GopherIllustrated publisher Ryan Burns is breaking down each Gopher football position group, what they're looking to add at each position in the Class of 2018 and their top targets.
Now, let's look at the tight ends.
What the Gophers have on roster
Things really couldn't have gone worse for Brandon Lingen last season after missing 10 games with injury after an extremely promising 2015 campaign. Off-season surgery for Lingen kept him from participating in spring ball, but if Minnesota can get back the player that was breaking through in limited action last season, Minnesota's going to have a down-field threat this fall. Lingen needs to prove that he can stay healthy for a majority of the season.
Workhorse tight end Nate Wozniak played in every single game last season for Minnesota on offense and special teams, and he's going to have that same workload again in 2017. Wozniak is your prototypical end of the line blocking tight end, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Beebe is another warrior type of player on this Gopher roster that played last season with a torn meniscus, but that didn't stop him from appearing in every single game at multiple positions on offense and special teams. Beebe is another Gopher that had off-season surgery and did not participate in spring ball, but once he's healthy this summer, I expect him to have a bigger role in the passing game this fall. Witham was another Minnesota tight end that was out for the spring and it's a missed opportunity for Witham with a lot reps available.
Maybe the biggest benefactor from the injuries in this position group was Ko Kieft. Kieft went through his redshirt year, but with Lingen, Witham and Beebe not fully ready for spring ball, that left Wozniak as the only tight end ahead of him, which meant both tight ends saw every rep this spring. Kieft took a step forward and looks to be a potential contributor this fall.
With the lack of healthy bodies this spring as a glaring red flag, I'm not ruling any of the three tight ends out for this fall. Minnesota will need them potentially on special teams, if not on offense, so each needs to come in ready to contribute this summer.
Projected 2017 fall depth chart
- Colton Beebe / Brandon Lingen
- Ko Kieft
- Nate Wozniak / Brandon Lingen
- Jake Paulson
What the Gophers want in 2018
Minnesota will lose both Brandon Lingen and Nate Wozniak to graduating in 2017, but I really only expect one tight end for the Gophers after signing three in 2017.
I do expect Minnesota to take an extremely hard look at St. Cloud Tech tight end Brevyn Spann-Ford. The Minnesota tight end is the prototype for what the NFL is looking for in tight end in this new age as Spann-Ford can stretch the defense vertically and is a mismatch against both linebackers and safeties because of his height and athletic ability. He does not have an offer yet, but Minnesota's is showing him plenty of attention here early on.
Another name to watch closely heading into next week is Michigan's Ben Van Sumeren, who has the athletic ability to play a multitude of different positions at Minnesota from wide receiver to tight end. Van Sumeren recently put up the top Nike Sparq score at the Cleveland Regional of 127.74, so the athletic ability is there. He's currently committed to coach P.J. Fleck's old home at Western Michigan, but we'll see what the Gophers decide to do on his unofficial visit to Minnesota coming next week.