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Gopher Wide Receivers, Upgrade or Downgrade in 2019?

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Taking a look at this year’s WR corp.

NCAA Football: Middle Tennessee at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

This is easy right? So far we have taken a look at the Gopher quarterback and running backs, both units are returning everybody and are pretty obvious upgrades. Moving on to wide receivers, we find more of the same. This time with some truly elite talent.

2018

Starter: Tyler Johnson, Rashod Bateman
Depth: Demetrius Douglas, Chris Autman-Bell

There were essentially four receivers last season who all contributed to the most passing yards a Gopher offense has produced since 2010. But in 2018 it was all about Tyler Johnson having a breakout season. The junior had a huge year going over 1,100 yards and grabbing 12 touchdowns on 78 catches. These numbers earned him All-Big Ten honors and now his name is thrown out there as someone who may be drafted in the first two days of the NFL Draft.

But he wasn’t alone in breaking out. True freshman Rashod Bateman had a huge freshman season with 51 catches, 704 yards and 6 touchdowns. His receptions and yards were both records for a Gopher freshman. Bateman was dynamic and every bit lived up to the recruiting hype, and then some.

Chris Autman-Bell was third in receptions with 28. After the great seasons had by Bateman and Johnson, Autman-Bell’s 28 receptions don’t seem that impressive. Keep in mind that the team leader in 2017 had just 35 receptions. He would have been solidly second in receptions each of the past two seasons.

Demetrius Douglas had a solid season while just catching 9 balls and 1 touchdown while also playing as a redshirt freshman. And of course he etched his name into the memories of Gopher fans with a punt return touchdown in Madison to help bring Paul Bunyan’s Axe back home.

2019

Starter: Tyler Johnson, Rashod Bateman
Depth: Demetrius Douglas, Chris Autman-Bell
Freshmen: erik Gibson, Jornell Brooks, Nnamdi Adim-Madumere, Mike Brown-Stephens

This crew is Johnson’s. He is the lone upper classmen and reportedly is really asserting himself as a leader in that wide receivers room. He is hoping to build up his NFL resume as a senior and really refine his skills.

Bateman is going to likely be the complimentary receiver who looks to make a big splash in the Big Ten as a sophomore. Likely will eat into Johnson’s reception totals but between the two of these guys, they are really going to be a fantastic duo.

Autman-Bell and Douglas, now entering their redshirt sophomore seasons are poised to continue to contribute as defenses will have to spend more attention on the names mentioned above.

And then we get to the newcomers. Erik Gibson and Jornell Brooks II are coming into the season after redshirting last year. Mike Brown-Stephens is a true freshman who may see the field in the slot. And then Nnamdi Adim-Madumere is the high profile freshman receiver coming in. He is a big, big kid at 6’4”, 235 lbs and if anyone is going to make an impact as a freshman, he’s the most likely candidate.

Upgrade / Downgrade

Yet again, everyone returns. The Gophers are bringing back a talented core of receivers and adding new talent. Yet again the question really isn’t “if” this an updgrade, but how much of an upgrade. Now there is more depth, so this passing game can still be productive if there is an injury or two.

Upgrade? I think that’s obvious. How much of one? We will find out.