Tanner Morgan to Return; Clark, Faalele Among Those Leaving Gophers

Photo: Dustin Bradford – Getty Images

It was quite a weekend for Minnesota Gophers football, who beat Wisconsin at home on Saturday afternoon for the first time since 2003. That, one day removed from losing their hopes of playing in the 2021 Big Ten Championship game. And now that the regular season is over, there’s a month+ of no football. Still, there’s plenty to watch out for.

The Minnesota coaching staff is already on the recruiting trail, marking the start of two crazy recruiting weeks that will culminate in National Signing Day (December 15). While the coaches are on the road, many current players have their own future decisions to make. Others don’t.

What older guys do will trickle down to younger players on roster, who can now hit the transfer portal and immediately play elsewhere next season. Oh, and let’s not forget that Selection Sunday is less than a week away, at which point the (8-4) Minnesota Gophers will find out their 2021-22 bowl fate.

Morgan Returns, Clark Hits Portal

As I foreshadowed in my blog on Saturday, which called for an open QB competition for next year’s starter, Tanner Morgan will return for a super redshirt senior season in 2022. He will join Mohamed Ibrahim, who did the same earlier last week.

Following Morgan’s announcement, Jacob Clark (a former high school star QB from Rockwall, TX) entered his name into the transfer portal. I was excited about Clark as a prospect but he seemingly had fallen down the depth chart and next year will be his 4th as a college football player.

The remaining QB’s who could start in the seemingly near future are now Tanner Morgan, Zack Annexstad, Cole Kramer and Athan Kaliakmanis. Jacob Knuth, a 3-star QB prospect out of South Dakota, is also expected to sign his National Letter of Intent in December.

O-Line: Faalele Accepts Senior Bowl Invite

Most have expected Daniel Faalele to enter the NFL Draft after this season, Hell, many thought he would do it last year, even after missing the season due to COVID-19 concerns. This morning, the junior accepted an invite to the Reese’s Senior Bowl, which is the top destination for NFL Draft prospects hoping to showcase their skills in a postseason Pro Bowl type game.

Daniel isn’t the only offensive lineman departing Dinkytown after the 2021 season is complete. Starters Connor Olson and Sam Schlueter have to leave, along with everyone’s favorite 2022 NFL TE prospect, Ko Kieft. (OL) Austin Beier is also believed to be leaving.

Big Turnover on Defense

The Minnesota Gophers could have a lot of fresh faces on defense in 2022. The many departures start with two grad-transfers, (DT) Nyles Pinckney and (LB) Jack Gibbens, who were HUGE figures in the 2021 defensive turnaround.

Other regulars without any eligibility remaining are (DT) Micah Dew-Treadway, (DT) Val Martin, (CB) Coney Durr, (S) Phil Howard and (CB) Justus Harris. One major unknown who still could return is (DE) Boye Mafe, who was expected to enter the NFL Draft but hasn’t announced anything yet and didn’t pen a letter to the University of Minnesota or the fanbase like other intended departees have. A Boye Mafe return tour would be significant, especially given his freak athleticism and extreme draftability.

The linebacker room will not only lose Jack Gibbons to graduation but also James Gordon, who is one of the first guys you let off the bus… but struggled to find the field. Over the weekend, he entered the transfer portal. With Braelen Oliver, Mariano Sori-Marin, Donald Willis and all of the other linebackers expected to return, Gordon obviously didn’t see that changing.

More announcements/movement expected

There should be more announced in the coming weeks as more players decide what to do with their future. We’ll keep you up to date when those decisions are made. The two players to keep an eye out for are (WR) Chris Autman-Bell and the aforementioned Boye Mafe.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan