking on the U defense in mid-2018.

Gibbens is the best success story coming out of this transfer portal cycle and U will be returning to it before next season. This could happen when the rest of the 2022 recruiting class subscribes in December or after spring training.

“You can sign your entire recruiting class and know where you are, and then you have six veterans left in April,” Fleck said of possible outgoing transfers or other departures. “Then how are you going to replace him with a real freshman? This is where the transfer portal can play a little more than usual, not only for us, but for the whole country. ”

Since eligibility does not count in 2020 due to the pandemic, which players will return in 2022 remains a guessing game. But one position that is likely to be the next necessity is the attack line, where potentially all five players are gone.

They invited Shaw from Utah last year, but this year he hasn’t contributed. Fleck reckons they may be good ahead next year, but they won’t have the immense experience they relied on to pave the way for this year’s constantly revamped runner’s stable.

Fleck said he is constantly predicting what the roster will be like two years from now, and in the meantime, he and his staff will look for more Gibbens-like players.

“You have to adapt to the rules, but you’d like to have 11 Jack Gibbens if you can,” Fleck said. “Just a type of people, not just a translation.”

World Nation News Desk
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