TCF Bank Stadium will host thousands of fans for the first time since 2019 on Saturday for the Minnesota Gopher football spring game. Kickoff will take place at approximately 11 AM and festivities will include 10,000 fans in total, BTN coverage, a co-offensive coordinator showdown between Mike Sanford and Matt Simon and a diaper drive of epic proportions. Rosters were released by the team via social media on Wednesday night, picked via draft by the team captains.
Excited to announce our captains for Saturday’s Spring Game!! @T_morg2 & @CD16ERA will be representing the Maroon and @ZackAnnexstad, @_MoIbrahim & @marianosori_ will lead the Gold!! #RTB #HYPRR #SkiUMah pic.twitter.com/3AA5h5oo0c— P.J. Fleck (@Coach_Fleck) April 28, 2021
Maroon vs Gold – Offenses
The Maroon roster gets starting quarterback, Tanner Morgan, and what clearly looks like the better wide receiver group, on paper. It includes Chris Autman-Bell, the clear-cut WR1 entering the season, and incoming transfer from Texas A&M, Dylan Wright. In exchange, however, they took a hit at running back. The Maroon Team has just two of them, Cam Wiley and Preston Jelen. Wiley is arguably the #2 back and Jelen has a lot of talent but the RB group on team gold is STACKED. Mike Sanford will call plays for Maroon.
On the other sideline, I’m excited to see Zack Annexstad get back on the field for some real reps, as he leads the Gold Team. He’ll have one hell of a running back group and offensive line to help him out, too. Mo Ibrahim, Trey Potts, Ky Thomas and Bryce Williams will all wear maroon in the running backfield. Curtis Dunlap, Daniel Faalele, Sam Schlueter and Blaise Andries will all block for them.
The Gophers have SIX starting quality offensive linemen but the Gold has four of the projected starters on their team. Mo Ibrahim, Trey Potts and Bryce Williams make up 3/4 of the running back by committee that we’ve seen since 2018. Ky Thomas has some of the highest upside of anyone in the backfield. He was last seen winning Gatorade Athlete of the Year in Kansas in 2019 after busting for 3,000 rushing yards and 35 touchdowns as a senior at Topeka High School.
Offensive Playcalling Battle
I’m also VERY intrigued at the offensive play-calling matchup. Remember, many Gopher fans and media thought PJ Fleck would hire Matt Simon as his full-time offensive coordinator following the 2019 season. After all, he did a pretty good job calling plays in the Outback Bowl when Minnesota beat the almighty Auburn Tigers 31-24 and Mo Ibrahim ran up and down the field against their NFL-caliber defensive line.
But instead, Fleck hired Mike Sanford away from Utah State and gave him the official Offensive Coordinator title. He and Sanford call plays together up in the booth during games and work VERY closely together on game plans.
— P.J. Fleck (@Coach_Fleck) April 26, 2021
Whether you’re judging by team or position, it’ll be difficult to give one team an advantage over the other, on paper, defensively. That’s because there’s a lot less experience to judge from and what we did see back in 2020 wasn’t very pretty. There are some matchups I’ll watching, though.
Jack Gibbens was brought in from Abilene Christian University to challenge Mariano Sori-Marin at middle linebacker. Sori-Marin has the experience inside the program and holds everything he needs above the shoulders to win the job but he’s struggled to put it all together athletically once he hits the field.
The entire linebacker group is jockeying for a chance to start next fall. There isn’t a projected starter I’d be willing to name this morning at any of the three starting spots.
In the secondary, Maroon went for wise experience and Gold went for springy youth. Justin Walley stuck out in the one practice I was invited to this spring. He, Jalen Glaze and Miles Fleming will lead the youth movement in Gold while known names like Coney Durr, Tyler Nubin and Terell Smith will operate in maroon.
The defensive line is absolutely stacked with experienced talent and Fleck added to what he had with two ACC transfers, Niles Pinckney (Clemson) and Val Martin (NC State). Pinckney will be in maroon and Martin will be in gold. It doesn’t look like any of the transfer place kickers will suit up for this game.
Diaper Drive and Oars
Tickets to this game were free but the Gophers are asking that you bring some diapers to donate for the diaper drive they are holding for this event. They are also accepting oars again, for the first time since before the pandemic. You can find more information here.
We’re so excited to see #Gophers back in TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday for @GopherFootball‘s Spring Game but we’ve got a few things you need to know before you go!— Minnesota Gophers (@GopherSports) April 28, 2021
Be sure to remember your decorated oars and diapers! pic.twitter.com/7cB7gCi8fZ
Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan