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2020 Minnesota Gopher Football Preview: Upgrade or downgrade at quarterback?

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All-Big Ten Tanner Morgan returns to lead the Gopher offense, is his 2020 going to be even better than 2019?

Outback Bowl - Minnesota v Auburn Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

EDITOR’S NOTE: This was published in August before the Big Ten postponed the season, reposting as part of our look ahead to the renewed 2020 season.

Quarterback was a pretty big question mark heading into the 2019 season and it was answered in a major way. Tanner Morgan when from being considered a game-manager who would likely be the team’s backup quarterback to now being considered one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten.

In early August, Zack Annexstad went down with an injury and then Morgan went out to give us one of the best seasons ever by a Gopher quarterback. 2019 was special and Morgan was a primary reason for it.

2019

Starter: Tanner Morgan
Depth: Zack Annexstad, Cole Kramer, Jacob Clark

The numbers for Morgan in 2019 were incredible and the jump from 2018 was remarkable. Morgan basically doubled his games, attempts and yards while more than tripling his touchdowns, adding 8 points to his completion percentage and only throwing one additional interception. Statistically, you couldn’t have asked for a better season from the Gopher quarterback.

But it was more than his stats. His leadership and durability were also essential to the team’s 11-2 record. He was, of course, aided by an offensive line that returned 4/5 of it’s starters and he had two NFL caliber receivers catching his passes. But Morgan was truly outstanding.

Behind Morgan? We needed someone to step in for 2 plays in the Iowa game and then some late game snaps in big wins. Jacob Clark got some mop up duty against Maryland and Cole Kramer was called upon for the Iowa game. Meanwhile, Annexstad was allowed to redshirt and heal.

2020

Starter: Tanner Morgan
Depth: Zack Annexstad, Cole Kramer, Jacob Clark

Enter the new season and the quarterback room is exactly the same.

Morgan enters the season as the unquestioned starter and a hefty amount of preseason accolades coming his way.

This time Annexstad should be healthy and capable of providing little dropoff in production should he be needed to play. This is important as we were pretty fortunate to only “need” a backup for 2 plays last season.

Then we get the redshirt freshmen. Clark came into the program more highly rated than Kramer but during 2019 there really was no indication who would be sitting higher on the depth chart. What matters most here is that they both got a full season to learn the system and gain some collegiate level coaching. Should one of them be needed, I feel much better about them in 2020 than I would have in 2019.

Upgrade / Downgrade

So, is this unit an upgrade? Typically if you are returning the exact same players as the year prior I have chalked this up as an upgrade. Just due to maturity, experience, added strength and comfort it would seem logical to assume that this is going to be an upgrade.

But I’m going to be a little controversial here and say that overall we should be thrilled if this is neutral for the year.

I believe that a healthy Annexstad and older Kramer/Clark is an upgrade to the overall depth chart. But I’ll personally be shocked if collectively we see the same numbers from the quarterback position in 2020.

To be clear, this group is still going to be very good and one of the strengths of the team. But strictly comparing to 2019, I think this will be a slight downgrade. It is really hard to predict an upgrade from best season we have seen by a Gopher quarterback in our lifetime.

Poll

Is 2020 going to be an upgrade or a downgrade at quarterback?

This poll is closed

  • 44%
    UPGRADE - everyone is back and more experienced, of course it’s an upgrade!
    (154 votes)
  • 44%
    NEUTRAL - expect about the same from Morgan and company
    (152 votes)
  • 11%
    DOWNGRADE - how can we expect that kind of production again
    (38 votes)
344 votes total Vote Now