Gophers offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca encouraged by progress

August 8, 2018

To Kirk Ciarrocca, a football offense can be a thing of beauty, something to appreciate and savor.

Its kind of like an orchestra, the Gophers offensive coordinator said Tuesday. Everybodys got to play together and stay in tune. An orchestra sounds terrible when one person is not in tune.

And six practices into Gophers training camp, Ciarrocca isnt ready to equate his offense to the New York Philharmonic, but he sees signs of his charges being capable of making some good music.

The thing Im encouraged about in these first few practices is their ability to retain, Ciarrocca said. When we started training camp, they were better than they were at the end of spring ball. Theres a summer program, but they run it. They organize the whole thing. We [coaches] cant be with them at all.

That was the first thing that jumped out at me, and thats what I wanted to see.

How well Ciarroccas offense will perform hinges on the two young quarterbacks redshirt freshman Tanner Morgan and true freshman Zack Annexstad who are competing for the starting job. Both have been resilient while absorbing the offense.

Theres a lot on their plate mentally, Ciarrocca said. The thing Ive been impressed most about is theyve been able to handle it. Has it been perfect? No. But usually, if a quarterback melts down, it just looks awful out there. He cant do anything right. Ive not seen that yet, and thats encouraging, thats exciting.

Coach P.J. Fleck isnt nearly ready to name his starter for the Aug. 30 season opener against New Mexico State. Theres still the first scrimmage next week, likely Tuesday, and much evaluating to do.

I cannot tell you whos got the lead, Fleck said. Its that close.

Teachable moment

Early during Tuesdays practice, Annexstad had an error when calling the snap count, which caused a false start. Ciarrocca pulled Annexstad out of the second-team drill for some one-on-one instruction and had Morgan run a few plays.

Were just not going to allow fatigue mental errors. And thats what that was with Zack on that particular play, Ciarrocca said, pointing to an error in cadence. And honestly, thats the first one hes had in three days, because I track it.

More playmakers

Ciarrocca didnt hesitate in responding when asked to compare the level of playmakers on this team with last years Gophers.

Oh, theres no comparison, he said. The growth these guys have had it would be laughable to make a comparison.

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