MINNEAPOLIS- Minnesota head coach PJ Fleck announced the addition of several new staff members, including the return of a recent great Gopher.
Former Minnesota linebacker Thomas Barber will be a defensive graduate assistant along with Christian Pawola, while Angel Matute and Nick Faus will work on the offensive side of the ball as graduate assistants.
Barber spent last season as linebackers coach at the University of Augsburg after a stellar career at Minnesota. A four-year winner with the Golden Gophers, Barber finished his career with 274 tackles (167 solo), 19.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, two interceptions, four forced fumbles and finished tied for second in school history with seven fumble recoveries. He earned third-team All-Big Ten honors in 2017 as a sophomore, while as a senior he was named All-Big Ten Honorable Mention. Barber is a two-time Academic All-Big Ten winner and has won several team accolades, including the 2019 RTB Trust Award and the Neil Fredenburg Award (Courage and Love of the Game) in 2017 and 2018.
A native of Sycamore, Illinois, Pawola was most recently the linebackers coach at Thiel College, a DIII program in Greenville, Pennsylvania, for the 2021 season. A 2020 graduate of Minnesota, Pawola served as an assistant student defensive coach with the Gophers for two seasons. Pawola reported directly to the defensive coordinator Joe Rossiwho served as defensive coordinator at Thiel from 2003 to 2006. Under Rossi’s tutelage, Pawola worked with Minnesota linebackers, provided information on opponent tendencies and personnel, and broke down game footage .
Matute (muh-TOOT-ay) was a high school quarterback in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., but started his college career at Golden West College as a tight end, catching 15 passes for 145 yards and two scores, with an average of 9.7 yards per catch. He transferred to Mt. San Antonio College where he switched positions and earned first-team all-conference honors as an offensive lineman. Matute then landed in Missouri where he appeared in a game in 2019 before taking a medical redshirt ahead of the 2020 season, ending his career. He became a student assistant and graduated in 2021 to become the first in his family to graduate.
Faus comes to Minnesota from West Virginia where he spent last season as a special teams L.M. Prior to that, he was at Western Michigan for four years. Faus joined the Broncos’ staff in July 2017 and served as an offensive graduate assistant in 2020, working primarily in the team’s skill positions. During the 2018 and 2019 seasons, Faus was mostly with the team’s defensive units. Prior to his coaching career, Faus served as a quarterback for four years (2013-16) at St. Joseph’s College (Indiana). He received his bachelor’s degree in exercise science from St. Joseph’s in 2017.
Isa spent last season as a special teams trainee where he helped Rob Wenger with all job group related activities and recruiting tasks. He also assisted scouting special teams and generated weekly scouting reports on opposing special teams. Prior to that, Isa was at Eastern Michigan where he was a defensive analyst before being promoted to a GA with the linebackers.
Bindelglass joined the Minnesota football team as a defensive graduate assistant in the summer of 2019 and now works in quality control on the defensive side of the ball. Bindelglass also spent time at Bryant University and Holy Cross. After playing cornerback and being a student assistant at Tufts, Bindelglass transitioned into a full-time coaching role after graduation. He was part of the team that ended a 31-game losing streak and finished 7-1 with a second-place finish at NESCAC in 2017. Bindelglass worked with the secondary during that streak.
Sheehan comes to Minnesota from nearby Hamline University where he was the assistant head football coach and offensive coordinator since 2017. He also served as the offensive line coach and punt team coordinator at Hamline from March 2016 to February 2017. Sheehan helped Hamline to two of his best seasons in the last 25 years (2016 and 2021), worked with a record quarterback and coordinated a top-notch red zone offense.
Fleck also announced that Chef Kramer was promoted to Director of Recruitment Operations and that the program added two more staff members to the Recruitment Department. Drew Smith will be the personnel and recruiting assistant, and Chandler Buning will be the recruiting and administrative assistant.
Smith graduated in 2015 from Northwestern University. An Academic All-Big Ten award winner, he played linebacker for the Wildcats, starting 20 of the 50 games he appeared in with 144 career tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss and 5.0 sacks. After working for Frito-Lay for five years after graduating, Smith returned to football last season at his alma mater as an operations intern. Among his duties, he coordinated the movement of coaches during recruitment periods, planned recruitment strategies during official visits and tracked entries in the transfer portal. Smith also spent time this year in Eastern Michigan as a recruiting and operations assistant.
A graduate of North Dakota in 2015, Buning comes to Minnesota from Hawaii where she spent the past two seasons as assistant director of football operations and recruiting. In this role, she was the day-to-day administrative assistant to the head coach and director of football operations. Her responsibilities included coordinating schedules, events and meetings, as well as assisting the Chief of Staff with budgets, rules and regulations as they relate to recruitment operations and all aspects of travel. Prior to Hawaii, Buning served as a football marketing and recruiting assistant at Army West Point for three years.