Fall Camp Primer: Tight Ends

With the Minnesota football team opening fall camp on Friday, GopherDigest.com previews the tight end position and asks the question on if the position will be better this fall.

After losing arguably the best tight end in the history of Gopher Football in Maxx Williams to the NFL draft this past spring, it'll be a challenge to replace all the production that Williams produced at Minnesota over the past two seasons. Good thing the Gophers are not planning on replicating that production with just one player, but rather an entire unit.

After an injury riddled start to his career, sophomore Duke Anyanwu looked good this spring considering he was only six months removed from major knee surgery and was able to go full pads each practice. Anyanwu wasn't at 100%, but is expected to be close by the time fall camp opens here in a few days and is the favorite to try and replace Williams' production via this air this fall. Senior Lincoln Plsek will never get the amount of credit he deserves being the primary "run-blocking" tight in the past few seasons, but is expected to be another huge part of the Gophers running game successes this fall.

Behind Anyanwu and Plsek, sophomore Brandon Lingen missed a majority of the spring with a broken collarbone, but after appearing in 11 games this past fall as a true freshman, is expected to take another leap forward as he could be considered Minnesota's best all-around tight end.

Spring surprise: Nate Wozniak and Noah Scarver

Sophomore Nate Wozniak always had Gopher fans speculating that he'd be moving to offensive line at some point during his career, but all that talk was for not and Wozniak is starting to make waves after a solid spring. Wozniak has added a lot of good weight filling out his 6'10" frame and looks the part of a Big Ten tight end now. His routes and hands are still improving, but he should have a role in the Gophers offense this fall.

After originally signing with Montana in 2013, sophomore Noah Scarver transferred back to his hometown school in Minnesota and was one of the talks of the spring. Despite being 275 pounds, Scarver moves very well for a guy with that kind of size and displays very good hands. After entering this spring with low expectations, the bar has definitely been raised for the Washburn walk-on.

Question that still needs answering: Where does Gibson fit in?

After signing with Minnesota in 2014 over South Carolina, Gopher fans had high hopes for Jerry Gibson and after a redshirt last season, it's still murky on how Gibson will fit into offense. There were some murmurs at Minnesota's spring practice that the staff didn't want to showcase him too much as they wanted to keep a card up their sleeve for this fall. Gibson is a definite mismatch as an H-back that can be split out wide in Limegrover's offense, but it remains to be seen exactly how the staff plans on using Gibson.

What does the future hold at tight end?

With the Gophers losing both Plsek and fullback Miles Thomas after the fall, it'll be interesting to see how their shoes are filled going forward. With a slew of underclassmen at the position, Minnesota should find a suitable replacement for Plsek, but look for freshman Colton Beebe to potentially play Thomas' role going forward. Beebe is an old fashioned mauler, plus is taller and more athletic than Thomas, so he could see some time on special teams this fall. He's a guy who will definitely be in contention at fullback come 2016.

Projected depth chart:

Tight end
1 - Duke Anyanwu (6-4, 236) RSo.
Lincoln Plsek (6-4, 278) Sr.
2 - Brandon Lingen (6-5, 247) So.
3 - Nate Wozniak (6-10, 271) RSo.
4 - Jerry Gibson (6-3, 238) RFr.
5 - Nick Hart (6-5, 250) RSo.
Noah Scarver (6-5, 274) RSo.
1 - Miles Thomas (5-11, 250) Sr.
2 - Tyler Hartmann (6-3, 257) RJr.
Colton Beebe (6-3, 263) Fr.

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