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Minnesota Football: Spring Position Preview - Tight Ends

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The Gophers will look to a solid group of tight ends to replace two seniors who anchored the position for four years

NCAA Football: Illinois at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Golden Gophers will take on the Golden Gophers of Minnesota in a spring game showdown at noon on Saturday, April 14, at TCF Bank Stadium. Leading up to the game, we’ll be taking a look at the outlook for each position group.

Key Departure(s): Brandon Lingen and Nate Wozniak
Key Returner(s): Colton Beebe, Ko Kieft, Bryce Witham, and Jake Paulson
Early Enrollee(s): None

Gone are graduating seniors Brandon Lingen and Nate Wozniak, who combined to start 55 games over the last four years. The pair were not much of a factor in the passing game last season, combining for 18 receptions, but excelled in run blocking.

It remains to be seen how much offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca will utilize tight ends in the passing game, but the addition of new tight ends coach Clay Patterson could add a new wrinkle to the offensive game plan. The Gophers’ best pass-catching option at tight end would be redshirt freshman Jake Paulson, whose run blocking needs work but has benefitted from a year in the weight room adding upper body strength. As a receiver, he can work up the seam and add a new element to the vertical passing game.

Redshirt sophomore Ko Kieft appears to have a tight grip on the starting spot, but both he and redshirt junior Colton Beebe have been hobbled with injuries this spring. The opportunity is there for redshirt junior Bryce Witham to seize more playing time, but I would expect to see a heavy dose of Kieft and Beebe this season, as long as they’re healthy.

He won’t arrive until the fall, but freshman tight end Brevyn Spann-Ford will add an infusion of athleticism to the position group. He’ll challenge Paulson as the top receiving tight end on the roster, with the speed and athleticism to change direction and the length to attack the ball and come down with contested catches.

Next: Offensive Line