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Minnesota Football: Robb Smith fired as defensive coordinator

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P.J. Fleck did what had to be done.

Defensive coordinator Robb Smith coaching a linebacker in practice Gopher Sports

It’s official. The Minnesota Gophers have moved on from Robb Smith and will have a new defensive coordinator for the remainder of the 2018 season. It was just announced by the U that P.J. Fleck relieved Smith of his DC duties this evening.

Replacing Smith at coordinator is defensive line coach Joe Rossi. Rossi was named d-line coach this season after serving as a quality control assistant last year. Rossi has several previous stints as a defensive coordinator, including 2 years at Rutgers (2014-2015, plus a couple of games as interim DC in 2013) as well as at Maine from 2009-11 and Thiel College from 2003-06.

I’m sure this was a hard decision for Coach Fleck on a personal level, but on a professional level it absolutely had to be done. The defensive scheme employed by Smith was proving to be a failure against all but the most static of offenses and the linebacker corp that should be a strength of this team was regressing badly under his leadership (Smith was the LB coach in addition to his DC duties).

We should not expect drastic changes for the defense the remainder of the way this year. While we can hope that some schematic adjustments will be made, the fact remains that the Gophers are 75% of the way through their season and drastic shifts in philosophy (and in turn, outcomes) are unlikely at this point. This was a move made for the future of the program under Fleck, as the current defensive play was almost certain to doom his tenure if allowed to continue past this year.