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Minnesota Football: Spring Position Previews - Wide Receiver

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Wide receiver may be the biggest question mark on the team

Minnesota v Maryland Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

With spring football practice at Minnesota under way after kicking off on Monday, March 29, we are breaking down each position group throughout the month of April.

2021 Wide Receiver Roster

Returning Starter(s): Chris Autman-Bell and Daniel Jackson
Other Returners: Clay Geary, Mike Brown-Stephens, Peter Udoibok, Nnamdi Adim-Madumere, Douglas Emilien, and Jonathan Mann
Spring Enrollee(s): Lemeke Brockington, Brady Boyd, Dylan Hilliard-McGill, and Dylan Wright
Fall Enrollee(s): Dino Kaliakmanis

2020 Season In Review

Rashod Bateman was gone. Then he was back. Then he was gone again. Now that he is finally headed to the NFL, the Gophers have bid farewell to both of their All-Big Ten receivers from the 2019 season, leaving a void at wide receiver. And with Seth Green entering the transfer portal, Chris Autman-Bell and Clay Geary are the only upperclassmen left at the position. If you factor in the extra year of eligibility and don’t count last season against them, Minnesota will have 11 true or redshirt freshmen wide receivers on the roster this fall.

Head coach P.J. Fleck touched on the roster situation at wide receiver in his press conference ahead of the start of spring football practice:

This is probably the second time in my career as a head coach that wide receiver is probably going to be one of our more youthful and inexperienced positions. For six of my eight years as a head coach, it’s always been my most experienced, where[as] this one’s going to be a little bit different.

And [to] Coach [Matt] Simon, I said, “Boy, we’ve got our work cut out for us this year. It’s going to be fun. We’re going to have to earn it. It’s gonna be great.” But when you look at it, it’s also the fastest unit we’ve ever had.

So when you look at our offense and the five positions, the wideouts might be the biggest question mark, [in terms of] ‘Who’s going to do it?’

Well, barring disaster, Autman-Bell will be one of the answers to that question. Bateman was supposed to be the receiver to take the top off the defense last season, but while he operated in the slot for much of the season, it was Autman-Bell who became the deep threat. He led the team in receiving yards per reception (19.5) and hauled in 10 receptions of at least 20 yards or more.

In case you’re not already aware, Autman-Bell is also a ferocious blocker:

True freshman Daniel Jackson emerged late in the season as a contributor in the passing game. He only finished the season with 12 receptions for 167 receiving yards, but made some highlight reel grabs near the sideline on more than one occasion:

Outside of those two, the Gophers’ wide receiver corps is a collection of unknowns. Clay Geary and Mike Brown-Stephens were the only other receivers to record a reception last season, and the latter caught the first and only touchdown pass of his career. There hasn’t been much buzz about Nnamdi Adid-Madumere or Peter Udoibok after two years in the program, and Douglas Emilien and Jonathan Mann were only true freshmen last year.

There are a number of intriguing options among the spring enrollees, including Texas A&M transfer Dylan Wright. Lemeke Brockington was the highest-rated wide receiver recruit from this incoming class, and Brady Boyd racked up 71 catches for 1159 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns as a senior playing for Texas high school powerhouse Southlake Carroll.

As Fleck said, he and Simon have their work cut out for them. But the good news is that they have plenty of clay to mold this into a formidable wide receiver group.

Spring Watch List

  1. Show me the wide receivers. Seriously, I’d like to see the wide receivers play. Any of them. Beyond Autman-Bell and Jackson, I have no idea what to make of this group. I’m hopeful we’ll get to see a variety of wide receivers in action in the spring game.