It’s that time of year again! You survived the worst of the winter, and we can now turn our attention to the (slightly) warmer weather of spring. That means the brief return of football before the long wait for fall begins. Leading up to the Gophers’ Spring Game on Saturday, April 4, at TCF Bank Stadium, we will be breaking down the team by each position group.
Key Departure(s): None
Key Returner(s): Tanner Morgan, Zack Annexstad, Jacob Clark, and Cole Kramer
Early Enrollee(s): None
Barring injury, Tanner Morgan will lead the Gophers out on to the field for their first offensive possession of the game against Florida Atlantic on Thursday, Sept. 3, at TCF Bank Stadium. In my experience, quarterbacks who set single-season school records for passing yards (3,253) and passing touchdowns (30) don’t lose their starting spots in practice. Morgan would have to struggle in games for head coach P.J. Fleck to consider making a switch under center.
The more compelling question this offseason will be how Morgan fares under new co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Sanford Jr. Along with promoted wide receivers coach Matt Simon, Sanford has big shoes to fill, stepping in for Kirk Ciarrocca after he departed for Penn State. This will be Fleck’s first year as a head coach without Ciarrocca calling the offensive plays, so this will represent somewhat uncharted territory for the man at the helm.
Much of the skepticism surrounding Sanford can be traced to his work last year at Utah State with current NFL draft prospect Jordan Love, who struggled in his only season under Sanford after a breakout sophomore campaign. Though I would have to think that losing all but two starters between seasons — including four starting offensive linemen, the starting running back and tight end, and the team’s top three wide receivers — had something to do with it.
Beyond Morgan, Sanford will have a stable of quarterbacks with which to work. Redshirt sophomore Zack Annexstad is back and healthy after missing all of last season due to a foot injury. Redshirt freshmen Jacob Clark and Cole Kramer both saw limited action in relief of Morgan. I would expect Annexstad to serve as Morgan’s primary back-up to start the season, but it will interesting to see the two freshmen signal callers continue to develop.
Next: Running Back