It isn’t every year that I take the time to go position by position and take a look at if the Gopher football team will see an upgrade or a downgrade from last year to this. But time to look position by position to see if this unit is going to be an upgrade or a downgrade.
It is the preseason, optimism abounds. But not every area can be improved, right? Or can it? Starting with quarterback, lets take a look.
Starter: Zack Annestad & Tanner Morgan
Depth: fortunately it didn’t get to this
Last year the Gophers entered the season with two guys who had taken a combined zero snaps at the collegiate level. Two inexperienced quarterbacks is not ideal in college football. The hope at this point a year ago was that one of them would emerge as the clear-cut starter and grow with the offense throughout the season. Well, the two split starts for the season...also not ideal.
Surprisingly enough, the results really were not that bad.
Annexstad was named the starter in August and held down that position for the first seven games of the season until he was injured in the Nebraska game. At that point Morgan took over the starter role and after the Illinois game (coinciding with a change at defensive coordinator and along the offensive line) led the Gophers to a strong finish with wins at Wisconsin and over Georgia Tech in the bowl game.
Believe it or not, these two freshmen quarterbacks combined for the most passing yards in a season since Adam Weber in 2010. This was actually a pretty good season when viewed in the pantheon of Gopher quarterbacks over the last decade.
Surprisingly enough, the quarterback play was pretty good in 2018. Neither of these kids won a game with their arm, but both played well while learning on the job. Each had their struggles but really the team overall had issues bigger than quarterback at a few key areas. These two guys were not the problems in 2018 and you’d be trying awfully hard to complain about their combined performances in 2018.
Starter: Zack Annexstad and/or Tanner Morgan
Depth: Cole Kramer (FR), Jacob Clark (FR)
Both starters return and a couple talented freshmen (who are actually on scholarship) are added to the roster. All is good right? There are certainly still questions, which I’ll get to, but there are some real things to be excited about in 2019.
The jump from freshman to sophomore seasons is often the biggest jump in terms of player improvement. That first year is a huge adjustment learning a complex playbook, new terminology, adjusting to a dramatically different personal schedule, understanding expectations of the coaching staff and so many other minor adjustments...all the the same time. Then as guys who are looked upon to start you are not thrust into leading the offense, reading a defense and playing against major college defenses after very recently facing high school talent. That is so much to ask of an 18-19 year old, regardless of how talented he is.
Morgan was a redshirt freshman, so many of those things were figured out for him, but both quarterbacks are moving into their second year of eligibility. Less focus on all that, being able to refine their skills and just run the offense
Then we the roster adds two recruited and scholarshipped quarterbacks behind the two potential starters. Kramer and Clark are highly unlikely to play in 2019. But should there be a need, at least there are guys on scholarship who were with the team in the spring available to step in.
Upgrade / Downgrade
So does having only two guys who took snaps in 2018 back in 2019 mean that this will be an improvement?
I find it very hard to believe that this will not be an upgrade. At the VERY least, one of the two should make this neutral. Unless there are dramatic and unforeseen circumstances, there really has to be some improvement and this position is an upgrade.
The real debate is how much of an upgrade will it be? Are Annexstad and and Morgan both solid quarterbacks who are going to essentially be game managers? Or is one (or both) of them capable of being a strong leader on this team with the capability of winning a game with their arm?
Probably somewhere in between. In my personal opinion, Annexstad has the highest ceiling of this pair while Morgan has the lowest floor. I really like Annextad’s moxie and arm strength. Once his command of the offense and ability to read defenses matures, I think he can be very good. Morgan is solid, will make fewer mistakes and can certainly lead this team to many wins. His performances against good competition in the last month plus bowl game certainly shows that he can lead this team to wins at this level.
Which one wins out? Which one is best for this team in 2019?
Personally, I believe that Annexstad wins out to start the season. But I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see Morgan as the guy. Regardless, both will almost certainly end up playing at some point. Both should be better, depth should be better and I think this is an easy “upgrade” over 2018.
What do you think?
Is Quarterback and Upgrade or Downgrade from 2018?
This poll is closed
Upgrade - obviously
Neutral - ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Downgrade - regression is possible