Previewing the Gophers roster outlook for 2021

April 30, 2021: The Gophers’ annual Spring Game officially kicks off tomorrow at 11 a.m. Before it gets underway, let’s look at a potential depth chart for the 2021 season.

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With 20 total starters returning from last season’s team the Gophers unofficially rank top at the power-five level in returning production. This list as a whole reflects what was seen at practice in mid-April along with what we saw a season ago.


  1. Tanner Morgan
  2. Zack Annexstad
  3. Cole Kraemer
  4. Athan Kaliakmanis

The quarterback position is obviously pretty cut-and-dry. Tanner Morgan will start under center with Zack Annexstad as the clear No. 2. I believe this team will go as far as Tanner Morgan takes them. If we see 2019 Tanner Morgan we could see another 8 to 9 win season, but if we see 2020 Morgan, I think there could be a chance we see Annexstad replace Morgan. Incoming freshman Athan Kaliakmanis was not present for the team’s first open spring practice, and I believe he is the team’s most intriguing long-term option at the position.

Running Backs:

  1. Mo Ibrahim
  2. Bryce Williams
  3. Treyson Potts
  4. Cam Wiley
  5. Preston Jelen
  6. Jason Williamson

Running back is another position that will look very much like a season ago. We will see a lot of Mo Ibrahim once again as the main feature in this offense. The only question is how much. I believe it will be very similar to last season, with a few change-of-pace guys getting some carries behind Ibrahim. At the first open practice of the season, Bryce Williams and Treyson Potts got most of the work, as Mo was not practicing due to Ramadan. Redshirt junior Preston Jelen was another player that stood out in the reps he got at practice in mid-April.

Wide Receivers:

  • 1x: Chris Autman-Bell
  • 1y: Daniel Jackson
  • 1s: Clay Geary
  • 2x: Dylan Wright
  • 2y: Lemeke Brockington
  • 2s: Mike Brown-Stephens

Wide receiver is arguably the biggest question mark for the Gophers this season. They have been fortunate enough to have Tyler Johnson and Rashod Bateman recently, but now the question is who will replace him. Chris Autman-Bell is the clear front runner to be the Maroon & Gold’s No. 1 option next season. After CRAB it is up for debate. At practice in mid-April, Daniel Jackson and Clay Geary seemed to get most of the reps with the No. 1’s. But, former Texas A&M 4-star recruit Dylan Wright has all of the talent to be a serious contributor. The WR room certainly has the skill to develop, as P.J. Fleck’s teams have shown the ability to consistently do that.

Tight Ends:

  • 1a: Ko Kieft
  • 1b: Brevyn Spann-Ford
  • 2. Austin Henderson

The tight end position is another one with not many questions. Ko Kieft is the predominant blocker and Brevyn Span-Ford is the big red-zone threat. Both players will have serious roles this season. Sophomore Austin Henderson caught my eye at practice as a potential underclassman who could carve out a role.

Offensive Line:

  • LT: Sam Schlueter
  • LG: Axel Ruschmeyer
  • C: John Michael-Schmitz
  • RG: Curtis Dunlap Jr.
  • RT: Daniel Faalele

One of the biggest storylines of the Gophers’ offseason is the return of Daniel Faalele. The 6-foot-9-inch 400 pounds behemoth opted out last season but now returns to an offensive line with four of the same starters from a season ago. P.J. Fleck has done a terrific job recruiting size up front, and it showed last season with consistent play throughout. As Mo Ibrahim and the running game will likely be a focal point of this offense once again, it will all start upfront.


The defensive side of the ball was a problem last season for the Gophers. With so much youth across the board, they struggled with consistency. With every starter but Ben St-Juste returning we could see a complete turnaround into a solid unit overall.

Defensive Ends:

  • 1: Boye Mafe
  • 1: Thomas Rush
  • 2: Esezi Otomewo
  • 2: M.J. Anderson

The pass rushers along the edge were one of Minnesota’s most inconsistent positions as a season ago. Boye Mafe showed flashes of great potential and hopes to carry it into this season. From what it looked like at practice in mid-April, I would expect a solid rotation between Mafe, Rush and Otomewo with M.J. Anderson mixed in.

Defensive Tackles:

  1. DeAngelo Carter
  2. Micah Dew-Treadway
  3. Nyles Pickney
  4. Val Martin
  5. Keonte Schad
  6. Rashad Cheny Jr.

Interior defensive line could very well be this team’s strength. DeAngelo Carter and Micah Dew-Treadway both return after solid campaigns in 2020, while Clemson transfer Nyles Pickney and NC State transfer Val Martin come in. I also expect the top four to have a solid rotation, with Pickney having the chance to really separate himself based on pure talent as the season goes on. The group as a whole should lead a defense that I expect to be much improved in 2021.


  • 1a: Mariano Sory-Marin
  • 1b: Cody Lindenberg
  • 2: Jack Gibbens
  • 3: Josh Aune
  • 4: Braelen Oliver
  • 5: James Gordon IV
  • 6: Jaqwondis Burns

Linebacker was a position that had its serious struggles in 2020. With so much youth and inconsistency, we were not able to see a consistent stretch of good football. Mariano Sory-Marin should lead the group once again, by sophomore Cody Lindenberg looked bigger, faster and more decisive at practice. Abeline Chrisitan transfer Jack Gibbens should have a role, while Aune, Oliver and Gordon IV could compete for playing time as well. The linebacker’s performance this season could very easily make or break this defense.


  1. Coney Durr
  2. Philip Howard
  3. Terell Smith
  4. Miles Flemming
  5. Justus Harris

If not linebacker, cornerback will determine how this defense performs in 2021. With the departure of Benjamin St-Juste to the NFL, the cornerback group took a step back. Coney Durr’s decision to return for an extra season helped it not fall too far back, as the sixth-year senior can be a serious No. 1 option. Philip Howard looked terrific in practice, while Terell Smith and Miles Flemming were not too far behind. I think Durr and Howard’s roles are pretty safe, while Smith, Flemming and Harris should all compete for the third nickel role.


  1. Tyler Nubin
  2. Calvin Swenson
  3. Justin Walley
  4. Abner Dubar
  5. Jordan Howden

The safety position is what could take Minnesota’s defense to the next level. At practice a few weeks ago, true freshman Justin Walley might’ve had the best all-around performance from anyone on the field. He was making a serious case to have a role right away on this team. Tyler Nubin and Calvin Swenson both looked great themselves. I think this position is deep with talent, and we could see some serious improvement from a season ago.

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