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Minnesota Football spring game recap

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We got some answers to some of the big questions of the spring.

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Michigan Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Well that was fun! A frontrunner in the QB1 race emerged, Coach Fleck surprised a walk-on with a scholly during a “video replay”, and Tyler Johnson remains very good at catching footballs. Sure, the Gold team also beat the Maroon team 24-20, but if we’re honest that’s not what really mattered. What mattered was whether we’d get answers to some key questions facing the Gophers this spring. The good news? In many cases we did! The bad news? You won’t like some of them.

Will one of the QB’s step up coming out of the spring?

Yes, and his name is Tanner Morgan. Without a question, Tanner had the best game of the day. He played every snap for the Maroon team while both Zach Annexstad and Vic Viramontes split time at QB for the gold team (Zach took the first series FWIW).

I was really impressed with Tanner’s play (18-28 for 272 and 2 TD’s). He was the most accurate, threw multiple good balls in stride to his receivers, and displayed a good pocket presence. When he faced pressure he consistently found the right angle to escape to gain more yards with a scramble run or to set up his wide receivers for a pass (Tyler Johnson’s highlight reel TD that we’ll get to in a minute was set up by a Tanner scramble). He even ran a great 2 minute drill for Maroon’s first TD at the end of the first half.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to oversell the kid. This is still a spring game and what we can take from it is still fairly limited. But he was the best QB on the field today by a noticeable margin and I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw.

If I had to summarize Zach Annexstad in one word then I’d say raw. He started slow but came on late, finishing 11-18 for 186 and a TD. Zach still needs time to grow and will definitely redshirt. That said he did have some good throws down the stretch (including a really nice one to Chris Autman-Bell) while leading a TD drive in the 4th quarter.

To describe Vic Viramontes I’d say inconsistent. Vic is a smooth runner and that part of his game seems ready to go. Throwing the ball though, he didn’t show much. He also seemed to have an issue with fumbles today. If Vic ends up taking the QB1 job it will require him to show much more than he did today.

Interestingly, Fleck chose to have the QB’s be live (though they did wear anthracite jerseys to make their presence obvious). It made the game feel more “real” and I’m sure it will offer the coaches a better chance to critique/teach with the film. I wouldn’t want to see it every spring, but it seemed to work out this year.

Who will emerge as RB2 behind Rodney Smith?

Mohamed Ibrahim seems like a lock as the #2 running back. Rodney did Rodney things (2 TD’s (5 carries for 67 yards and a TD, 1 reception for 56 yards and a TD) so we’re still set at RB1.

But Ibrahim really stole the show on the Maroon team (19 carries for 104 yards). He’s not a burner or a brute, but he showed a nice ability to find creases, change direction smoothly, and keep his legs running to break tackles. I’ll be shocked if he isn’t the primary replacement for Shannon Brooks this fall.

Do the Gophers have someone to replace Ryan Santoso?

Nope, not yet. Jacob Herbers and Grant Ryerse both struggled badly in their first “game” action at punter this year. Punter has moved way up my list of things to worry about this fall.

Is Daniel Faalele still a gigantic human being?

OMG YES. I really want this dude to figure out the football side of things because he’ll be soooooo much fun to watch if he does.

Who will impress among the young wide receiving corps?

TYLER JOHNSON IS STILL A BEAST Y’ALL.

Yea, TJ is going to remain fun to watch. From everyone else, I really liked what I saw out of Chris Autman-Bell and Demtrius Douglas. Still, we need to see a bit more from everyone not TJ come the fall.

Did any walk-on’s get awarded a scholly today?

Now that you mention it...

Other quick thoughts:

  • It’s really easy for the defense to get overlooked in a scrimmage like this, but I was impressed by both Julian and Jacob Huff. Royal Silver also had a nice sack that made me take notice. And Antonio Shenault had some good coverages that caught my eye.
  • In the spirit of Fleck, he had someone on staff dig around the athletic’s department catacombs to find an old trophy that they could repurpose for the Spring Game. According to BTN it used to belong to the track & field team but after a paint job it may be the new prize for spring games to come. UPDATE: It’s called the Goldy’s Cup. There is also a Sid Hartman Spring Game MVP award now (won by Rodney Smith). Some of you will find this stuff silly and I want to note that you should to lighten up and enjoy the fact that Spring Games are, by definition, pretty silly and pointless affairs and anything that makes them fun is a good thing.
  • Love everyone who made an oar.
  • TD celly’s still need some work tho.

Final stats

Gold Team (click here for full size image on mobile)

Maroon Team (click here for full size image on mobile)

What did you like best about the Spring Game?