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Minnesota Football: The Transfer Portal, Love it or List it?

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Like it or loath it, the transfer portal is here to stay

NCAA Football: New Mexico State at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Remember back when transfers out of your program were a sign that potentially things were not going so well within your program? Well, those days are gone and there is not a program in the country who is going to be immune from more turnover than usual due to the Transfer Portal (hear Twilight Zone music when you re-read that last sentence).

The Gophers have had a wave of players enter the portal already and we are just 2 days removed from the end of the regular season.

Let’s take a wholistic look at the roster and figure out who is leaving, who is staying and where are the biggest needs heading into 2022.

QUARTERBACK

Staying: Tanner Morgan, Cole Kramer, Athan Kaliakmanis
Graduating: none
Transferring: Jacob Clark, Zack Annexstad

Recently announced that Clark and Annexstad are hitting the portal, but those announcements should not be all that surprising. Once Morgan announced that he is going to return for his bonus year, along with having a number of talented young arms, Clark and Annexstad should move on to find a home where playing time is a possibility for them.

The loss of Annexstad stings a little because he at least gave this team someone with experience, should something happen to Morgan. Even if that live experience was in 2018, it is still more than anybody else has to offer. The quarterback room is a little smaller now, but it will soon be known how well this position has been recruited and developed.

There seems very little chance that another quarterback is sought as an incoming transfer.

RUNNING BACK

Staying: Mohamed Ibrahim, Ky Thomas, Bucky Irving, Bryce Williams
Graduating: none
Transferring: Cam Wiley
Unknown: Trey Potts

This was the position hit hardest and it is great news that so much talent is returning for the Gophers. It is a pretty significant question if Ibrahim can come back at the same level he was at before tearing his Achilles. But also, even if he is not quite the same there is plenty of optimism that this ground game will be very good with Thomas and Irving.

Potts is a huge question mark to return and frankly, I would not be surprised to see Williams hit the portal as well.

With Zach Evans coming in as a talented freshman and the amount of production returning, I doubt very much that you will see a RB incoming transfer.

WIDE RECEIVER

Staying: Chris Autman-Bell, Daniel Jackson, Michael Brown-Stephens, Dylan Wright, Peter Udoibok, Douglas Emilien, Jonathan Mann, Lemeke Brockington, Brady Boyd, Dylan Hillard-McGill
Graduating: Clay Geary
Transferring: Dylan Hillard-McGill

There are a lot of names on that list of returning receivers. Many of them are young and may see opportunity to make an impact still, but do not be surprised if you see a couple of these names opt for the portal.

If the Gopher offense can bring back those first 4 names while keeping a number of the young names that they like, this unit will be very strong next year.

Based on the numbers, with 2 incoming freshmen, I see it unlikely that they’ll bring in a WR. But this staff LOVES receivers, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see one that they really like choose to Row The Boat.

TIGHT END / FULLBACK

Staying: Brevyn Spann-Ford, Nnamdi Adim-Madumere, Austin Henderson, Jameson Geers
Graduating: Ko Kieft, Bryce Witham
Transferring: Austin Henderson

The loss of Kieft is going to be one of those really significant holes to fill. Spann-Ford slowly became a weapon in the passing game, but there will be some holes to fill for protection and run blocking from the TE/FB positions.

Really hard to say if they’ll seek help from the portal here, seems less likely but you never know.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Staying: Alex Ruschmeyer, Nathan Boe, Karter Shaw, Tyler Cooper, JJ Guedet, Aireontae Ersery, Martes Lewis, Tyrell Lawrence, Cameron James, Logan Purcell, Saia Mapakaitolo
Graduating: Connor Olson, Sam Schleuter,
Transferring: none
Leaving Early: Daniel Faalele, John Michael Schmitz, Blaise Andries, Austin Beier

OK, this is where it gets ugly. The Gophers had a very experienced and talented offensive line. All five starters and 6 of the presumed top 7 from 2021 will be gone for 2022. If those names that are staying are mostly unfamiliar to you, that’s because other than Ruschmeyer and Boe (a little bit), none of them have really played much. The 2022 line is going to be very inexperienced.

The good news is that there will be 2 or 3 linemen drafted in the upcoming NFL Draft, which will certainly help with recruiting.

Expect the staff to hit the portal HARD for help along the OL.

DEFENSIVE END

Staying: Esezi Otomewo, Thomas Rush, Gage Keys, Jah Joyner, Danny Striggow, Jalen Logan-Redding, Austin Booker
Graduating: none
Transferring: MJ Anderson
Leaving Early: Boye Mafe, Esezi Otomewo

Mafe finally had a great season and it is going to earn him an NFL Draft pick. Anderson announced he was transferring before the Wisconsin game but the rest of this crew should be back for 2022.

Otomewo and Rush will be your starters with ample opportunity for younger guys to earn time in the rotation. For the first time in a long time, I really like the outlook for this position over the next few seasons.

Will they seek a transfer here? Possibly, but it would likely be a single, impact player.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

Staying: Trill Carter, Logan Richter, Deven Eastern, Luther McCoy, Jacob Schuster
Graduating: Nyles Pinckney, Val Martin, Micah Dew-Treadway
Transferring: Rashad Cheney Jr.

Well this is a position that they have hit hard in the portal in recent years, I expect they will again. Carter came on this year and there is reason to be excited about him returning next year as a junior. But the losses to graduation are significant.

Cheney announced he was transferring within 24 hours of MJ Anderson announcing. This loss isn’t as big as the losses to graduation but he certainly had an inside track on playing time next fall.

This is going to be an area of need and the portal seems like the most likely source to fix it. I’ll be very surprised if you do not see at least 1 DT brought in as a transfer.

LINEBACKER

Staying: Mariano Sori-Marin, Braelen Oliver, Donald Willis, Josh Aune, Derik LeCaptain (RB), Cody Lindenberg, Jaqwondis Burns, Lucas Finnessy, Devon Williams
Graduating: Jack Gibbens
Transferring: James Gordon

Once again a lot of returning production here with the loss of Gibbens being significant. But Sori-Marin, Oliver, Willis, Lindenberg, Finnessy and others make this a pretty deep unit.

James Gordon is heading elsewhere looking for playing time.

Do I think they’ll bring in a linebacker? I’d say that it isn’t a priority but it wouldn’t surprise me. I did not think that Gibbens was a guy they would go after in this past offseason and we are thankful they did.

CORNERBACK

Staying: Jusin Waley, Terell Smith, Steven Ortiz Jr. Solomon Brown, Miles Fleming, Jalen Glaze, Victor Pless.
Graduating: Coney Durr, Phillip Howard, Justus Harris
Transferring: none

Another unit that is hit hard by natural attrition. Waley had a great freshman season and Ortiz was a highly ranked incoming freshman who very well may get a chance to show his skills next fall.

Smith is interesting because he has seemed rather discontent at times yet is in the mix to start next year and be a leader in the secondary. I would not at all be surprised to see him bolt and I’d be equally unsurprised if he is starting next September.

The rest of the names have a lot to prove.

I think this position is highly sought out in the portal. If we added 2 names as transfers I would not at all be surprised.

SAFETY

Staying: Jordan Howden, Tyler Nubin, Michael Dixon, Darius Green
Graduating: Calvin Swenson
Transferring: none

Virtually everyone returns who saw significant playing time this season. Safety could be a real strength for the defense in 2022.

And do not expect much portal action at safety.

TL:DR

Kids hitting the portal (as of 11/30 @ 2:25)

  • Annexstad
  • Clark
  • Wiley
  • McGill
  • Henderson
  • Gordon
  • Anderson
  • Cheney

Players leaving

  • Faalele
  • Andries
  • Schmitz
  • Beier
  • Mafe
  • Otomewo

Positions of need

  • OL
  • DT
  • CB