A position group that has largely been ignored or underutilized for the Gophers was quietly critical to last year’s offensive success. So we have to ask, will the 2022 tight ends be an upgrade or a downgrade from last year?
As mentioned, this group in some ways was severely underutilized, at least in the passing game. Brevyn Spann-Ford and Ko Kieft did account for 30 catches and 2 touchdowns last season, but that was not where this unit was most impactful.
Ko Keift was quietly the most important key to the Gopher rushing attack last year. Sure all of the running backs were great. Sure, the offensive line was great. But Kieft was so good at picking up that lone linebacker or DB to open up the hole completely. There is very good reason that he was surprisingly drafted in the 6th round by Tampa Bay.
His presence will be missed.
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With former Minnesota offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca returning to the fold, there has been considerable hand-wringing among Gopher fans who fear that Spann-Ford will see a decreased role in the passing game.
But those are not fears shared by anyone in the program, including Ciarrocca.
“Brevyn has a really big vision for himself on where he wants to go,” Ciarrocca said earlier this spring. “When I got back, Brevyn and I sat down and we talked. He was telling me about his vision that he had for himself and where he wants to go. And my comment back to him was, ‘You need to show me that you’re willing to do that work that it’s going to take to get there.’ And since he walked out of my office that day, he’s done nothing but show me that he’s willing to do the work.”
How Spann-Ford will be utilized and if he can realize more of his potential is a big question for this unit heading into the season.
Starter: Brevyn Spann-Ford
Depth: Nick Kallerup and Jameson Geers
This unit comes down to 2 primary questions.
1 - Can Spann-Ford give more in the passing game? Or maybe more appropriately can his talent be realized in concert with Ciarrocca finding a way to better incorporate him into the offense.
I do like the rotation of receivers that this offense has, but then the tight ends are incorporated at the right time, it really can kill a defense. Spann-Ford is more than a big target, he has some unique athletic ability and can really make a difference in this offense. But he needs to get better and the offensive staff needs to find creative ways to use him.
2 - Can they get effective blocking from this position in the rushing attack? This is probably a more important question that needs to be answered. Kieft was so good at this. He was the kind fo guy who made his blocks effectively at such a high level you that you never knew how much it made a difference. So, has Spann-Ford improved his blocking? Is Nick Kallerup going to be able to be nearly as effective at run blocking?
Upgrade or Downgrade?
I think that in the passing game, this unit is essentially neutral. Maybe Spann-Ford puts up numbers that are slightly better, but I don’t expect he’s going to blow up statistically. Maxx Williams had 36 receptions in his final year as a Gopher.
In the ground game, I think this has to be a downgrade. Hopefully just slight, but I have tremendous respect for what Kieft did for this offense. It will be missed.
So I like the potential for Spann-Ford to make more of an impact, but I see this unit contributing less to the ground game. But would be pleased to be proven wrong.
Upgrade or Downgrade for the 2022 tight ends?
This poll is closed
UPGRADE: Watch Spann-Ford become All-Big Ten
NEUTRAL: It will all be about the same
DOWNGRADE: GN is right, the rush blocking is going to suffer and will be noticed.