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B1G 2023: Minnesota’s New-Look Old-Look Offense

The Gophers offense get a fresh coat of paint and prepares to chug along.

Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’d be an understatement to say that I’ve been on autopilot for a bit when writing the Minnesota offensive previews. The formula has been the same for PJ Fleck, who is somehow now the 2nd-longest tenured coach in the West: Run the ball, throw slants out of play action/RPO, and make other teams pay for selling out to stop the run. It was that way when Fleck arrived with Kirk Ciarrocca, it was that way when Roc left and Mike Sanford replaced him, it was that way when Sanford was catapulted into the sun and Roc came back, and it’ll be that way with the new co-OC duo of WR coach Matt Simon and TE coach Greg Harbaugh. Since I need to stretch this out a bit, let’s take a look at the changes and my uneducated guesses at the new faces trying to score enough points to keep Joe Rossi from rage-killing random people.


I went back and looked, and I’ve been writing Tanner Morgan’s name in this section since B1G 2018. Back then, Morgan was one of three candidates alongside Zack Annexstad (currently still on the roster at Illinois State) and Vic Viramontes (just signed with IBM Big Blue of Japan’s X League). Morgan’s been reasonably consistent (9,500 yards and 65 TDs), but time waits for no man so he’s moved on to a CPA firm roster position with the Pittsburgh Steelers? I need somebody to fact-check this for me, because it feels like one of the more absurd things I’ve ever written.

Now that he’s gone, Athan Kaliakmanis will be taking the job full-time. He had some downs (2/6 with 2 INT against Illinois) to go along with the ups (carving wisconsin up like a thanksgiving parrot, starting 7/9 for 80 yards against Syracuse in the shitass NYC bowl game) but that’s to be expected of a freshman QB. Kaliakmanis has the best arm of any Gopher QB since Cory Sauter, and will be able to open the passing game more easily than anyone at Minnesota in a very long time.


Holy shit, Mo Ibrahim is gone.

The greatest Gopher RB of all time has finally exhausted his eligibility and gone to the NFL, and he’s going to be impossible to replace. But since college football does require us to try, there’s 3 guys who will be vying for carries: RS FR Zach Evans, FR Darius Taylor, and SR Sean Tyler (transfer from Western Michigan). All three are more of a home run threat than Ibrahim was, but so were Trey Potts, Ky Thomas, and Mar’Keise Irving before they all left. The biggest problem each of them had was that they couldn’t get the hard yards nearly every time like Ibrahim. Whoever can be counted on to gain yards after contact will get the bulk of the snaps, and the other two will get plenty of carries because we’re still playing in the B1G and nobody survives unscathed.


Noted glass cannon Chris Autman-Bell arrived on campus with Morgan and Ibrahim in 2017, but unlike them he’s still here. Provided that he doesn’t get hurt in practice or throwing out the first pitch at a White Sox game, he’ll lead the group that’ll also need big contributions from Charlotte transfer Elijah Spencer, WMU transfer Corey Crooms, and the menagerie of Le’Meke Brockington, Daniel Jackson, and Kristen Hoskins. Gopher WRs have been maddeningly inconsistent since Rashod Bateman departed early for the Ravens, with the inability to create separation mixed in with random dropsies to make things more difficult than they needed to be. I want to believe, but I’ve been burnt a few times hoping things were about to turn the corner.


We’re good here. Brevyn Spann-Ford is really good, and Nick Kallerup and Jameson Geers are pretty decent too.


Hoooboy. Axel Ruschmeyer (LG), John Michael Schmitz (C), and Chuck Filiaga (RG) started every game last year, and they’re gone. Aireontae Ersery (LT) and Quinn Carroll (RT) started every game too, but they’re back so I don’t have some random exasperated comment here. There’s experience returning with Nathan Boe, Martes Lewis, and JJ Guedet all having appeared in at least 10 games, transfer Karter Shaw arrives from Utah State, and Tyler Cooper has snaps in a handful of games as well. I have no idea how things shake out, but there’s plenty of size and skill and experience. And it’d be absurd to not point out that OL Coach Brian Callahan has done a great job turning the gaping chest wound that was the OL under Brewster, Kill, and Claeys into a unit that can actually be counted on to contribute positively.

So that’s what we have right now. A handful of names and a bunch of shrugging. Hopefully there aren’t any more surprises and we can get to football season without having to subtract names from the list.