For the second consecutive day, a Gophers defensive lineman has entered his name in the transfer portal, a source with knowledge of the situation told the Star Tribune. On Monday, redshirt sophomore tackle Rashad Cheney Jr. joined end MJ Anderson, who opted Sunday to transfer.
Cheney, 6-2 and 290 pounds, has played in six games this season, collecting three tackles, including one in the Gophers 35-14 victory at Indiana on Saturday. Cheney played in four games and made six tackles as a freshman in 2020 after redshirting in 2019.
A three-star recruit out of Cedar Grove High School in Ellendale, Ga., in 2019, Cheney originally committed to Georgia in 2017 before switching his pledge to Alabama in April of 2018. He decommitted from the Crimson Tide in October of 2018 before visiting the Gophers that December and signing his letter of intent on early signing day.
With the transfer portal offering players the freedom to leave a program without sitting out a season, movement has become more common in college football, especially with those looking for more playing time. Cheney is the fourth Gophers player to enter their name in the portal, joining offensive guard Curtis Dunlap Jr., running back Cam Wiley and Anderson. Each of those players was in rotational or reserve roles.
"College football's changing,'' Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said Monday. "I said at the beginning of the year that you're going to see more and more people enter the portal throughout the country at different times when they feel it's appropriate. I don't talk about specific guys when they enter the portal, but I wish them all the best.''
With Cheney and Anderson no longer available, the Gophers will turn to youth to fill spots on the defensive line. Among those in play are freshmen Jah Joyner, Austin Booker, Luther McCoy, Jalen Logan-Redding, Danny Striggow, Deven Eastern and Jacob Shuster.
"We've recruited a lot of depth, and now we get a chance to play those guys,'' Fleck said.
Morgan's milestone impresses Fleck
Gophers quarterback Tanner Morgan earned his 25th victory as a starter in the 35-14 win at Indiana, and Fleck awarded the fourth-year starter a game ball.
"It's really special,'' Fleck said. "When you look at a quarterback that's won 25 games, maybe other programs, people say, that's it? And I get all that, but we can only control what we've done at the University of Minnesota in the last 4.5 or 4.8 years, right? But what we said is we want to change people's thoughts, perceptions, ideas. Make sure that nevers aren't forever.''
Morgan, who completed 14 of 20 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns, was much more of a factor against the Hoosiers than he was in the previous two games, when he completed 53.6% of his passes in a loss to Illinois and 46.7% in a loss at Iowa.
Saturday, he was at 70%, and Fleck credited Morgan's ability to hang in the pocket while under pressure. Morgan's second TD pass to Chris Autman-Bell came in the third quarter when he was hit hard by blitzing linebacker Micah McFadden, who was penalized for roughing the passer.
"Tanner's courageous as it gets,'' Fleck said. "… When we keep our quarterback clean, we can be really good because he can be really confident, deliver really accurate passes, or at least have the ability for our guys to go make plays.''
- Fleck said the Gophers did not have any new injury concerns after the game at Indiana. "We came away from the game pretty clean,'' he said.