Football Scoop is reporting that Minnesota Golden Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck will not retain offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Sanford Jr. for next season.
Sanford was hired from Utah State prior to the 2020 season after previous offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Kirk Ciarrocca took the same position at Penn State. The Gophers’ offense struggled in his first season as the offensive play-caller, averaging 391 yards of total offense (69th nationally) and 27.3 points per game (71st). Minnesota benefitted from having running back Mohamed Ibrahim in the backfield, who delivered a season worthy of Big Ten Running Back of the Year honors. But the passing game was anemic, even with quarterback Tanner Morgan and future NFL wide receiver Rashod Bateman back. The Gophers ranked 92nd nationally in passing offense, averaging 199.1 yards per game.
This season, Minnesota boasted a strong ground game, even with injuries to Ibrahim, Trey Potts, and Bryce Williams. The Gophers averaged 193.8 rushing yards per game, good enough to rank 31st in the country. But Minnesota’s offense again struggled through the air, ranking 115th nationally in passing offense (166.4 passing yards per game). After passing for 3,253 yards, 30 touchdowns, and seven interceptions in 2019, Morgan has passed for a combined 3,309 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions combined in two seasons under Sanford.
No official announcement has been made, but if Fleck parts ways with Sanford ahead of the bowl game, expect offensive co-coordinator and wide receivers coach Matt Simon to assume play-calling duties for that game, just as he did two years ago in the Outback Bowl.