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Minnesota Football: P.J. Fleck shares process for hiring next defensive coordinator

Fleck must find a replacement to fill the shoes of Joe Rossi

Michigan State v Minnesota Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

It’s been six days since Michigan State made official the hiring of Joe Rossi as their new defensive coordinator and linebackers coach. Rossi had spent the previous five years holding the same positions at Minnesota and his departure has left a significant hole in head coach P.J. Fleck’s coaching staff. Many Gopher fans are eager to see how Fleck fills it.

Well Fleck has a message for those waiting on an announcement, and it’s a message he has also shared with his team: “Be patient. It’s going to be a little while.”

At his National Signing Day press conference Wednesday morning, Fleck said he would like to have a new defensive coordinator hired by the first week in January. He emphasized that his focus now turns to the Quick Lane Bowl and then he’ll meet with candidates face to face.

“I owe it to our team to do the due diligence necessary to find them the best leader of the defense, and our [coaching] staff has been incredibly supportive of that,” Fleck said. He currently has three full-time defensive coaches on staff — defensive line coach Winston DeLattiboudere, cornerbacks coach Nick Monroe, and safeties Danny Collins — and all three are expected to return.

“This isn’t about wholesale change or a philosophical belief system. We’re not going to necessarily do that,” Fleck explained. “We’re going to find somebody that’s very similar to us, but also can add a lot of value that can make our defense better.”

He went on to describe his ideal defensive coordinator candidate as an “incredible leader” who is “really intelligent” and has “great presence.” But “fit” is his most important criteria, and his defensive coaches will go a long way towards evaluating that.

“No matter what, it’s fit. It’s gotta fit. And that’s why I involve my staff,” Fleck said. “Because it’s about the connection of the room too. Not some dictatorship. That’s not what this is. We all work together. We’re all one. And the number one thing that connects a locker room [and] a staff is gratitude. And we’re gonna find somebody really grateful to be here. That wants to be here. That puts Minnesota at the highest branch and the highest level.

“And that’s what Minnesota deserves. And that’s what we’re going go find.”