Minnesota Golden Gophers receiver and return specialist Demetrius Douglas announced Monday, Oct. 5, he is retiring from the football program, and he could start a trickle of Minnesota players leaving the team this fall.
While star receiver Rashod Bateman being reinstated is a major boon for the Gophers, head coach P.J. Fleck said Monday there could be attrition from others before No. 25 Minnesota’s season opener against No. 20 Michigan at TCF Bank Stadium on Oct. 24.
“There is going to be guys that opt out, guys that opt back in,” Fleck said. “I won’t get into specifics of that because we are still three weeks away from the game.”
Minnesota has not provided an updated team roster since spring practices in early March. “I haven’t given that yet because I’m still waiting on a few more,” Fleck said.
Fleck said he wanted to give players time to make their decisions without added pressure. “Not many,” he clarified. “But I do want to make sure that people have the time to be able to think about what they want to do or if they are going to do that.”
One other departed player is Melle Krueder, a true freshman defensive end from Munich, Germany. As a scholarship member of the 2020 recruiting class, he joined the program as an early enrollee in spring semester, but is not at the university this fall.
Fleck did not want to address other specific players, including persistent questions about the status of two expected starters: right tackle Daniel Faalele and linebacker Braelen Oliver. Fleck later acknowledged Oliver is injured and said he didn’t know how long he would be out.
Offensive guard Curtis Dunlap Jr., announced he would transfer closer to his Florida home in early September, but went back on that decision the next day to say he would be staying at the U. Defensive tackle Malcom Robinson said in August he was transferring out.
Douglas, the son of former Gophers receiver Omar Douglas, was penciled in as a candidate for the U’s third wide receiver spot beside Bateman and Chris Autman-Bell. Douglas had some clutch plays including consecutive receptions to convert a third-and-30 in the comeback victory over Georgia Southern last September and his huge 69-yard punt return for a touchdown in the upset of Wisconsin in Madison in 2018.
“Who could forget the punt return that brought the Axe back after a long, long time from Camp Randall in Wisconsin?” Fleck said. “Just like any of our student-athletes and anyone and whatever hopes, dreams, aspirations they all have, we all support them in that.”
Douglas, who contemplated leaving the program before last season, explained his decision on social media Monday.
“I would like to begin the transition to the next phase of my life’s journey,” he wrote. “While the circumstances and plans for the Big Ten season have recently changed, my priorities and plans for the future have not.”
Douglas had 14 receptions for 157 yards and no touchdowns last season. He returned eight kick returns for 133 yards and 11 punt returns for 37 yards in 2019. A Minnesota native who moved to Portland, Ore., in high school, he will graduate from Minnesota with a communications degree in less than four years.
Douglas’ departure opens the door for true freshmen Doug Emilien and Daniel Jackson, who Fleck has praised as precocious on multiple occasions.