Some things in life are predictable. Ohio State week here at OTE will always be after Minnesota week. People all across the Midwest will speak wistfully about shoveling snow during the summer, forgetting that they spend all winter talking about mowing the lawn. And Minnesota’s offense will rely on running the ball more than nearly any non-service academy school and hitting timely passes to keep a 2nd safety high so that the offense can continue to pound the rock. If you wanted something boring in life, it’d be rather comforting.
Tanner Morgan is back. Again. The 6th year SR returns for one last lap season full of always handing off on a play where he’s got a run option, and that’s just fine. The last two seasons haven’t been kind, only going 255/433 (58.9%) for 3,418 yards with 17 touchdowns and 14 INT. That’s pretty jarring when you remember that his first two seasons had him going 299/470 (63.6%) for 4,654 yards, 39 TD, and 13 INT. So what happened since the Outback Bowl and COVID ruined everything? Well Tyler Johnson and Rashod Bateman have left the program, and OC Mike Sanford happened. The bad news? Johnson and Bateman aren’t coming through that door. But Mike Sanford’s useless ass has been catapulted, and you may have to forgive Gopher fans for thinking that we now have the perfect man to recapture the magic of the beginning of Morgan’s career.
If anything happens to Morgan, the next man up will probably be either RS FR Athan Kaliakmanis or FR Jacob Knuth. Personally, I’m hoping it’d be the former because he’s got an extra year of experience in the program and I love mispronouncing “Kaliakmanis.” RS JR Cole Kramer will see the field quite a bit as well because he’s the wildcat QB and Minnesota always needs to have a wildcat QB I guess.
Anyway, back to Morgan. Entering the fall, he’s 2,845 yards and 15 touchdowns behind Adam Weber’s all-time marks for Gopher QBs. He’s also 24 INT, but I seriously doubt he makes a run at that record. Even being in position to set these records while playing for teams that aren’t constantly down early every week is a testament to his excellent overall performance throughout his entire career.
Mo Ibrahim is back. Again. And if you thought I was a little mushy about Morgan, oh man you should probably skip this paragraph. I am both ridiculously excited and quite apprehensive about Ibrahim’s return after exploding his leg in the 3rd quarter against Ohio State last fall after gaining 163 yards on 30 carries and 2 TDs in a really impressive effort. That sucked, because he was coming off one of the most impressive seasons I’ve ever seen and he deserved to get All-American and Heisman (don’t worry, he wasn’t going to win it) talk. He entered the year within reasonable distance of Darrell Thompson’s career marks for rushing yards and TDs by a Gopher RB, and those are still possible. But they just don’t feel as likely. Hopefully he’s fully healed and ready to go and gets the last hurrah he deserves.
After Ibrahim went down, SO Trey Potts took over and got himself 552 yards and 6 TDs before getting injured towards the end of the Purdue game in week 5 with a season-ending upper body injury. And now he’s back too, so the Gophers should have one of the more impressive 1-2 punches in the B1G if everyone is healthy and ready to go. IF.
Freshmen Ky Thomas and Mar’Keise Irving picked up the slack and showed that they could be absolutely electric RBs as well, but both jumped into the portal following the season and are now dead to us. RIP in peace and stuff.
The most likely candidate to be the 3rd RB is FR Zach Evans. Hopefully we don’t need to use him as much as some of his predecessors immediately, but he’s got some real upside and isn’t completely useless in pass blocking based on the spring game so I’m sure he’ll be a star too eventually.
Chris Autman-Bell is back. Again.
Sorry. I really do need to stop doing that, but it’s not my fault. Nobody really expected there to be 3 6th year players leading the offence.
Autman-Bell has proven himself to be an excellent WR in his own right...when he’s healthy. The problem is that it’s easy to hide his injury problems when you’ve got a couple NFL WRs on the field too. It’s not as easy when Dylan Wright and Mike Brown-Stephens aren’t quite legends like the last guys. They’re perfectly OK receivers, but they haven’t been consistent enough at all and that’s going to be a key to this fall. Those guys need to make plays all game long, all season long and not just a few jaw-dropping highlights sprinkled throughout the year.
Did I put the OL and TEs together for a reason? Yup.
Conner Olson? Gone. Sam Schlueter? Gone. Blaise (of steel) Andries? Gone. Daniel Faalele? Gone.
Ko MF’ing Kieft? Gone.
That’s a lot of snaps and a lot of talent that’s no longer with the team.
On the plus side, John Michael Schmitz returns. He’s been one of the best centers in the country for a couple seasons now, and having him back is a great place to start. Transfers Chuck Filiaga and Quinn Carroll should be counted on to hold down two more starting spots. Then you throw Axel Ruschmeyer back into the starting lineup and add talented “youngster” Aireontae Ersery and you’ve got what should be a perfectly good OL to do what Minnesota wants to do. Throw in 6’7” 270 lbs of Brevyn Spann-Ford at TE and you’ve got a group that should be perfectly capable of running the ball quite a bit.
And now we get to the interesting part. Following the 2019 season Kirk Ciarrocca left Minnesota for Penn State, and it sounds like he didn’t get a fruit basket from PJ Fleck on his way out of town. Then 2020 happened and he didn’t get time to implement anything at PSU and he got catapulted by James Franklin after one season...for reasons? He spent last fall as an analyst for West Virginia while his replacement at Minnesota had a QB who’s built for quick reads and quick passes throwing YOLOballs downfield at a ridiculous rate. It was a stupid time for everyone. Then Sanford got fired. And then...out of nowhere Ciarrocca got rehired. I was shocked. I was stunned. I was pleasantly surprised that Fleck was able to rebuild the bridge.
Minnesota fans already know what we’re getting from Roc. The running game will be front and center, so that won’t change. Good old rock, nothing beats rock. But instead of a vertical passing attack that’s not fit for anyone on the roster, I’d expect that we’ll return to a heavy dose of slants into openings that the defense give us and everyone in TCF Bank Stadium knowing if it’s going to be a run or a pass based on if there’s one safety or two.
And I can’t wait. I just hope he remembers that they can do more than just run inside zone in the non-conference slate, because there’s somebody coming up for a visit in week one that deserves the most impolite greeting Gopher fans can offer him.
Will either Morgan or Ibrahim re-write the Gopher career record books?
This poll is closed
Yup! Tanner Morgan.
You betcha! Mo Ibrahim.
I’m feeling a bit squirrely and think both will.
Nope. Bad things, man.