With the transfer portal officially open for business as of today, expect the Minnesota Golden Gophers to be active in trying to make additions that will bolster their roster for next season. Here is a breakdown of each position group and which of them are likely to be priorities for head coach P.J. Fleck and co. this offseason.
Without question, the quarterback position is the Gophers’ biggest need this offseason. Athan Kaliakmanis and Drew Viotto both opted to enter the transfer portal, leaving redshirt senior Cole Kramer as the lone scholarship quarterback on the roster. Kramer will make his first career start for Minnesota in the Quick Lane Bowl, but is then expected to grad transfer elsewhere for his final season of eligibility, effectively wiping out the quarterback room from this season.
The Gophers landed a huge commitment from New Hampshire signal caller Max Brosmer on Sunday. I would not be surprised if they still look at taking another transfer quarterback with a few more years of eligibility. Entering fall camp with two scholarship quarterbacks — Brosmer and incoming freshman Drake Lindsey — does not seem like a tenable position.
True freshman phenom Darius Taylor will be back, as well as former walk-on Jordan Nubin. It is possible Bryce Williams will seek a medical redshirt for a seventh year of eligibility, as he opted not to participate in Senior Day. But the transfers of Zach Evans and Marquese Williams have cut into the Gophers’ depth at running back. Minnesota has a pair of running backs set to sign their letters of intent this month, but expect them to pursue at least one transfer running back, if not more. Injuries have wreaked havoc at this position two of the last three years, so depth is critical.
They’ve already offered Wake Forest’s Justice Ellison and Indiana’s Trent Howland.
Getting Daniel Jackson back to build off his All-Big Ten season is a huge boost to the Gophers’ passing game, but with Chris Autman-Bell and Corey Crooms walking out the door, the receiving corps lacks experience. Le’Meke Brockington and Elijah Spencer both figure to step into bigger roles next season. I would not be surprised if Fleck and co. try to bring in a veteran wide receiver from the portal to give Brosmer another reliable target and help bridge the gap to the six underclassmen wide receivers they’ll have on the roster come fall camp.
I don’t expect Minnesota to pursue a transfer tight end. Brevyn Spann-Ford is headed to the NFL, but the coaching staff likes what they have in Nick Kallerup and Jameson Geers.
With only starting center Nathan Boe out of eligibility, the Gophers could return four of their five starting offensive linemen from this season. That said, there are still question marks. First, there is no clear heir apparent to Boe’s starting center spot. Second, the coaching staff did not seem satisfied with what they were getting from Martes Lewis at right guard, which is why they burned Greg Johnson’s redshirt to get him playing time at left guard while they moved Tyler Cooper over to right guard intermittently. So it will be interesting to see if Fleck and co. feel good about these offensive linemen taking a step forward next season or if they opt to bring in reinforcements.
Minnesota utilized a three-man rotation at defensive tackle this season with Kyler Baugh, Deven Eastern, and Logan Richter. Eastern and Richter will be back, and former Clemson transfer Darnell Jefferies is seeking a medical redshirt for a seventh year of eligibility. But I could see them pursuing a veteran defensive tackle from the transfer portal.
The Gophers are all set at three-technique defensive end with their three-man rotation of Jalen Logan-Redding, Jah Joyner, and Anthony Smith set to return. But Danny Striggow could use help at rush end. His primary back-up, Chris Collins, is graduating, Lucas Finnessy missed all of this season due to injury, and reshirt freshman Hayden Schwartz hasn’t seen meaningful snaps yet.
Call me crazy, but I don’t know if Minnesota will pursue a transfer linebacker. Their top three linebackers — Cody Lindenberg, Devon Williams, and Maverick Baranowski — are all expected back next season. Derik LeCaptain will be back from injury, and the coaching staff also likes the potential of redshirt freshman Joey Gerlach and true freshman Matt Kingsbury.
It does not appear there is a lot of playing time to be sold here.
With Justin Walley returning for his fourth year as starting cornerback, the Gophers will need to replace former Elon transfer Tre’Von Jones. Redshirt freshman Tariq Watson was his primary back-up this season. So I expect Minnesota to pursue at least one transfer cornerback.
Slot corner is an interesting spot. Former Southeastern transfer Jack Henderson came on strong early this season and former Auburn transfer Craig McDonald was granted a waiver for immediate eligibility by the NCAA to serve as Henderson’s back-up. But I’ve heard rumblings that the coaching staff could be looking to add competition at this position this offseason.
Coleman Bryson is the heir to the free safety position with Tyler Nubin headed to the NFL. But Bryson will only be a redshirt sophomore next season. We’ll find out if the coaching staff feels comfortable handing him the reins. At strong safety, Darius Green and Aidan Gousby are entrenched, having taken their lumps this year as they gained experience.