With spring football practice underway at Minnesota, we’ll be breaking down each position group in the lead-up to the spring game at 11 a.m. on Saturday, April 22.
2023 Quarterback Roster
Returning Starter(s): Athan Kaliakmanis
Other Returners: Cole Kramer and Jacob Knuth
Spring Enrollees: Drew Viotto
Fall Enrollees: None
Out the Door: Tanner Morgan
Spring Quarterback Preview
The Athan Kaliakmanis era at Minnesota has begun.
Last season, the redshirt freshman only saw the field in mop-up duty until making his first career start on the road against Penn State in place of an injured Tanner Morgan. Kaliakmanis ended up making five starts for the Gophers, finishing the year 60-of-111 (54.1%) for 946 passing yards, three touchdowns, and four interceptions. He suffered a high ankle sprain in the second quarter of the Pinstripe Bowl but is expected back under center for spring practice.
Tanner Morgan is gone but not forgotten. The former Gopher signal caller started 47 games over five seasons, and Kaliakmanis has repeatedly lauded Morgan for his mentorship.
“Tanner Morgan took me under his wing. He did everything he possibly could to help me out,” Kaliakmanis said in a recent interview with Gopher Gridiron Radio, recalling how he’d often find Morgan watching film by himself and would sit in to observe the veteran quarterback.
“I really just studied him and how he did things.”
Both took a similar path to the starting quarterback spot. Morgan took over for an injured Zack Annexstad midway through the 2018 season, and Kaliakmanis did the same for Morgan. Just as Morgan did in his redshirt freshman season, Kaliakmanis went on the road and beat rival Wisconsin, passing for 319 yards and touchdowns to help Minnesota retain Paul Bunyan’s Axe.
“That’s when I felt like it started clicking for me,” Kaliakmanis said of the Gophers’ 23-16 win over the Badgers. He said it was around that time that he started establishing a routine, which he feels is essential to playing at this level. “I felt like I had a great week of preparation in the film room. We had really good practices that week. That was an awesome week.”
This spring, Kaliakmanis will look to get comfortable with a wide receiver corps that now features Charlotte transfer Elijah Spencer and Western Michigan transfer Corey Crooms. He also has a new quarterbacks coach in Greg Harbaugh, who was promoted to co-offensive coordinator alongside wide receivers Matt Simon in the offseason.
“I wouldn’t say there is much of a difference at all,” Kaliakmanis said when asked about the difference between Harbaugh and former quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca, who left in January to take the same position with Rutgers.
“Just as far as who they are as coaches, they’re both really good teachers. They know this game so well, they know this offense so well, they know everything you need to know at the quarterback position so well. And I just really love learning from both of them.”
Behind Kaliakmanis on the depth chart, redshirt senior Cole Kramer seems a safe bet as his primary back-up, but we’ll see how Jacob Knuth has matured after redshirting as a freshman last season. Drew Viotto will be on campus for spring practice as an early enrollee.
NEXT: Running Back