Cole Kramer has been with the Gophers football program since 2019, patiently waiting for his chance. He's been the backup quarterback for most of that time and spent parts of two seasons as the QB in the wildcat package. He's played in 21 games, running the ball 44 times and throwing 14 passes.
On Dec. 26, in his fifth season with the program, Kramer finally will get to start a game when the Gophers face Bowling Green in the Quick Lane Bowl at Detroit's Ford Field.
To do so, though, Kramer had to take a break from preparing for his upcoming wedding.
"He's supposed to be living in Arizona as we speak with his fiancee and getting a wedding planned," Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said. "We had to put that on pause for a little while, which I'm sure she's very excited about."
Kramer, an Eden Prairie native, will have the chance to start because Athan Kaliakmanis, who started all 12 regular-season games, entered his name into the transfer portal after Fleck and his staff decided there would be an open competition for the starting job next season.
"Cole Kramer, we have 100% belief in," Fleck said during a video news conference previewing the bowl game. "He's been waiting for this opportunity for a long time, and I'm really excited about his leadership and what he's been able to do since he's been here."
True freshman quarterback Drew Viotto also entered his name into the portal, and that left the Gophers with only Kramer and walk-on true freshman Max Shikenjanski as QBs on the roster. If a third-stringer is needed, Fleck and his staff will improvise.
"If we get to that position, we have plenty of options," Fleck said. "All coaches go in with major contingency plans in case something drastic happens."
Kramer has played in two games this season, rushing twice for 3 yards. His only pass this season was an interception he threw in the third quarter at North Carolina.
Kramer participated in Senior Day festivities during the regular-season finale against Wisconsin and has a year of eligibility remaining, but Fleck indicated that the bowl game will be his last.
"He's got about two-and-a-half weeks of a job to do for the Gophers and then go out with something that will really stick in his mind in having the opportunity of starting his last college football game," he said.
The three-day early signing period for the college football 2024 recruiting class opens Dec. 20, and Fleck is trying to make sure three prominent players who have verbally committed to the Gophers put pen to paper amid heavy pursuit from some prominent programs.
Safety Koi Perich of Esko (Minn.) High School is a four-star recruit and the top-ranked player to pledge to Minnesota. He committed to the Gophers in April but received offers from Ohio State, Florida State and USC this fall. Perich has an official visit scheduled for Ohio State on Saturday and Florida State on Dec. 15.
Prior Lake three-star defensive lineman Jide Abasiri committed to Minnesota in March but will visit USC on Saturday. Three-star linebacker Brady Pretzlaff of Gaylord, Mich., committed to the Gophers in January but will visit Michigan State and new coach Jonathan Smith on Friday. He also picked up a preferred walk-on offer from Michigan.
"You're reiterating [your message] because it's exactly what you are. It's the exact reason why you picked us," Fleck said. "And two [programs] come in late — it's a new, flashy, shiny object. That happens. … You hope that they rekindle that spirit of why they picked you."