For being a Power Five quarterback in his prime, Tanner Morgan certainly hasn't appeared to enjoy much glamour. His 2020 actually seems quite dull.
"My life has been since the season pretty much: watch film, go to practice, watch film, go to Zoom online class, go home," the Gophers junior said Monday. "Maybe watch an episode of Netflix, maybe read a little bit of a book and go to bed. Maybe — maybe — see my girlfriend, if she got tested for coronavirus.
"I mean, it's not been very wild, to say the least."
And for two weeks, Morgan and the rest of the Gophers didn't even have football as part of that rotation, with the facility on lockdown while the team dealt with a COVID-19 outbreak of 49 cases. The Gophers canceled games against Wisconsin and Northwestern and hadn't fully practiced since before the Nov. 20 game against Purdue.
The team returned to light acclimatization workouts a week ago, slowly ramping up into an actual practice this past Sunday before embarking on a regular game-preparation week — except with all meetings held virtually still.
"Honestly, it felt like I was back in little league, putting the pads back on. It felt like I was back in high school, Friday night game," receiver Chris Autman-Bell said of that Sunday practice. "It just felt good being back out there on the field with my teammates, my brothers. Seeing how excited we were, running routes. Sunday is probably one of the best practices we ever had together as a team, a lot of energy, a lot of physicality, a lot of, mentally-wise, everyone was just on a roll and getting it going."
While the Gophers couldn't physically gather to work out or practice, there was still plenty of football work to do. Linebacker Mariano Sori-Marin said he thought it would feel like a regular in-season bye week, a usual welcome respite from the grind of the season. But he found himself unable to tune out of football.
"We still had Zoom meetings. … The coaches pulled together self-scout. Things we needed to work on. Just went back and watched some of the games from earlier in the season and just got better from a mental standpoint," Sori-Marin said. " … It was crazy watching games take place that you should have been playing."
Sori-Marin added he did a lot of film study, and the linebacker group picked out a few things — like footwork — to focus on individually before applying to the whole group once practice restarted. Other than that, he spent much time reflecting on just how weird it was to have two games totally wiped from the slate.
But as unsettling as the situation was, Autman-Bell said he felt it brought the team closer. All the players knew the disappointment of having important games canceled, the anxiety of mounting cases on the team, the boredom of life without football.
That's maybe what made that first practice back so strong, and it might help Saturday when the Gophers play at Nebraska. A two-week layoff could make the Gophers come out slow, or they could just be raring for an opportunity to play again.
If nothing else, it's a change of scenery and break from the monotony of this year.
"For the most part, we go to Tony's [Diner] to get food or go to Qdoba, or something like that, and maybe run to Target quick," Morgan said of his extracurricular activities. "But I mean, we've pretty much been, facility, apartment, get food. Kind of the same routine. Every day."