With offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Kirk Ciarrocca departing for Rutgers, where he will reportedly be paid a salary of $1.4 million, Minnesota head football coach P.J. Fleck has opted to look inward for his replacement (or replacements, in this case).
Wide receivers coach Matt Simon will assume play-calling duties but share the title of co-offensive coordinator with Greg Harbaugh Jr., who will transition from tight ends coach to quarterbacks coach. Both will likely see salary increases to reflect their new positions on the staff.
Simon’s ambition to become an offensive coordinator has been clear for some time now. The only question was whether he would get that opportunity at Minnesota. He was first named passing game coordinator prior to the 2019 season, before being promoted to co-offensive coordinator alongside Mike Sanford Jr. ahead of the 2020 season. But Sanford was the primary play-caller in his two seasons with the program. Simon retained the title of co-offensive coordinator when Ciarrocca returned for his second stint with the program this past season.
He has twice stepped in as offensive play-caller in his tenure at Minnesota, first in the Gophers’ 31-24 victory over Auburn in the 2020 Outback Bowl and then again in an 18-6 win against West Virginia in the 2021 Guaranteed Rate Bowl. Now Simon will have the opportunity to call plays on a permanent basis entering his seventh year with the program.
The Athletic’s Mitch Sherman, in a rare bit of Gopher football coverage, profiled Simon in July of last year. Ciarrocca himself was quoted in the article, telling Sherman, “It’s only a matter of time before the whole country knows [Simon].” Minnesota wide receiver Chris Autman-Bell also offered praise for Simon: “That guy’s work ethic, his willingness to be great, the things he’s taught me, what I’ve seen him do, he’s one of the best ever, to me, man.”
Harbaugh is coming off his first season as tight ends coach at Minnesota. He played quarterback in college at Averett University. In his coaching career, Harbaugh served as passing game coordinator in two seasons at Marietta College from 2013-14, and also worked with the quarterbacks in two one-year stints as an offensive quality control assistant at Minnesota.
Harbaugh helped recruit recent quarterback signee Drew Viotto and was instrumental in getting a commitment from Western Michigan transfer wide receiver Corey Crooms.
Fleck stills need to fill vacancies at running backs coach, cornerbacks coach, and now tight ends coach. Winston DeLattiboudere is set to become the Gophers’ next defensive line coach.