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2020 Minnesota Gopher Football Preview: Upgrade or downgrade at wide receiver?

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NCAA Football: Nebraska at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Offensively, wide receiver is the position group with the most change. It is also the position group where I have the most confidence in the coaching staff to recruit & develop. So lets go deep with a 9-route and see what the 2020 receiving corp will look like.

2019

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

Last season was arguably (not really even arguably, but I feel like I should put that qualifier in there) the best season of Gopher wideouts in the history of the program. Johnson and Bateman both topped 1,000 yards which was the first time in Big Ten history that two receivers from the same team had over 1,000 yards in the same season. They also combined for 24 touchdowns and 146 receptions. They were elite.

Autman-Bell was very good as well while playing in the shadows of two All-Big Ten caliber teammates. He had 5 touchdowns on just 28 receptions while making some big plays for the Gopher offense at key times. And then Douglas was also a regular contributor on the offense making 14 catches as the team’s 4th receiver.

After those 4 names, just two other receivers had 1 reception each. One of them isn’t on the roster anymore.

2020

Starter: Rashod Bateman, Chris Autman-Bell, Demetrius Douglas
Depth: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, Seth Green (SR), Michael Brown-Stephens (rFR), Douglas Emilien (FR), Daniel Jackson (FR), Nnamdi Adim-Madumere (rFR), Peter Udoibok (rFR)

Well, Johnson is now gone after expiring his eligibility and being drafted in the 5th round by Tampa Bay. Bateman opted out of the season in August but is currently practicing with the team as he goes through the process to get reinstated to play for this fall season. This latest development has completely changed the outlook for the Gopher offense, especially this unit.

With Bateman returning, there is clearly an elite talent atop the depth chart and one guy that defenses will be paying special attention to on every play. He will be a favorite for 1st team All-Big Ten and potentially an All-American.

Up next is Autman-Bell and Douglas. CAB is the most likely candidate to step into the #2 receiver spot with Douglas working out of the slot. While I’m not expecting a monster year out of CAB, he is poised to have a breakout season where he establishes himself as another elite talent at receiver.

After those starting three, the opportunity for snaps and targets is WIDE OPEN. Seth Green is the most experienced and really could see quite a few more snaps this season. And then after Green it is a group of relative unknowns. We know the names (Brown-Stephens, Jackson, Emilien and Adim-Madumere), but none have seen the field so we really are not sure who is going to step up to earn more reps.

This is where I am going to refer back to my statement about how I trust the coaches to recruit and develop wide receivers. But the fact is, everyone after those first two names are relatively unknown to Gopher fans and who plays is a guess.

There is excitement surrounding the incoming freshmen, Jackson and Emilien. Both are exciting and very talented receivers. Perhaps one emerges his fall to give more weapons for this offense once Bateman leaves after the 2020 season.

Upgrade / Downgrade

This one is pretty clearly a downgrade, though not by a ton. Losing Johnson is a big blow, he was incredibly productive. At the top of the depth chart he is being replaced by Bateman, so there is no dropoff there. But who fills in for Bateman’s 2019 production? The combination of CAB, Douglas, Green and the unknowns.

This current crop of receivers might be very talented and thus giving us a deep unit. But so many unknowns with the depth of this unit. Bateman may be an absolute beast and his return added significant points to this offense, but overall this unit may be a slight downgrade.

Poll

Is WR going to be an upgrade over 2019?

This poll is closed

  • 12%
    UPGRADE - Bateman is just that good. And just watch CAB!
    (44 votes)
  • 40%
    NEUTRAL - CAB steps in, we won’t miss a beat.
    (144 votes)
  • 47%
    DOWNGRADE - Two 1,000 yard WRs won’t happen in back-to-back seasons.
    (168 votes)
356 votes total Vote Now