SPRING PRACTICE NOTEBOOK: Who might call plays? Cole Kramer at QB2 + CrAB, BSF and Chris Collins injuries

–> With two open spring practices in the books and only 22 days until the 2023 Spring Game, there is no time better than the present to look at some storylines from spring Gophers football so far.

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Greg Harbaugh Jr., to call offensive plays?

  • What I am hearing/seeing: With longtime WR-coach Matt Simon being with PJ Fleck since 2014 and last year’s OC Kirk Ciarrocca off to Rutgers, many expected Simon to be the primary play-caller this season. Last year’s TE coach Greg Harbaugh Jr. was promoted to Co-OC alongside Simon and it now looks like it will be a collaborative effort. Fleck declined to expose who will be officially calling plays, but so far through two practices it looks like Harbaugh Jr. was heavily involved, if not leading the efforts. Simon will certainly be a major voice in the headsets, but it wouldn’t shock me if Harbaugh Jr. is technically calling the plays week one against Nebraska.

Potential offensive line depth chart

  • What I am hearing/seeing: The Gophers have seemed to have found six offensive linemen they would like to lean on next season. Ersery will return at left tackles to no surprise. Redshirt senior Tyler Cooper has emerged as the frontrunner to start at left guard, Nathan Boe (who did not practice Tuesday/undisclosed) looks like the center after filling in from JMS at the bowl game. Quinn Carroll seems to have officially moved into right guard, a move that definitely makes sense and Martes Lewis looks like the right tackle after battling Carroll for the role all of the last season. Former Utah State transfer Karter Shaw filled in for Boe at center Tuesday and he seems like he will act as the true swing lineman who could fill in for any interior spot, while Carroll can always bounce outside while needed.
    • LT: A. Ersery
    • LG: T. Cooper
    • C: N. Boe
    • RG: Quinn Carroll
    • RT: M. Lewis
    • Swing: K. Shaw

Injuries: CrAB, Brevyn Spann-Ford and Chris Collins

  • What I am hearing/seeing: Chris Autman-Bell is still recovering from the ACL injury he suffered last season, while Brevyn Spann-Ford is recovering from off-season shoulder surgery; both are expected injuries that should have normal recoveries. North Carolina transfer EDGE Chris Collins has been out of both practices with a boot on his left ankle, rolling around on a scooter. Coach Fleck never likes to disclose specifics of injuries, but the graduate transfer has been on the sideline for at least a week. Nathan Boe was another player who was not present at the second practice Tuesday, but his absence is not likely anything serious. Overall, the Gophers look relatively healthy.

New Wide Receiver room

  • What I am hearing/seeing: The biggest talking point of the Gophers’ offseason so far has arguably been the talent they added at the WR position. With transfers Elijah Spencer (Charlotte) and Corey Crooms Jr. (Western Michigan) joining a talented ’23 recruiting class: Nuke Hayes, Kenric Lanier, and TJ McWilliams, it seems to be a new era for the Gophers offense. So far, it seems like Jackson and Spencer are running at the top two outside options, while Crooms Jr. and Brockington are heavily involved in the rotation. Redshirt freshman Kristen Hoskins is also getting plenty of runs and could be one of the wildcards of this roster. With likely five guys ahead of him on the depth chart, consistent WR snaps might be tough, but the coaching staff clearly likes his potential and wants him to see the field. I could see some schemed-up plays for him to get the ball in his hands.
    • *Inj: Chris Autman-Bell
    • WR1: Daniel Jackson
    • WR2: Elijah Spencer
    • WR3/slot(a): Corey Crooms Jr./(b): Le’Meke Brockington
    • Gadget: Kristen Hoskins

Cole Kramer looks like QB2

  • What I am hearing/seeing: With the Athan Kaliakmanis-era officially underway, there is still plenty two be decided behind the former Chicago prep star. Cole Kramer has gotten plenty of action as the No. 2 QB and wildcat option of the past few seasons, and I fully expect him to slot into that role in 2023. With talented freshmen Jacob Knuth and Drew Viotto on the roster, both players still look a bit raw to compete this season. Knuth certainly has the talent to work his way to No. 2 by season’s end, but I don’t think he has even clearly separated himself from Viotto yet, based on reps earned at practice. Overall, this is still a very talented QB room.

Young DBs: Tariq Watson, Rhyland Kelly and Aidan Gousby

  • What I am hearing/seeing: With last year’s transfers Beanie Bishop III (Western Kentucky) and Ryan Stapp (Abilene Christian) off the roster, the Gophers cornerback room is wide open. Redshirt freshmen Tariq Watson and Rhyland Kelly continue to flash as two of the most improved players on this roster. Veterans Miles Flemming and Victor Pless might have a leg up when it comes to experience, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Watson becomes CB2 by the season’s end. Fellow redshirt freshman Aidan Gousby was recruited to the Gophers as an ATH, but I think he has officially found his home at safety. Overall, there is plenty of talent in the secondary, despite the relatively surprising departures this offseason with Stapp, Bishop and Steven Ortiz Jr. all no longer on the roster. The transfer portal should always be an option, but Watson and Kelly make that less of a desperate need.

Other Notes:

  • Nick Kallerup and Jameson Geers look like TE2a and TE2b, with Brevyn Spann-Ford out
  • RS-FR DL Anthony Smith might have the highest potential on this roster
  • Tyler Nubin looks like the best player on the field
  • Expect Western Michigan transfer RB Sean Tyler to be used creatively this season
  • Coleman Bryson/Darius Green will be fun alongside Nubin
  • Love the new practice white helmets with the big M

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