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Minnesota Football: Spring Position Preview - Wide Receiver

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Tyler Johnson leads a young receiving corps rich in talent and potential

Miami Ohio v Minnesota Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

I say, “SPRING,” you say, “POSITION PREVIEWS!”

I say, “SPRING,” you say, “POSITION PREVIEWS!”

That’s right. The hiatus is over. Football is back! Well, the spring version of football, at least. And in the weeks leading up to the Minnesota Golden Gophers’ spring game at 11 a.m. on Saturday, April 13, at TCF Bank Stadium, we’ll be breaking down each position group.

Key Departure(s): None
Key Returner(s): Tyler Johnson, Rashod Bateman, Chris Autman-Bell, Demetrius Douglas, Erik Gibson, Jornell Manns, and Harry Van Dyne
Early Enrollee(s): Mike Brown-Stephens and Peter Udoibok

I’m not sure if you’re familiar with Tyler Johnson, but the Gophers’ All-Big Ten receiver is back for his senior season. He had a career year in 2018, recording a team-leading 78 receptions en route to breaking the school records for most receiving yards (1,169) and receiving touchdowns (12) in a single season. Johnson also became the program’s first 1,000-yard receiver since 2008 and only the fourth receiver in Minnesota history to record at least 10 touchdowns in a single season.

Put simply: He good.

But wait, there is more! Yes, the Gophers actually have more than one legitimate receiving threat. Sophomore Rashod Bateman will lead the pack after setting the school’s single-season freshman record with 51 receptions to go along with 704 receiving yards and six touchdowns. The biggest improvement for Bateman will be a year in the weight room. There were plays last year that could have been extended if not for arm or shoestring tackles.

Behind Bateman, redshirt sophomores Chris Autman-Bell and Demetrius Douglas are both young receivers that continue to show promise. Autman-Bell, especially, came on strong late last season, finishing with 28 receptions for 449 receiving yards.

The ones to watch this spring are Erik Gibson and Mike Brown-Stephens. Gibson was a top scout team performer last fall, but was too banged up with an unspecified injury to participate in the first open spring practice. The coaching staff is very high on early enrollee Mike Brown-Stephens, with some foreseeing him contributing on the field as early as this fall.

Redshirt freshman Jornell Manns won’t be available this spring while he recovers from an ACL tear, and I’ve not heard much about Harry Van Dyne or Peter Udoibok.

Next: Seth Green