Key Gopher Football Players to Watch Out for Tonight; Rest of Season

PHOTO: AARON LAVINSKY – STAR TRIBUNE

PHOTO: AARON LAVINSKY – STAR TRIBUNE



What is up fam! What a beautiful Thursday morning!

At least, I believe it is. It’s 5 AM and the sun is yet to come up. I’ve been up since 4, when my 6 month-old son woke me up for the day… But, I jumped up with a smile on my face, got him fed and back to sleep, and now it’s time to talk about GOPHER FOOTBALL. What a great fucking day it’s going to be! There’s a lot happening in the Minnesota sports world today, including the final Minnesota Vikings’ preseason game.

But, that’s not why I rose from my slumber, ready to tackle the day before anyone else was out of bed. No. Today, I’m salivating all over my shirt because PJ Fleck and his Minnesota Gopher football team is going to take to TCF Bank Stadium to play their first game of the 2018 season TONIGHT.

I’m not sure, just like (LB) Carter Coughlin, that I’ve ever been so excited for a college football season in Minnesota. My fingers are literally having issues keeping up with my brain right now, as I type this.

Why? You ask… Well, let me tell you:

Zack Annexstad.

The new quarterback for the Minnesota Gophers has been talked about a lot recently, since being chosen as the starter for 2018 as a True Freshman Walk-On. ESPN had a hay-day earlier this week with Zack, and though it was nice to get some national attention, some of the moments were cringe-worthy, as they tried to over-play a narrative that doesn’t exist. They repeatedly ask questions about “trying to make the team” earlier in the offseason. Come on.

Zack Annexstad was only one of three quarterbacks that were ever on the roster for 2018, leading up the season. Once Viramontes dropped out very early in the race, he was only one of two. He was NEVER battling to make the team. Just ESPN being ESPN…

I wrote about Zach after the Spring Game, where he clearly stuck out as a guy who could be the future. If you haven’t seen everything yet on Zach, here is his 247Sports profile. He stands at a solid 6-3 and weighs in at over 200 pounds. That’s a big Freshman, amirite…. And he can throw. Don’t expect much running from this quarterback (finally).

But now, the showcase begins. Don’t get me wrong. Had Annexstad been a 4-5 star, he would’ve gotten a scholarship, no matter how full of talent the 2018 class had. So, I don’t want to overhype him. He will take his lumps. However, it’ll be much easier on the eyes than any other QB we’ve had in recent memory. Most recently we had to deal with Mitch Leidner for 4 years, not knowing it could get even worse once he left. But it did. Demry Croft was brutal and I don’t know if I can argue that Conor Rhoda was any better.

You’ll notice quickly that Annexstad is much better than both of those throwers, that we had around for last season. And tonight, against a bad New Mexico State team, it’d be great to watch him get off to a fast start.

Ok, Ok Eric… enough of your eriction (see what I did there?) for Zach. Is anyone else playing in this game?

Oh… you’d better believe it. Talent (most of it EXTREMELY YOUNG) is everywhere on this roster. Let’s start with another Freshman that I’m nearly as hard for, as Zach.

(FR) Rashod Bateman: If you are a Gopher Football fan, I’d be hard-pressed to believe you haven’t heard of this kid yet. Rashod is a guy that Fleck snuck past the SEC and got to commit before his senior season, where he threw up MONSTER numbers with over 1500 yards and 21 touchdowns… Once he put that season up, everyone came after him, including his hometown team, Georgia. But, Bateman stayed and didn’t visit. After Texas A&M offered, he was determined to show his loyalty to the Gophers. And now we will love him for life:

(JR) Carter Coughlin: I’m pumped to see what Carter Coughlin can do from his new hybrid LB/DE position, after being there for a full season last year. Carter is one of the highest rated kids to come to the U in a long time. His family has an entire legacy at the school but he still had a very hard decision to make with Ohio State hot on his tail, when he committed a couple of years ago. That was when Kill was coach. PJ moved him to this hybrid DE role and I expect him to blow up the Big Ten and announce himself as a serious NFL draft prospect for next season.

There are many many many more players to keep an eye out for but I’m about to go over 1000 words and nobody wants that…

So, To Close:

Expect Antoine Winfield Jr. to destroy the Big Ten this year and start being looked at as one of the best DB’s in the country (he’s only a Sophomore), no matter which DB position he’s playing, because he can play them all.

How will the offensive line look? Fleck has two HUGE FRESHMAN in Daniele Falelle and Curtis Dunlap; Fleck’s two highest-rated recruits from last season’s record-breaking class, who came from IMG Academy and blocked for Zach Annexstad. However, in a perfect world, PJ would like to keep their Freshman status going into next year. Does he have enough depth to make that happen? The new redshirt rule, which allows someone to play up to 4 games, while still receiving a redshirt the following season should help… But, any injuries along that line could make it impossible.

Meanwhile, if healthy, the rest of the Gopher offensive line looks strong, with starters that range from high-ranking youngsters to a couple of proven seniors (which are rare to find on this roster.

Anyway…. I’ll stop now.

Is it 6 PM yet???

Eric Strack
Minnesota Sports Fan @RealMNSportsFan