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Minnesota Football: Spring Position Previews - Wide Receiver

New faces shake things up in the wide receiver room

NCAA Football: Northwestern at Minnesota Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

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 Wide Receiver Roster

Returning Starter(s): Daniel Jackson, Chris Autman-Bell, and Le’Meke Brockington
Other Returners: Dino Kaliakmanis, Kristen Hoskins, and Quentin Redding
Spring Enrollees: Corey Crooms, Elijah Spencer, and Kenric Lanier
Fall Enrollees: Donielle Hayes and T.J. McWilliams

Out the Door: Mike Brown-Stephens, Dylan Wright, and Ike White

Spring Wide Receiver Preview

Head coach P.J. Fleck and co. sent a clear message this offseason that the wide receiver position needs to improve for the Gophers’ offense to take the next step, bringing in a pair of proven playmakers in the form of transfer wide receivers Corey Crooms (Western Michigan) and Elijah Spencer (Charlotte). Crooms is expected to step in as the starting slot receiver with his speed and sure-handedness, whereas Spencer will line up on the outside and compete for snaps with his ability to make contested catches and pick up yards after the catch.

The arrivals of Crooms and Spencer were likely a factor in the departures of Mike Brown-Stephens and Dylan Wright. Brown-Stephens struggled mightily with dropped passes last season, finishing the year with 22 receptions for 338 receiving yards. Having played primarily in the slot, he was looking at a reserve role with Crooms on the roster. As for Wright, his struggles to play up to his potential have been well documented, and Fleck announced at his spring press conference that he was no longer on the roster. Wright will likely attempt to grad transfer in May.

But enough about the transfer portal. As curious as fans may be to see what Crooms and Spencer can do in maroon and gold, don’t forget about Daniel Jackson. He showed flashes of his play-making ability last season, including a pair of touchdown catches against Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl. Another Minnesota wide receiver who picked up steam down the stretch was Le’Meke Brockington. In only his second year with the program, Brockington made a name for himself with his 33-yard game-winning touchdown catch against Wisconsin.

One of the big question marks this offseason will be the status of Chris Autman-Bell. He suffered a serious knee injury in September that cut his season short. Autman-Bell announced a few months later that he planned to apply for a medical redshirt and return for one more season, though it remains to be seen when he’ll be 100% and how much the Gophers will be able to count on him.

Of the underclassmen, Kristen Hoskins is probably in the best position to see the field this fall, as he’ll likely slide behind Crooms on the depth chart at slot receiver.

NEXT: Tight End