Minnesota Gophers 2016

I’m not sure I have seen a team with a worse Wide Receiver group than this current Minnesota team. These guys couldn’t and wouldn’t catch a football if it looked like Jennifer Lopez. They couldn’t catch a football if the ball was coated with super glue.

But, other than that, this team looks pretty decent to pretty good.

They have some size and some talent in the Offensive Line, and they’ve got 2 Junior College transfers that will immediately bolster the ranks.

I like Right Tackle Jonah Pirsig, who at 6-9, 315 can move some people off of the line of scrimmage. Junior college transfers Garrison Wright and Vincent Calhoun will probably start. Tyler Moore, a sophomore from Texas, started at Center last year as a true freshman.

I’ve already written about super tall Tight End Nate Wozniak on this blog: Wozniak

Wozniak is 6-10, 270, but actually looks skinny next to Offensive Tackle Pirsig. He’s a good blocker, but his hands seem to be made of stone.

Their top receiving Tight End last season was Brandon Lingen who is ‘only’ 6-5, 250.

KJ Maye was their best receiver last season and he caught 73 passes, but he was a senior. There’s nobody in this recruiting class to replace him and they probably don’t have anyone on the roster.

The Wide Receiver prospects may be bleak, but the Running Back position actually has some talent. Sure, they will not make anybody in the Minnesota area forget about Vikings Running Back Adrian Peterson, but they are some hard running and tough backs that run with determination and grit.

Shannon Brooks started as a true freshman last season. Brooks was a lightly recruited 3 star from

Jasper, Georgia. He ran for 709 yards and 7 Touchdowns in 2015.

Rodney Smith was another freshman Running Back and he ran for 670 yards. But, the most impressive Running Back in the Spring Game may have been redshirt freshman James Johannesson from Fargo, North Dakota. When thinking of recruiting football players, one does not think of North Dakota generally. But, Johannesson is a beast and the biggest of the backs at 6-1, 220.

The Gophers also have a big Junior College Running Back coming in Kobe McCrary who is 6-0, 230. McCrary was rated a 3 star recruit and is originally from Chipley, Florida by way of Butler Community College.

Quarterback Mitch Leidner was out with an injury and last year’s back up Demry Croft got the start. He didn’t look great, but some of that was on the Wide Receivers who dropped more passes than they caught.

True freshman and early enrollee Seth Green will compete for the back up job and Leidner’s eventual replacement.

The Minnesota Gophers’ coach last season, Jerry Kill, was one of many coaches that either stepped down or were fired last season. Kill did so in the middle of the season and his long time assistant  Tracy Claeys, was the interim head coach. After the season, Claeys was named the permanent head coach.

Optimism is running rampant at Minnesota. In the old you can’t judge a book by it’s cover saying, Tracy Claeys deserves a deeper look.

He is not impressive on the surface and he is not a guy that is going to blow anyone away with a personality. But, he will never say anything negative and his positive attitude is catching on at


Will it be enough to win big? Who knows, but Claeys is not standing pat with Jerry Kill’s old staff.

He brought in Jay Johnson from Louisiana Lafayette as his new Offensive Coordinator. Bart Miller is the new Offensive Line coach.

There were thousands of fans on hand to watch the scrimmage. Not like an SEC Spring Game, but I’d like to see those fans out braving the cold like they will at a Minnesota, or a Wisconsin.

The best thing about this Spring Game is unlike most coaches wasting time with punts with nobody covering and no contact allowed, Claeys decided to let them just go for it on every 4th down. Why not? Who cares who wins a Spring Game? Just work on some things. Kicking off to nobody and punting to nobody does little to improve a team, while going for it in a practice situation can be a learning tool.

Former Minnesota football coach Glen Mason was the color commentator and he gave his 4 things that should be accomplished in Spring Football:

1. Fundamentals

2. Evaluations

3. Experimentation

4. Better football team coming out than going it.

Did the Minnesota Gophers accomplish these 4 tasks? I am thinking they did.

They also have some new guys coming in during the summer that could be exciting.

Linebacker Carter Coughlin is a talented player and along with Seth Green was their only 4 star recruits. Coughlin is a Gopher through and through and helped the coaching staff with recruiting other players in this recruiting class.

Kamal Martin is a 3 star recruit at Quarterback. He’s not rated very highly, but they need either Green, or somebody to step up here and make some plays.

At Defensive Tackle, Merrick Johnson is a beast and he should help out right away.

But maybe the most intriguing prospect coming in is at Safety. Antoine Winfield was a great player at Ohio State and then he played 14 seasons in the NFL. Antoine Winfield Jr signed with Minnesota because for some reason Ohio State never offered. I would suspect that the Buckeyes withheld an offer is because Jr is on the shorter side at 5-9.

But, at the Buckeye camp he ran a 4.27 40 which is smoking fast.

Can he catch the ball?

It will be interesting to see how new Minnesota Gophers coach Tracy Claeys will handle his first head job.

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