Now that 2022 is behind us, we can start looking ahead to 2023, specifically who will be returning for another season of Minnesota Golden Gophers football this fall and who will be moving on to the next chapter of their lives. I’ve broken it down by position group, and next to each name is the percentage of snaps they played this season.
Leaving Production: Tanner Morgan (53.2% of snaps)
Returning Production: Athan Kaliakmanis (41.8%) and Cole Kramer (4.4%)
The Gophers got a head start on the Athan Kaliakmanis era at quarterback after Tanner Morgan missed the final four games of the regular season. The redshirt freshman finished the season 60-of-111 (54.1%) for 946 passing yards with three touchdowns and four interceptions.
Leaving Production: Mohamed Ibrahim (59%)
Returning Production: Trey Potts (20%), Bryce Williams (16.4%), and Zach Evans (0.6%)
Mohamed Ibrahim has played his final game in maroon and gold. How will the Gophers replace one of the best running backs in school history? Look for head coach P.J. Fleck to return to his oft-referenced “pair and a spare” mentality, which he largely abandoned this season in favor of handing the ball to Ibrahim, who recorded 20+ carries in 10 games and 30+ carries in five games.
Prior to Minnesota landing Western Michigan transfer running back Sean Tyler, I was expecting Trey Potts to compete for carries with redshirt freshman Zach Evans and incoming freshman Darius Taylor. But after two seasons rushing for 1,000+ yards with the Broncos, I doubt Tyler is coming here to provide depth. He may very well be the most explosive running back on the Gophers’ roster, possessing the kind of break-away speed that Ibrahim lacked.
Leaving Production: Clay Geary (22.5%), and Ike White (3.7%)
Returning Production: Daniel Jackson (65.7%), Le’Meke Brockington (47.1%), Dylan Wright (35.5%), Chris Autman-Bell (14.9%), Quentin Redding (2.8%), and Dino Kaliakmanis (2.6%)
Status Uncertain: Mike Brown-Stephens (71.3%)
The story at this position is less about who is coming back and more about the new arrivals. Charlotte transfer wide receiver Elijah Spencer will have an immediate impact in the passing game, having led his team in contested catches and yards after catch last season, and Western Michigan transfer wide receiver Corey Crooms figures to be the Gophers’ top slot receiver.
But don’t sleep on Daniel Jackson, who finished the year as the Gophers’ leading receiver and caught a pair of touchdowns in the bowl game. Jackson, Spencer, and Crooms are your probable starters in the spring. Two question marks are Dylan Wright, who has struggled to consistently play to his potential, and Chris Autman-Bell, who is coming off a catastrophic knee injury.
You may have noticed that Mike Brown-Stephens was not on the field or the sideline for the Pinstripe Bowl. He has been away from the team since the conclusion of the regular season. I would be surprised if he hasn’t played his final game at Minnesota.
Leaving Production: None
Returning Production: Brevyn Spann-Ford (84.3%), Nick Kallerup (34.8%), and Jameson Geers (7.5%)
Brevyn Spann-Ford returning for his final season of eligibility is a big boost for the Gophers’ offense, but Nick Kallerup was an outstanding run blocker this season and the coaching staff is very excited about the future with Jameson Geers. This is Minnesota’s most rock solid position group on either side of the ball.
Leaving Production: Chuck Filiaga (90.2%), John Michael Schmitz (86.7%), and Axel Ruschmeyer (84.9%)
Returning Production: Aireontae Ersery (93.3%), Quinn Carroll (92.5%), Nathan Boe (22.1%), Martes Lewis (7.9%), Karter Shaw (6.6%), J.J. Guedet (5.7%), and Logan Purcell (0.5%)
Status Uncertain: Tyler Cooper (6.1%)
As excited as I am about the Gophers’ talent at the skill positions, I have concerns about the offensive line. Minnesota will need to replace all three starters on the interior. All-American center John Michael Schmitz leaves the biggest shoes to fill after anchoring the offensive line for the past four years. Veteran lineman Nathan Boe is the favorite to take over for Schmitz at center, but there is much less certainty at the guard positions. Will starting right tackle Quinn Carroll end up moving inside? This is the position group to watch in the spring.
Leaving Production: Gage Keys (9.4%)
Returning Production: De’Angelo Carter (68.4%), Kyler Baugh (56.1%), Darnell Jefferies (22.6%), Logan Richter (16.4%), Deven Eastern (7.4%), Jacob Schuster (3%), and Luther McCoy (0.3%)
Starting defensive tackles De’Angelo Carter and Kyler Baugh both return, along with their respective back-ups, former Clemson transfer Darnell Jefferies and Logan Richter. This group was solid against the run, but left much to be desired in terms of being disruptive and generating interior pressure. Minnesota knows they need more from this group and will look to new defensive line coach Winston DeLattiboudere to maximize their potential.
Leaving Production: Thomas Rush (69.7%), Lorenza Surgers (6.9%), and Austin Booker (2.8%)
Returning Production: Jalen Logan-Redding (57.5%), Jah Joyner (37.9%), Danny Striggow (35.8%), Lucas Finnessy (3.3%), Anthony Smith (1%), and Hayden Schwartz (0.3%)
Jalen Logan-Redding and Jah Joyner have one edge of the defensive line locked down.
But the Gophers appear to be razor thin at the rush end position. Danny Striggow will step in for Thomas Rush as starter, but Lucas Finnessy suffered an undisclosed injury late in the season and Austin Booker put his name in the transfer portal. Minnesota did add North Carolina transfer rush end Chris Collins to be part of the rotation with Striggow.
This is also a unit where the Gophers hope to see the returners take a step forward. Defensive coordinator Joe Rossi prefers to rush four and play coverage, rather than blitzing, so Minnesota needs their defensive ends to generate more pressure and collapse the pocket.
Leaving Production: Mariano Sori-Marin (81.5%), Braelen Oliver (42.9%), and Josh Aune (3%)
Returning Production: Cody Lindenberg (61.6%), Donald Willis (24.2%), Derik LeCaptain (6.7%), and Devon Williams (3.5%)
Mariano Sori-Marin vacates the mike linebacker position after four years as a starter. But the Gophers have an emerging star in Cody Lindenberg, who started the final six games of the season at will linebacker. The Anoka native finished second on the team in total tackles (71) and earned All-Big Ten Honorable Mention honors. He figures to be a central figure in this defense.
Western Michigan transfer linebacker Ryan Selig is expected to step into Sori-Marin’s starting spot and you can write Donald Willis’s name in ink as the starting sam linebacker. But the Gophers are woefully thin and inexperienced behind their three starters.
Leaving Production: Michael Dixon (52.6%) and Jalen Glaze (4.5%)
Returning Production: None
With Michael Dixon transferring to Rutgers and Jalen Glaze transferring to Florida A&M, Minnesota is starting fresh at slot cornerback next season. Southeastern transfer defensive back Jack Henderson will arrive this spring and is expected to step into this role.
Leaving Production: Terell Smith (75.2%)
Returning Production: Justin Walley (78%), Beanie Bishop (37.5%), Ryan Stapp (24.7%), Tariq Watson (0.1%), and Rhyland Kelly (0.1%)
Terell Smith was the pleasant surprise of the defense this season, and I’m not sure who steps into his starting cornerback spot opposite Justin Walley. Beanie Bishop and Ryan Stapp would seem to have the inside track, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Gophers take a peek inside the transfer portal when it opens up again in May following spring practice.
Leaving Production: Jordan Howden (91.9%), Jalen Glaze (1.6%), and Steven Ortiz (0.3%)
Returning Production: Tyler Nubin (71.3%), Darius Green (18.8%), and Coleman Bryson (16.2%)
All-Big Ten safety Tyler Nubin is back, but the Gophers are going to miss Jordan Howden. Darius Green and Coleman Bryson both flashed their potential in the Pinstripe Bowl, with Green getting a stop behind the line of scrimmage on a fourth down and Bryson returning an interception 70 yards for a touchdown. But both still lack experience. Expect growing pains.