We get to the most important position on the field. Your 2018 quarterback is one who has never taken a snap at the collegiate level. And your backup quarterback is one who has never taken a snap at the collegiate level. Is it possible for that to result in an upgrade at this position?
WHO IS GONE
Last year the Gophers were replacing a 3-year starter and it was to be a transition year at this position. The quarterback duties ended up being split between Conor Rhoda and Demry Croft with each of them starting 6 games. Rhoda began the season under center, he was the walk-on senior and the safe choice. Unspectacular in his 6 starts Rhoda also made fewer mistakes. Croft was the electric choice who made some significant plays with his legs, setting a school record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 183 against Nebraska.
Rhoda graduated. Croft had trouble buying into the culture under coach Fleck and he chose to transfer. Leaving a void at quarterback for the Gophers in year two of Fleck.
Nobody returns who has any college snaps on their resume. The only returning, scholarship quarterback is Tanner Morgan. Morgan was added to the 2017 recruiting class after Fleck was hired. He redshirted last fall and is expected to be your starting quarterback. Besides having a solid spring game, very little is known about Morgan and it is very difficult to project what to expect.
WHO IS ADDED
The only quarterback added to the roster is technically a walk-on. Zack Annexstad is a very interesting newcomer. The southern Minnesota native spent the last two seasons at the prestigious IMG Academy where he eventually took over the starting job last fall. Annexstad eventually earned himself some scholarship offers from Power 5 programs but decided that he wanted to walk-on at Minnesota. The true freshman enrolled in January, was here for the spring game and very well may challenge Morgan for the starting job. Regardless if he starts early or not, he is unlikely to redshirt and will be needed.
Well, there is not a lot at this position to scream that it is a slam-dunk upgrade. But 2017 was also very uninspiring at this position. Is the combination of Morgan and Annexstad going to be better than the combination of Rhoda and Croft? I really don’t know. Croft had the ability to be a game-breaker with his legs, there is nobody on the roster this year who looks capable of that. But I think you will see better passing from the 2018 quarterbacks.
Lack of any game experience is a big concern. Throwing with some accuracy is one thing. But neither Morgan or Annexstad have been tested against a Big Ten defense, had to read and made adjustments in a Big Ten stadium, have shown what kind of a decision maker they are at game speed nor have they shown if they are capable of being leaders in the huddle.
Is it an upgrade? I’d like to think so. I really hope so. I think it has to be.