In twenty-three days, Minnesota defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys will be calling plays against Lane Kiffin. The Gophers open the season in The Coliseum against USC.
Between now and then, Claeys knows there is a lot of work to be done.
Claeys told the Big Ten Network, “It’s all about accepting roles. It really is. Every time we have taken over, there has been a sense of entitlement by some better players and people don’t fit in the puzzle where they’re supposed to fit and try to make too many plays.”
“If you can convince those kids that they are important and if they do their roles then we’ll be successful then you got a chance.As a coaching staff, you have to be willing to not play them. If they don’t do their job, no matter how good they are. The greatest motivator in the season is playing time.”
Claeys admits he’d like to play well in the first four games, which are all non-conference games, but the focus is on being ready for Big Ten play.
“We want to be ready for the Big Ten season. As long as we’re defining roles in those first four games, that’s what you are playing for. If we can go into the Big Ten games with roles defined and our kids playing hard, we’ll be alright.”
Another challenge for the Gophers’ defensive staff will be adjusting to style of play in the Big Ten. Three of the coaches on the Minnesota staff were with Jerry Kill at Northern Illinois the past several years.
Claeys said, “We came from the MAC, where most people ran the spread. We’re (now) going to have to go five games with people slamming it right at us. That’s something we haven’t had to deal with lately. It’s physical downhill football.”
Before Big Ten play begins, something tells us the Gophers may see power, iso, and an abundance of inside run against the Trojans.