We learned what the Gophers gained from spring football. Now it's time to explore the unanswered questions for the 2019 season. Here's the final installment of my spring football blog series:
How will injury returns impact this team?
I feel like this is a question every season. But there are a lot of question marks around the Gophers, the biggest ones being Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks (plus Antoine Winfield, Jr., on defense, but he was 100% healthy this spring). The redshirt seniors are proven solid running backs who should be full-go after knee surgeries in time for training camp. But how will they look after recovery? And how will their returns impact breakout star Mohamed Ibrahim? Some other injured players that have been quiet this spring: wildcat quarterback Seth Green, running back Nolan Edmonds, running back Treyson Potts, running back Jason Williamson, wide receiver Jornell Brooks, defensive back Bishop McDonald, defensive lineman Alex Reigelsperger, defensive lineman Winston DeLattiboudere, defensive lineman Malcolm Robinson, offensive lineman Kyle Sassack and punter Alex Melvin.
Who will be the starting quarterback?
I can tell you one thing: It’s almost certainly ... either Zack Annexstad or Tanner Morgan. Annexstad won this battle in training camp ahead of 2018, but Morgan took over the starting job halfway through the season when Annexstad came down with an injury. Coach P.J. Fleck has been coy about his decision-making process. It seems to me like Annexstad might have the edge when it comes to big throws. But Morgan saw this team to some of its best results in some years at the end of last season. So who’s to say?
Can the offensive line live up to its potential?
Fleck has been quietly optimistic about his offensive line, which was freshman-heavy last season. It’s still young but returning some experience. And Fleck said with O-lines being “the name of the game” in the Big Ten conference, his could be one of the better ones. But that was a little hard to see in the spring game, since he mixed up all the strings. For example, from LT to RT:
Jason Dickson, Blaise Andries, John Michael Schmitz, Nathan Boe, Daniel Faalele
Sam Schlueter, Austin Beier, Conner Olson, Curtis Dunlap Jr., JJ Guedet
These lines (with some variations) allowed seven sacks in the spring game. Which is non-ideal. But who knows how much better the unit will look with all the ones playing together?