The Gophers will hold a competition for their starting quarterback job in 2024, and Athan Kaliakmanis doesn't plan to be part of it.
Kaliakmanis, who started every game for the 5-7 Gophers this season, announced Tuesday on the X platform that he will enter the transfer portal when it opens Monday.
According to a source with knowledge of the situation, coach P.J. Fleck met with the Gophers quarterbacks and would not fully guarantee who the starter would be in the 2024 season. Fleck told the group he would look into the transfer portal for competition leading into next year. The source said that Fleck appreciates Kaliakmanis' contributions to the program.
Kaliakmanis wasn't the only Gophers quarterback to announce his intention to enter the portal. Late Tuesday afternoon, true freshman Drew Viotto posted his departure on X. Viotto was a three-star recruit out of high school in Michigan.
Kaliakmanis, a third-year sophomore, struggled with consistency all season. He completed 156 of 294 passes (53.1%) for 1,838 yards and 14 touchdowns with nine interceptions. His passer rating of 115.17 ranked 100th among FBS quarterbacks.
In his social media post, Kaliakmanis thanked Gophers teammates, coaches and fans, then wrote, "After several days of discussion with my family, I am announcing my intention to enter the transfer portal with two years of eligibility left."
Kaliakmanis and Viotto are no longer listed on the Gophers roster in the football program's website.
Looking toward the future
The Gophers, who concluded their regular season with a 28-14 loss to Wisconsin on Saturday, have started the process of creating a competition for the starting quarterback job.
On Monday, Max Brosmer, a junior at New Hampshire who has entered the portal as a graduate transfer, announced that he has received a scholarship offer from the Gophers. Brosmer, 6-2 and 221 pounds, passed for an FCS-best 3,464 yards this season, completing 294 of 459 throws (64.1%) with 29 touchdowns and five interceptions. He also rushed 57 times for 126 yards and five TDs.
Backup quarterback Cole Kramer is a potential starter for the Gophers' bowl game, a destination that will be announced Sunday. Kramer, in his fifth year with the team, has played in 21 games in his career and has one year of eligibility remaining for 2024. The former Eden Prairie High School standout participated in the team's Senior Day activities on Saturday. That often is an indication that a player won't return the next season, but some have returned after being honored with their classmates.
With Kaliakmanis and Viotto leaving, the only other quarterback on the roster is walk-on Max Shikenjanski, the former Stillwater standout.
The Gophers have a verbal commitment from a 2024 quarterback recruit in Drake Lindsey of Fayetteville (Ark.) High School. Lindsey, a three-star recruit, has passed for 3,561 yards and 51 touchdowns with two interceptions this season. Fayetteville (12-0) faces Bentonville on Saturday in the Class 7A state championship game.
Kaliakmanis endured ups and downs
Kaliakmanis, of Antioch, Ill., showed promise in 2022 as a redshirt freshman who played five games in place of the injured Tanner Morgan. His highlights were leading Gophers back from a 10-0 halftime deficit to a 20-13 win at Nebraska, and a 23-16 win at Wisconsin in which he passed for 319 yards, including the winning touchdown with 3:40 left.
The strong finish to 2022 fueled optimism that Kaliakmanis would progress as a starter. Instead, he struggled with his accuracy, completing 50% or fewer of his passes five times this year. Kaliakmanis had a 68.1 grade by Pro Football Focus this season, down from 74.9 in 2022.
In his defense, Kaliakmanis' pass-catchers didn't do a great job this year. The Gophers dropped 25 passes this year, a rate of 13.9%, according to PFF. Last year, they had four drops, or 6.3%.
Minnesota's passing offense ranks 126th among the 133 FBS teams this season at 153.2 yards per game.
"Inconsistent," Fleck said Saturday of Kaliakmanis' 2023 play. "… I thought he did a lot of great things this year. I thought a lot of things that as a Big Ten quarterback, he knows you've got to get better at."
As Fleck studies the portal, he can see every other Big Ten West team had a transfer QB as a starter at some point. The Gophers' four losses to West teams came against transfer quarterbacks: Northwestern (Ben Bryant from Cincinnati), Illinois (Luke Altmyer, Ole Miss and John Paddock, Ball State), Purdue (Hudson Card, Texas) and Wisconsin (Tanner Mordecai, SMU).
"When you're 5-7, you look at everything very differently," Fleck said following the loss to Wisconsin.